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Perry Creek - Amador County - Sierra Foothills


At 2500 feet Perry Creek takes winemaking to a higher level.

It can be accurately explained that Perry Creek Winery of Fair Play (who couldn't trust wines from a place with that nameñ), California has a dichotomous existence; something that could also be termed the winery's past and present.

In 1989, New York-born Michael Chazen spotted some property while driving to Las Vegas and was immediately bitten by the wine bug. He planted some 20 acres and built a winery that eventually reached more than 20,000 cases, no mere feat for a startup winery in the Sierra Madre Foothills during the early 1990s.

Chazen eventually planted more acreage but a nasty divorce and settlement forced Chazen into an absentee ownership position. He departed California for Florida and the winery was put up for sale just after the advent of the millennium. Perry Creek remained in that status for several years until Dieter Juergens arrived on the scene and became interested in the property. Juergens was already a property owner and grower in the Fair Play region who had even used Perry Creek's facilities for his first custom crush fruit from his own vineyards.

According to Juergens, "Perry Creek was exactly what I had been looking for, and maybe hadn't realized it at that point. It had been on the market for a while and there was literally no movement. I knew that the price would be right and I finally succeeded in buying the entire place."

Since the Perry Creek name was basically intact and came with the purchase, Juergens decided to go fast forward in resurrecting the cozy winery. He bulldozed a lot of the area around the winery proper and created a large area park that literally jumped out at visitors. He also installed a new deck with sufficient space for events and made ample use of the existing river and creek to create an idealistic destination for winery goers. Perry Creek sprinted ahead under its new ownership and the aggressive management team that was assembled. Stefan Tscheppe was hired from Austria where his family has owned VINO Tscheppe for the past six generations. Tscheppe serves as operations manager and brings a wealth of knowledge to Perry Creek in the high-end wine and international marketing facets of the business. Also joining the Perry Creek team was consultant viticulturist Garrett Buckland, a UC Davis graduate and winemaker that brought credibility and expertise to augment head winemaker Joe Flemate (see winemaker profile).

Current annual production stands near the thirteen thousand case level and can be expected to grow to around twenty thousand in the next few years. When that goal is met, Perry Creek will decide on increasing its output based on current market conditions and demand for its product.

The winery also sports a new look, thanks to the Los Angeles design firm Kastner and Partners (famous for their Red Bull designs) and artist Gilbert Villassig. The new Perry Creek label design is assuredly more modern and attuned to the winery's new image, a radical departure from its earlier labeling. The company's signature product, Zinman, has become more of a ghostly type of Zinman, but is keeping in with the aims of the El Dorado County entity.

Perry Creek's wines are also a product of a wide variety of opinions, a sort of wine-by-committee approach that seems to be working with amazing results. Practically everyone involved with the winery, from operations manager to vineyards manager, along with the tasting room manager thrown in for good measure, has a say in the final blends that become Perry Creek wines.

"I firmly believe that everyone who has a hand in developing the wines should also have a say in what becomes of our final blends," stated Juergens. "That way, everyone puts everything they have into the process and feels like they are part of the final product. With the awards that we have been able to win, I would say that the process seems to be working quite nicely."

It isn't all that often the established wineries receive a second chance at success, but in the case of Perry Creek, this time around seems to be quite lucrative. The Perry Creek team has created a new environment that promotes its wines in a positive setting that insures continued growth. It is our pleasure to reintroduce our club members to the new Perry Creek.


  1. Perry Creek
    2006 Zinfandel
    Perry Creek
    El Dorado Vineyards
    Sierra Foothills

    $16.15

    $19.00
    Multiple Medals
    id: 226
    Special
    Gold
  2. Perry Creek
    2005 Syrah
    Perry Creek
    Fair Play
    Sierra Foothills

    $14.45

    $17.00
    Multiple Gold Medal
    id: 225
    Special
    Gold
  3. Perry Creek
    2006 Viognier
    Perry Creek
    El Dorado Vineyard
    Sierra Foothills

    $12.75

    $15.00
    Gold Medal
    id: 227
    Special
    Gold

Energizing the winemaking team is my second priority

Perry Creek's new energentic winemaker, 38-year-old Joe Flemate, recently joined the winery's talented winemaking team of Garrett Buckland and Stefan Tscheppe. Originally from the Bay Area, he considers himself an old world winemaker, with a taste for fruit forward wines. Trained at the likes of Fogarty, Villa Mt. Eden, Conn Creek and B.R. Cohn, Flemate says, "It's all in the vineyards and the attention to detail."

