Summary: Heringer Estates is a winery and vineyard deeply committed to family. The tasting room is at the Old Sugar Mill on Clarksburg, just a short drive south of Sacramento. The grapes are grown in the family estate vineyards in the Clarksburg AVA.
We visited the Heringer Estates tasting room at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg. All of the winemaking is done in this facility. Hanging signs in the corridor of the Old Sugar Mill announce the entrances to different wineries. The rounded tasting counter is near the entrance and is made of dark wood. Behind the tasting counter, hundreds of barrels are stacked six high, separating the tasting area from the winery production area.
The Heringer family has been farming land in California for seven generations beginning in 1868. John and Geertje Heringa immigrated from Holland. The first four generations of the family farmed row and field crops. The fifth and subsequent generations have farmed wine grapes. The first wine grapes were planted in 1973. By 2000, more vineyards were planted as the family learned that wine growing was successful. The Heringer Estates winery was established in 2002. Today, sixth generation Mike Heringer is the winemaker and the vineyard is managed by Stephen Heringer. The brothers work with their parents Steve and Donna Heringer and their sister Stacy Heringer-McElfish, wine club manager.
We asked Steve Heringer about the motivation to plant a vineyard in the 1970’s. Steve wrote:
“In the early 70's my father Lester and three of his brothers (4th generation) were farming together and the next generation was just graduating from school and by 1975 there were 7 next generation family member farmers involved in the operation. We have fabulous river bottom alluvial sediment soils, warm summer days, cool summer nights and abundant water. Wine grapes were 1st planted in this district in 1969 and had a strong though short term track record by the early seventies. The Heringer family was a large producer of row and field crops and was always looking to diversify operations to spread risk and feed more families. We developed 240 acres of vineyards under a planting contract with Christian Brothers Winery in Napa and have never looked back. By the mid nineties wine grapes had proven themselves to be of exceptional quality and sustainable yields in the Clarksburg region and the planting push during that decade pushed the region's acreage past 13,000 acres.”
We also asked what provided the motivation for Mike to start a winery. Steve wrote:
“Our winemaker Michael (6th generation) graduated in Viticulture and Enology in 2003 and was looking for an avenue that he could contribute personally to the diversity and future legacy of the Heringer family and worked to establish a winery to facilitate that goal. He subsequently has planted some 24 different varieties of wine grapes on the ranch, many of which had never before been grown in this area and has proceeded to handcraft excellent wines from all of them. Michael's older brother Stephen, left the armed services three years ago and joined the operation to assist in vineyard management and administration of both the winery and farming operation. The brothers’ sister, Stacy has managed both the growing wine club and all of the wineries events for a number of years. We are truly a family that works together.”
Heringer Estates Vineyards and Winery is family owned. They also own and run a vineyard management company in the Clarksburg AVA. The management company manages close to 375 acres of grapes. In 2012 they harvested 24 varieties and sold the grapes to more than 30 wineries including their own winery. The largest plantings of five or more acres include the varieties: Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and Teroldego. Other grape varieties are less than five acres.
The Clarksburg AVA is influenced by the cool waters of the Sacramento River Delta. During the long dry growing season, the vineyards experience warm days and cool nights. These weather conditions enable the farming of many varieties of wine grapes.
There is a passion for the terroir and winemaking seeks to let the grapes from the vineyards express themselves with minimal intervention on the part of the winemaker. Winemaker Mike Heringer graduated from California State University, Fresno with a degree in food and nutritional sciences and a concentration in enology. He worked at two wineries to gain experience before opening Heringer Estates.
We tasted several wines in the tasting room. The 2012 Chenin Blanc Clarksburg AVA was a 13% alcohol wine with a light yellow color. There was citrus and mineral on the aroma and taste. The medium-bodied wine had a crisp finish. The wine retails for $15. A 2012 Riesling Clarksburg AVA was 12.75% alcohol. There was a fruity aroma with a faint hint of petrol. There were also notes of apple on the taste while the finish was fruity yielding to minerality. The wine retails for $17.
The 2012 Tannat Clarksburg AVA was an opaque ruby color. The 14.5% alcohol wine reminded me of dark fruit and some earthiness. The wine had bold tannins, was full bodied and had medium/high acidity. It retails for $28. Petite Sirah 2011 Clarksburg AVA was an opaque dark ruby color. The wine offered blackberries and cassis aromas and tastes. The wine had bold, chewy tannins, was full-bodied with a medium/high acidity. It retails for $28.
We noticed wines in growlers. They were wines created by the wine club as a part of the Eco Cask program. A special event is held for wine club members. The blending party has club members try their hand at blending different wines for a perfect new wine blend. At the end of the event, one red and one white blend is chosen as the best blend and that wine is made for the year. Each year the blend is different. The current Red Eco Cask was a blend of Tempranillo, Aglianico and Petite Sirah. The ruby color wine was 14.5% alcohol and emphasized dark fruits. It had bold, chewy tannins. The full-bodied wine had medium/high acidity. The growler costs $45 and holds the equivalent of 2.7 bottles of a standard 750 ml bottle of wine. Customers who return the growler receive $5 off while wine club members receive $10 off the price of a new filled growler.
The Heringer Estates tasting room in the Old Sugar Mill gives wine enthusiasts a taste of the Clarksburg AVA. There are many wines to choose from for a wine tasting.
Heringer Estates Tasting Room
35265 Willow Avenue
Clarksburg, California 95612
GPS: N38º 25.367’ W121º 32.020’
Article written September 2014
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