August 9, 2006
Deal Nears for Perry Creek

Sacramentans Michele Wilms and Dieter Jurgens wanted a little hobby vineyard in the Sierra foothills. So five years ago they began to plant vines at Fair Play in southwestern El Dorado County. Raising and selling grapes was fine, but they ran some numbers and sensed they could make a bunch more money if they squeezed the grapes and bottled the wine themselves. They began to think of adding a winery to their site, now up to 38 acres of such grape varieties as zinfandel, petite sirah, viognier and syrah. Construction of a winery shouldn't have been much of a problem, given that Jurgens owns General Truss Co. Inc. along Power Inn Road.

Then they learned that Michael Chazen had put his nearby Perry Creek Vineyards, which he'd established in 1989, on the market. They made an offer, the deal has been in escrow for months, and if the county's supervisors approve a boundary adjustment in a couple of weeks Wilms and Jurgens will be crushing their grapes at Perry Creek this harvest.

Chazen had three parcels up for sale, originally listing the property for about $8 million, but Wilms and Jurgens are buying only the parcel with the winery and 12 acres of grapes. The other two vineyard parcels remain on the market. Terms of the sale weren't disclosed.

They've hired a consulting winemaker, Garrett Buckland, but they also plan to retain longtime Perry Creek winemaker Nancy Steel. Their general manager will be Stefan Tscheppe, a member of a six-generation winemaking family in Austria. They will keep the Perry Creek name, but plan to use the winery's popular Zin Man zinfandel as a separate brand.

Their goal, says Wilms, is to upgrade Perry Creek wines by sourcing better grapes that will produce "higher end wines."

In recent years Perry Creek has been bottling around 10,000 cases of wine annually, a total expected to jump to about 16,000 cases this fall, says Steel.

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