Dieter Juergens finds the Sierra Foothills truly beautiful

When new owner Dieter Juergens, 66, first discovered the Sierra Foothills, he was looking for a place to take his banking customers from his base in Sacramento, California. He found the area "to be beautiful beyond belief," and when he compared the land value there to both Napa and Sonoma, much more potentially affordable.
"It wasn't just the price for the land that attracted me," Juergens confessed recently, "it was much more than that. The wineries in the foothills were much smaller, and the people who operated them were generally friendlier. When you consider the natural beauty El Dorado County has to offer and its historical significance, the combination was quite unbeatable." Juergens bought his first property around the town of Fair Play with the intention of being a grower. When the possibility of purchasing Perry Creek from its troubled owner became a reality, Juergens literally jumped at the opportunity.

He was a principal player in international banking, first with Wells Fargo and later with his own banking trust company in Sacramento.

It wasn't until the age of thirty that Juergens first became interested in wine. He first tried the sweeter German wines of his native country and then was introduced to California wines after coming to the United States in 1964.

"Once I tasted the great wines that California had to offer, I was permanently hooked," he explained further.

After acquiring Perry Creek, Juergens started amassing a management team that he felt could meet his ultimate objectives. "Like most Germans, I am only interested in producing the finest possible product. Take automobiles for instance. Germany produces the Mercedes Benz, Porsche and BMW just to name a few. If I was going to produce wines, I wanted them to be just like the greatest cars."

The rest of the story is now becoming part of the Sierra Foothills wine history. With the top notch team in place, Perry Creek has already exceeded its earlier counterpart in terms of wine quality and consistency.

A great deal of the quality aspect comes from the fact that much of the grapes used for Perry Creek come from Dieter Juergen's home vineyard that he labels Fair Play Farms.

"When I first saw the Fair Play property,"Juergens continued, "I was amazed with its natural beauty. Then I remembered most of the finest German vineyards were located at high altitudes in rough soils so I decided that the area would make an excellent vineyard site. So far, we have been quite happy with the quality of the grapes we have produced. My winemaker Joe (Flemate) absolutely believes that true quality in wines begins and ends in the vineyards, so we do our best to produce the finest fruit."

Juergens is still in banking, but admits to spending each Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the winery. He can usually be found in the Perry Creek Tasting Room behind the counter pouring wines for visitors and customers.

"This gives me an excellent chance for consumer feedback," he added. "I get the first hand reaction to our wines and pass it on to my winemaker and consultant. Whenever changes need to be made, we have a head start on what people are really looking for."

About The Region

The Sierra Foothills wine region is famous for its Zinfandels and other fierce flavored varietals. The area that was home to the famous California Gold Rush setting in the 1840s also contains a great amount of complexity as far as soils and conditions are concerned. Perry Creek's vineyards are situated in the Fair Play AVA Appellation, at around 2400-feet elevation, an excellent altitude that requires the vines to work extra hard to accomplish their mission. At this altitude, the accompanying low annual rainfall forces roots deep into the decomposed granite soils, creating highly concentrated, complex wines. The resulting fruit is also able to exhibit optimal natural acidity, due to normal cool nights in these high altitudes. Even though the actual fruit yield from mountain vineyards is much lower than valley-grown grapes, the accompanying flavor intensity and complexity more than compensate for the lower yield.


Eggplant and Pasta


Ingredients

Serves 4

1 Large purple Eggplant (about 1 pound)
1 Pound Penne Pasta
1/2 Cup olive oil
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 15-ounce can Chopped Tomatoes
6-8 Fresh basil leaves, torn in large pieces
1/2 Cup black olives, chopped
2 Tablespoons capers
Salt and Pepper


Instructions

Peel eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch cubes; sprinkle with salt and place in colander to drain about 30 minutes. Remove and dry on paper towels. Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta water is heating, put oil in a large saute pan and brown eggplant until golden. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add tomatoes with their juice, basil, olives and capers, simmer another 5 minutes. Taste and add pepper and salt as needed. Drain pasta and toss with sauce. Serve with Perry Creek's 2005 Syrah and enjoy!




Succulent Steak with Zinfandel Sauce and Vegetable Saute


Ingredients

Serves 6

6 Small, thick Steaks
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
1 Cup Beef Stock
1/2 Cup Perry Creek 2006 Zinfandel
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Large clove Garlic, chopped
1 Teaspoon dark chocolate
Salt and Pepper


Instructions

Put olive oil in hot saute pan. Sear steaks on both sides and transfer to warm pan in a 350-degree oven. Add beef stock, Zinfandel, tomato paste and garlic to saute pan, reduce by half. Add chocolate and stir to melt. Continue to simmer until mixture is reduced to a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.



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