Peter Michael Winery
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Winery History

Shoveling

Photo by Olaf Beckman

In 1982, after an extensive, six-year search for California property to serve as both family retreat and vineyard, Sir Peter Michael purchased 630 acres of volcanic ridges on the western face of Mount St. Helena in Knights Valley. For the entrepreneurial founder of Quantel and frequent visitor to Northern California, it was love at first sight.

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In 1983, with the help of his wife, Lady Michael, they established Peter Michael Winery and planted red Bordeaux varietals in the volcanic soils at the site. Four years later the Winery hired Helen Turley to make the first wine, the 1987 Mon Plaisir Chardonnay, produced from fruit grown at the nearby Gauer Estate (now Alexander Mountain Estate) in the Alexander Valley. The wine was followed a year later by their first Cuvée Indigène Chardonnay, a barrel selection of wine fermented with indigenous yeast.

Over the years the Winery expanded the plantings of red Bordeaux varietals on the lower, warmer sites and Chardonnay on the higher, cooler portions of the estate. To take full advantage of their unique conditions, each block was delineated and developed based upon the intricate puzzle of terroir. Soils, microclimates, topography and exposures were all considered in the selection of varieties, rootstocks, row orientation, vine spacing and drainage. In addition to the vines, the family also ensured the long-term natural balance of the estate by restoring native habitats and extensively reforesting with native species trees.

Distillary

Above, a conceptual drawing by Chuck House, envisioning winery buildings based on the architecture of the 19th century Knights Valley town of Kellogg: though it still appears on maps, the last buildings burned in 1964.

In 1998, the Winery purchased the 400-acre Seaview property located on the true Sonoma Coast. This amazing site possesses the best attributes of both coastal and mountain sites. While the climate is quite cool throughout the growing season, its location above the fog line provides enough sunlight to fully ripen the fruit. Seaview was planted to Pinot Noir in 2006 and 2007. In 2009, the winery also purchased a 41-acre parcel on a raised plateau overlooking the east side of Napa’s Oakville appellation with 26 planted acres of red Bordeaux varietals.

Some of the most illustrious names in the industry have served as Peter Michael Winery's winemaker including: Helen Turley, Mark Aubert, Vanessa Wong, Luc Morlet, and current winemaker Nicolas Morlet. Throughout its history, the winery has continued to reflect Sir Peter’s founding credo of “mountain vineyards, classical winemaking, limited production.” In keeping with Sir Peter’s “100 by 100 plan” – 100% family ownership for at least 100 years – there has been a generational passing of the baton at the estate. Over the past few years, son Paul Michael and his wife Emily have assumed increasing responsibility in the strategic direction of the winery.

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