Husch Vineyards

Mendocino AVA

Husch Vineyards - Mendocino county

Husch is the oldest winery in the rich grape growing region of Anderson Valley, in Mendocino County. Surprisingly, as late as 1968, it was the first winery to set up operations in the county after prohibition. Founded by Tony and Gretchen Husch, the former sheep ranch was gradually transformed into 21 acre vineyards of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Over a ten year span, the winery barely survived, struggling to reach a maximum production of 4,000 cases.

By 1979, Tony Husch had grown tired of the task. He called his friend and neighbor Hugo Oswald, and offered to sell him the operation. The Oswald family owned 53 acres of vineyards adjacent to the Husch property, as well as 123 acres near Ukiah. Having no wine production facilities, the Oswalds were selling their entire production to other producers. Hugo liked the Husch location, and the vineyards were in good shape, so he decided to try turning the fledging winery into a viable operation.

The Oswald family had little winery experience but were no strangers to farming. In the late 1950's, the Oswald family arrived in Mendocino County from Santa Clara County, just south of San Francisco. Population growth and the ensuing urbanization forced them to relocate their successful Bartlett pear growing business. They purchased a 200 acre parcel in the Russian River Valley, known then as the Dutton Ranch. The Dutton Ranch, renamed, La Ribera (the riverbank), was mostly bare except for a small pear orchard and 5 acres of grapes. From 1960 to present, that original 5-acre plot underwent a carefully planned expansion to reach today's total of 130 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.
During the mid-seventies, the Oswalds purchased the other piece of land just north of Philo, in the Anderson Valley referred to as, The Day Ranch. This was the ranch next to the Husch Winery. Originally, the Day Ranch was used to raise sheep and grow apples. In fact, the Day brothers owned an old apple dryer which can still be seen driving past the property on Highway 128. The Oswalds bought the ranch specifically to grow grapes and Bosc pears. One of the Oswald son's, Ken, took charge of the project, planting 53 acres of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, next to the apples and pears. The moderately warm days and cool nights throughout the long growing season in the coastal Anderson Valley provided the unique optimum climate particularly for Pinot Noir. By 1979, with well over one hundred acres of vineyards planted, the Oswald family operation was ripe for the next logical step. That is when Tony Husch called.
The Oswalds, headed by Hugo and wife Beatrice, invested in new winery equipment, and quickly improved the Husch facility. A decision was made to maintain the Husch name that had built a solid reputation during the past 10 years. Under the Oswald ownership, production has increased to today's level of 25,000 cases. Their philosophy of wine making, not surprisingly, is to keep the emphasis on the grape. "Don't over-manipulate the grape. Put the grape into the bottle!", says Hugo. "Quality grapes are needed to make quality wine," he adds.
Those in-the-know, are not surprised that Husch has found itself on top of the wine world. Nine wines currently available from Husch, have collectively earned 25 Gold Medals and 21 Silver Medals, during the last 12 months of wine competitions. Not too many wineries have ever been able to claim that same kind of success.
GMWC and it's members are indeed fortunate to have Husch participate as a featured winery. This month GMWC offers a departure from the usual selection of two different varietals. The featured Cabernet Sauvignons are two of Husch's best. The wines are two successive vintages, each grown in different soil conditions and in different locations of the same 130 acre La Ribera vineyard. It is an interesting taste test of how different conditions in the field and different vintages result in varying characteristics of wine even from the same vineyard.


Fritz Meier - winemaker

Fritz Meier is winemaker of Husch Vineyards, overseeing the production of all varieties at the Estate Bottled winery in Mendocino county. Fritz was born in Buhl/Baden, West Germany in 1960. As Fritz grew up he worked with his parents on their farm, which included vineyards, orchards and a distillery in the Rhine Valley on the slopes of the Black Forest. From childhood on, Fritz held an active role in all aspects of his parents farming and winemaking. His interest in winemaking developed through this early experience set the course of his future.
After high school graduation, Fritz studied at Geisenheim University in West Germany, securing a Bachelor’s Degree in Enology and Beverage Technology. Immediately after completing his undergraduate work he studied another four years, to earn his Master’s Degree in both Enology and Business Administration. As if that wasn’t enough, Fritz also worked part-time at various wineries in the area.
Fritz worked at Affentaler Co-op in West Germany, Oberhellman Vineyards in Texas, Charles Krug Winery in Napa county, and J. Fritz Cellars in Sonoma county before joining Husch Vineyards in 1987. ‘At the bigger wineries I learned about the technology of making wine, while at the smaller wineries I learned the hand-crafted approach to winemaking,” reveals Fritz.
In addition to his winemaking duties, Fritz also works with Vineyard Manager, Al White, in evaluating fruit and harvest and determining pick dates. He is also spearheading experiments in organic farming techniques and organic winemaking on two Husch properties which are registered as organic farming plots.


