California Wine’s Fine and Important Man

schugWalter Schug was not an easy man to work for. He could be a grouch, at least in his later years. I didn’t know him in his younger years.

I worked on his behalf as the public relations consultant for Schug Carneros Estate for about three years around 2003. He had a habit of always being at the winery. His wife Gertrude also. I watched him give his son, Axel, a hard time on a regular basis. Axel had the good sense to lay right back into him the way sons who work closely with their fathers only can.  I watched him lay into his marketing manager. And he got in my face on occasion too.

What I knew when I worked for Walter and Axel was that I had one of those rare clients where the patriarch was a bonafide pioneer of the wine industry. When you work with such a client, you don’t shout from the rooftop about the pioneer’s seminal and influential career. You simply layout the career in a direct and thoughtful way.

Of course Walter wasn’t the kind of man who was inclined to toot his own horn anyway so rooftop shouting wasn’t an option. Rather, he was a matter-of-fact, get-the-work-done, stick-to-a-style, winemaker and proprietor.

I had the good fortune to be working for Walter when he celebrated his 50th anniversary in the wine industry. It was a half century mark that stretched back to his days working at Geisenheim in Germany before he came to the United States. The firsts, the accomplishments, the innovation and the mentoring relationships Walter accumulated in those 50 years are too long to list.

We had an event to celebrate those 50 years. Lunch. A tasting the important and trailblazing wines for which Walter had been responsible. The turnout of colleagues and media was remarkable. You learn a lot about a person when you see that kind of turn out when he is still alive.

Walter Schug died a few days ago. He was a legitimate pioneer who helped put the California wine industry on an important path. His family, friends, and colleagues have my condolences. He was fine and important man.

Posted In: Wine Business


One Response

  1. Bob Henry - October 13, 2015

    I first met Walter a few years ago at the Family Winemakers of California trade tasting held in Pasadena, California.

    I knew his back story and made it a point to taste his wines. Not “fruit forward” and overly-extracted like so many in the room. Rather, lean and restrained and age-worthy.

    Within the past few weeks I discovered a “cache” of 2009 vintage Schug Pinot Noirs at a wine merchant in town. Cases neglected and discounted down to about 16 bucks.

    Man, does it taste good!

    (The 2012 and/or 2013 bottling is on the shelf of that same wine merchant priced in the mid-to-upper twenties.)

    A tip of the hat to an overlooked and self-evidently talented winemaker.

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