The estate was founded in 1979 and named Domaine Michel by Jean-Jacques Michel. A native of Switzerland, Michel formed a special attachment to Sonoma County. After a two-year search, he planted his roots in Dry Creek Valley because of its cooler microclimates and its abundance of well-defined benchlands (his model was as much the uplifted benches of the M?c Peninsula as Napa’s Rutherford Bench). He found a series of benchland soils in the Valley’s Wine Creek Canyon with excellent exposures that were especially well contoured for growing grapes. With his partner Ridgely Bullock, Michel planted fifty acres of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and chardonnay-uncommon varieties for Dry Creek Valley, then and now.
From 1979 to 1993, Jean-Jacques Michel served as Chairman of Domaine Michel. In 1991 Jacques Schlumberger joined Michel and Bullock as a minority partner and in 1993 he took the reins as majority partner and president. He put together a new marketing team, redesigned the label, and cleared the decks for the emerging Benchland Wine Estate of Michel-Schlumberger.
Mike Brunson joined Fred Payne as assistant winemaker in 1993. In the mid-nineties, he helped upgrade our winery equipment and then threw himself into the immense task of replanting required by the vine-destroying louse, phylloxera. This work took five painstaking years, proceeding site-to-site, and finishing in 2001. It was very much a labor of love, for on a fundamental level Fred and Mike understood the potential that Wine Creek Canyon offered for growing world-class grapes. In 2006 Mike took the reigns as our winemaker. Mike maintained the quality and style of the Michel-Schlumberger wines.
In 1997 Jacques Schlumberger and his wife Barbara purchased a slope on top of Bradford Mountain adjacent to the proven Hambrecht vineyard (for years a source of grapes for both the Ridge and Arrowood wineries). Michel-Schlumberger broke ground on that slope in 1998.
Today Michel-Schlumberger has a well-earned reputation for its excellent Bordeaux varieties. We have long believed in blending these varieties for complexity, and our red wines have harnessed the ripe, raw power of the new world with the elegant reins of the old. For example, our merlot has consistently shown well-knit aromatics and richly structured flavors-unusual characteristics for what is known in California as a soft, “entry-level” wine. Likewise our cabernet is prized for its classic claret balance, depth of fruit, and nuance. These are wines of finesse.