How One Tiny Winery in Sonoma Valley is Standing Out – and Selling Out
Wander off the beaten Sonoma County wine path, and one might discover Schermeister Winery in the tiny hamlet of Glen Ellen, just minutes north of downtown Sonoma. A hidden destination, the intimate tasting room owned and operated by winemaker Rob Schermeister and his artist wife Laura is nestled among giant oak trees surrounded by wildlife on Sonoma Creek. Guests are greeted by the resident wine dog Eli and are seated at one of four tables with the opportunity to taste beautifully made native fermented wines. Rob and Laura pour their natural wines while sharing with guests stories of love, loss, and their thoughts on slowly being discovered. A two-person operation, the Schermeister’s wouldn’t have it any other way.
“People love the personal nature of their experience with us, and they love knowing what’s in their wine,” said Laura. “They come to us because they’re looking for small wineries where the owners are doing the hard work. Our guests feel loved and cared for, and we are as interested in them as they are in us and the wines. The bonus is seeing their eyes light up after tasting something that awakens their palates.”
As idyllic as the setting is, the magic experienced at Schermeister Winery hasn’t come easily. Rob, who founded the winery in 2012 after assisting cult native fermentation producers Jayson Pahlmeyer and Mark Aubert, “literally auctioned his personal wine collection to start his own label,” said Laura. When the duo opened their tasting room in 2018 after leaving their full-time jobs, months of rainy weather and subsequent wildfires had them wondering if they’d made the right decision. Then, just as they gained momentum in late 2019, the pandemic of 2020 set them back, and they thought they were ruined. But after four total months of closure ordered by the state, the couple has not only kept their small business alive, they’ve also completely sold out of their wines.
“Our biggest fear during each major disaster was that people would lose interest in hand-made, high-quality wine,” said Laura. “The opposite proved to be true – we experienced a wave of visitors seeking an authentic experience, genuine human connection, and some of the best wines in the world. They found us.”
And though the hospitality is indeed a draw, as illustrated by online rave reviews, ultimately, it’s the wines that turn inquisitive visitors into eternal fans. Unfined, unfiltered, and naturally fermented, Schermeister varietals (Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Rosé, and Viognier) are made from grapes sourced throughout Napa and Sonoma – vineyards from which top names such as Flowers and Williams Selyem also source. Approximately 1000 cases produced annually are available direct to consumers.
This year’s sell-out is a welcome occurrence, allowing Rob to delve fully into harvest and focus on what he loves best – making wine. Laura will get back to creating mixed media art and quilts. Those interested in acquiring Schermeister wines are encouraged to join their membership waitlist online at schermeister.com to access new releases in February 2022, when the tasting room will also reopen for reservations.