Passing down their family's pride of the land to future generations
Onus Wines may have officially begun in 2003, but the family behind the brand has been a part of Lodi’s rich viticultural heritage since 1904. Since that time, the Peterson Family has established themselves as major players in the region’s wine industry while building a brand based on both varietal and appellation integrity.
The Onus Wines story actually dates back to 1897 when Carl A. Peterson emigrated from Sweden to Canada in search of a better life. After a few years of working on the Canadian Transcontinental Railroad, Carl moved south to Santa Barbara, California where he found work as a ranch hand and was hired to help on local farms. It was here that he learned the farming skills that would later help him raise his family. In 1904, Carl purchased a 10-acre plot of land sight unseen based on an article in the San Francisco Chronicle and moved to the small town of Lodi, California. Here, he and his wife started a family and planted grapes and cherries on the fertile land.
Over the years, the Peterson Family expanded the ranch size and developed relationships with larger wineries in the area. Carl’s grandson, Jim Peterson, transitioned into being the sole manager of the farming operation and during the 1980's and 1990's converted the ranch from the traditional Flame Tokay variety to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel. The family started making small lots of wine at home to prove that quality in the vineyard is reflected as quality in the bottle – thus the idea of ‘Proof is in the bottle’ was born. Many wineries were impressed with the Peterson Family’s wines and began sourcing the fruit for their own vineyard-designated bottlings.
In 2003, Jim’s sons Phil, Brad, and Marty made the first vintage of Onus Wines Cabernet Sauvignon (Onus means "the burden of proof’) and released it in 2005 when Onus became a bonded winery. Every Cabernet Sauvignon since has been awarded Gold Medals! The brothers are fourth generation farmers and have helped expand the original Lodi property to its current size of 200 acres. Production remains small each year, fluctuating around 1,000 cases, and now includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Petite Verdot. They are proud of their family’s farming history and will continue to pass down this pride of the land to future generations.