The Husch Team

Hugo and Beatrice Oswald moved to California from the east coast in the late 1940s. Beatrice’s father needed help running the family pear orchard operation located just south of San Francisco in Santa Clara county. By 1958 the area had become so urbanized, the Oswalds began looking for alternative sites to grow their fruit. What they found was a perfect location along side the Russian River Valley in Mendocino county. The property was 200 acres of bare land with the exception of a tiny plot of wine grapes. The climate and soil conditions were perfect though for relocating their orchards. Perhaps more importantly, that small acreage of wine grapes served as a catalyst for today’s Husch Vineyard operation owned and run by the Oswald family.
In the winery’s infancy, Hugo and Beatrice found plenty of help right at home. Their seven children, 5 boys and 2 girls, have all contributed to the winery’s success as they were growing up. Today Hugo is still actively involved in the day-to-day running of the business. Son, Ken, manages the Day Ranch property located across the road from the winery. The Day Ranch consists of 53 acres of grapes, 8 acres of pears and almost 600 acres of forest and mountain terrain. Son, Miles, works with his father running the two properties along side the Russian River—the Oswald pear orchards and the La Ribera Vineyards.
As the other members of the Oswald family began carving out careers of their own, the Oswalds added to their winery team from ‘the outside” to sustain the momentum. After acquiring the Tony Husch property, Hugo retained the services of Husch’s Vineyard Manager, Al White. Al and his wife Mary, met Tony Husch after they moved to Mendocino from Florida just as Tony was beginning his winery in the late 1960s. Al oversees the entire Husch and La Ribera vineyard operations. His intimate knowledge of the land has been key in Husch Winery’s development of superior quality grapes. Vice President & General Manager, Steve Jaskela runs the day-to-day business operations. Working his way through different aspects of the industry, Steve started his wine industry career in the vineyard in 1982. Later he learned the wine cellar operations then shifting again to lend a hand at maintaining the winery equipment. For the past few years he has headed up the Husch ‘front office.”
Perhaps what astounds Hugo Oswald above all, is the growth and size of the family business. Never had he imagined things would progress as they have. The winery's growth has been achieved by cash flow generated solely by the business. He has never had to borrow money to expand, striving instead to have each property become self sufficient, and literally grow a little each year. Having achieved that goal, Hugo can now focus on his recurring yearly goal of simply making great wines that are, never over processed, always affordable, and most of all, enjoyable to his friends.
WINEMAKER
Fritz Meier is winemaker of Husch Vineyards, overseeing the production of all varieties at the Estate Bottled winery in Mendocino county. Fritz was born in Buhl/Baden, West Germany in 1960. As Fritz grew up he worked with his parents on their farm, which included vineyards, orchards and a distillery in the Rhine Valley on the slopes of the Black Forest. From childhood on, Fritz held an active role in all aspects of his parents farming and winemaking. His interest in winemaking developed through this early experience set the course of his future.
After high school graduation, Fritz studied at Geisenheim University in West Germany, securing a Bachelor’s Degree in Enology and Beverage Technology. Immediately after completing his undergraduate work he studied another four years, to earn his Master’s Degree in both Enology and Business Administration. As if that wasn’t enough, Fritz also worked part-time at various wineries in the area.
Fritz worked at Affentaler Co-op in West Germany, Oberhellman Vineyards in Texas, Charles Krug Winery in Napa county, and J. Fritz Cellars in Sonoma county before joining Husch Vineyards in 1987. ‘At the bigger wineries I learned about the technology of making wine, while at the smaller wineries I learned the hand-crafted approach to winemaking,” reveals Fritz.
In addition to his winemaking duties, Fritz also works with Vineyard Manager, Al White, in evaluating fruit and harvest and determining pick dates. He is also spearheading experiments in organic farming techniques and organic winemaking on two Husch properties which are registered as organic farming plots.