Central Valley region
One of Lodi’s premier wineries that pays tribute to their local heritage
Unlike many emerging wineries that were products of romantic wine industry imagery on the part of their owners, Lodi’s Peltier Station came into being as a result of a winery’s need to utilize its extensive facilities. To clarify that statement, it must be understood that Peltier Station’s owners, the Schatz Family, were basically farmers and producers of wines that were sold to other wineries who needed sound, well-made wines for their various businesses. When it became evident that a large, modern state-of-the-art production winery was necessary for continued growth, a marvelous facility was erected on property the family owned in the rustic town of Acampo, in the Lodi Appellation of the Central Valley.
“The market basically helped me decide to build the winery,” offered Rodney Schatz, spokesman for the Schatz Family. “The fact is there was a tremendous amount of vineyard development going on at the start of the new millennium. This actuality produced an abundance of grapes and the Lodi area was caught with insufficient local production facilities. We saw the opportunity and need for a good deal of stainless development and jumped right in. The main winery was completed in 2001 and has proven to be a real economic success for us.”
While the Schatz Family’s main holdings were in vineyard property, they also farmed additional crops (peaches, cherries, etc.) and received a great deal of notoriety for their efforts. One of the family’s matriarchs, Theresa Marengo, was featured nationally for her superb cherry orchards during the 1970’s.
With all the equipment and facilities available to the Schatz Family, it was simply a matter of time until they ventured into the winery end of the business. The family got together and decided to name their new venture Peltier Station. It seems that for a number of years, the local valley railroads utilized the exact spot on which the winery was placed as a focal point for the Central California Traction Line for local growers. A number of packing sheds had been erected that allowed the farmers to prepare their produce for the journey into Sacramento and then throughout the remainder of the country. For many years, great steam driven locomotives plied the tracks with their produce cars, always stopping at Peltier Station.
“We wanted to salute our local heritage and also the great railroads that help build our part of California,” Rodney Schatz continued. “We employed a local graphic company to do our label and the great locomotive emerged as the symbol of our winery.” The first release of some 5,000 cases occurred in 2006, with immediate impact. In addition to extremely high scores, the wine garnered top awards in competitions and Peltier Station Winery was off and running. Production has increased gradually and will reach around 7,000 cases this year. For Peltier Station, production isn’t the problem; it is a matter of paying attention to the sales and marketing of its products.
“Unlike some wineries, we are in a fortunate position to be able to produce as much wine as we like,” added Schatz. “Sure, we’d like to be a 30,000 case winery, but the market will dictate our growth if we make proper decisions. We are delighted with the initial success our wines have had, but we must now continue to produce exceptional wines. Once the public sees you are capable of making great wines, they come to expect the same each and every time.” A brand new tasting room and hospitality center has just opened and will undoubtedly aid Peltier Station in its quest for development. A new wine trail centered in the Lodi Appellation is also expected to bring a large number of visitors who are always in search of the next new great wine.
“Lodi has really come of age,” added Schatz, a frequent proponent of the appellation. “We have worked very hard for many years to gain respect within the wine industry. Our wines have improved dramatically and are now on a par with many of the better-known appellations. What has really been nice is that our pricing has managed to remain within everyone’s budget. We feel that quality and realistic pricing is a combination that can’t be beaten.”
Peltier Station is in a fortunate position to be able to grow as its success broadens – a situation that many other wineries would like to enjoy. Gold Medal Wine Club is betting it won’t take that long to achieve.
Winemaker J. C. van Staden
South African-born winemaker J. C. van Staden brings a wealth of talent to the wines of Peltier Station. Van Staden planted his first grapes at age 14. He formerly worked with a number of South African and French wineries and also for the Michael and David Winery that produced the acclaimed 7 Deadly Zins. JC, as he is known, was sponsored on his return to California by the Schatz Family and has been associated with them as winemaker for the past three years.
Rodney & Gayla Schatz - Owners and wine lovers
From the very beginning of his agribusiness career, Rodney Schatz has always favored the production side of his career. After graduating from Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo with a major in crop science in which he learned about growing fruits and other various agricultural products Schatz began his career as a farmer in the rich agricultural soils of the upper Central Valley.
The product of both German and Italian immigrants, Rodney Schatz was the third generation of his family to follow the growing profession in California. At one point, he noticed the increased financial significance in producing quality varietal grapes and began dabbling in the burgeoning world of the California grape industry.
‘Little by little, my wife Gayla and my family started buying up small pieces of land that we thought were suitable for growing really top flight grapes,” Schatz explained. ‘I was fascinated with the entire industry, but from a different viewpoint than many others. I saw the great growth potential that was being predicted, but I also saw that there would eventually be a need on the production side of the business. That was what really interested me.”
Schatz’s predictions proved to be right on the mark and around the turn of the century, he decided to do something about it.
‘We were still just farmers or growers if you prefer, but all the planting in the Central Valley ultimately produced a supply overage. The production side had not kept pace and the timing was right for us to construct a production facility to serve all the new wineries that had popped up around Lodi. At the time, I didn’t give one thought about having a winery of my own, Peltier Station actually evolved out of availability rather than desire.”
The Schatz Family’s production facility currently serves from 10 to 15 other wineries, from both large and small categories. Their facilities in Acampo are considered among the most modern and complete in the entire industry.
‘It’s almost amazing to see what has gone on around here during the past two decades,” continued Schatz. ‘New wineries have popped up almost everywhere and many have opened up tasting rooms. A lot of travelers have started to come our way and experience the quaint, laid back aspect of the Lodi winemaking attitude. Some people think we are where Napa and Sonoma were many decades ago, and they long for the blend of newness and history that comes with that sort of atmosphere. We have seen it all happening, right in front of our noses and we couldn’t be happier. Tourism is going through the roof and that’s really good for a number of local people who have been here through it all.”
Rodney Schatz’s keen insight expert sense of timing has made the Schatz Family winery complex an integral part of the success of the entire Lodi Appellation.
Schatz is also pleased that his wife Gayla handles all the financial decisions for the winery. ‘I’m production and she is finance,” he finalized. ‘”It works well.”