At Heringer Estates, the grapes guide us in the creation of our wine. Our vineyards thrive in the fertile soils of the Sacramento River Delta. The warm days and cool nights of summer in Clarksburg are ideal for growing wine grapes. The family honors its agricultural legacy while embracing the excitement of today and the promise of the future.
Heringer Estates wines are created for you. Our hope is that our wines enrich your celebrations with friends and family; that they enhance your meals, get-togethers and quiet times. If Heringer Estates brings a bit more happiness to your lives, then that brings joy to ours.
When I think about Heringer Estates Family Vineyard and Winery, focusing on where we are today, I feel an immense gratitude to the generations of Heringers before me. Their hard work, innovation, and stewardship of the land are an integral part of our family business. You can’t see or touch their contributions—not like the harvest and wine making equipment so vital to what we do—but it’s there in the fabric of who we are and in the opportunities their foresight provided. It’s why we’re still farming in Clarksburg over 140 years later.
It continues on today in Heringer Estates Family Vineyards and Winery and in our sixth generation
—Mike, Stephen and Stacy Heringer.
As Heringer Estates winemaker, a sense of place is embodied in Mike Heringer’s work. It’s present in the passion that drives him to create excellent wines and in his stewardship of the land where his family has farmed for six generations. It comes from working with family, farming in Clarksburg, and making estate wines. A sense of place is also reflected—literally—in each vintage. Each year’s harvest produces unique characteristics and flavors tied to the specific vineyard location and the current year’s climate.
“Our wines are the truest reflection of the variety of grape and are the expression of the vineyard,” explains Mike. “We let the grapes be the main focus of our wine and don’t over manipulate them in the winery. We focus on the vineyard and regional characteristics each grape brings to the wine.”
Mike graduated from California State University, Fresno, with a degree in food and nutritional sciences, and an option in enology. Before heading back to Clarksburg to start up Heringer Estates, he was assistant winemaker at Pietra Santa Vineyards & Winery in Hollister, CA, and an intern at Raymond Vineyard and Cellar in St. Helena, CA.
After 12 years in the military as a helicopter pilot and officer, both on active duty and in the California National Guard, it was a life-long love of the land and a desire for new challenges that brought Stephen Heringer back to the family ranch. Now vineyard and general manager for Heringer Estates, Stephen embraces the responsibilities of expanding ranch operations and the opportunity to work with family.
“I’m drawn to the nuances of farming. It’s just as complex and dynamic as the military,” he says. The ranch, however, offers the Heringer connection. Stephen appreciates working with his family as they have similar values and passions and are a cohesive team. “I’m really good friends with my brother and sister, parents and grandparents. We grew up really close—it’s a big part of who we are.”
As vineyard manager, Stephen is responsible for day-to-day vineyard operations including irrigation, canopy pruning, and supervising vineyard team members. “What we do in the vineyard establishes the foundation from which Mike is able to create such fantastic products in the winery.” As general manager of the winery, Stephen supervises team members, oversees equipment operations and maintenance, and assists with human resources.
Growing up helping out with ranch chores did not develop a passion for agriculture in Stacy Heringer-McElfish. Row crops were pretty boring commodities to a teenaged girl and invoked little desire to work on the ranch as an adult. But with the advent of Heringer Estates winery, things changed. Feeling the allure of the wine industry, Stacy was drawn to this new venture of the family business and in 2007 became manager of Heringer Estates’ wine club.
“Wine is definitely a fun industry to work in, much more interesting than tomatoes!” laughs Stacy. Of all her wine club responsibilities, she most enjoys the events Heringer Estates hosts, in which her recreation administration degree, with a concentration in special events, from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, comes in handy. All events celebrate the Heringer Estates wine club family in fun and interactive settings, and new wines and winery news are shared. “I really enjoy greeting people, having conversations, and being part of the family business,” says Stacy.
The Heringer experience is designed for flexibility and customer satisfaction. “We offer great value and exceptional products and service. I don’t think there are many wine clubs where you find so many choices,” explains Stacy. “A lot of wine clubs are one size fits all; we provide a lot more options through the club. It’s a great product, which makes my job really easy as the wine sells itself. The grapes are grown on the property and the winemaker is part of the family. Not only is he making wine, he’s in the vineyards, too. He has his hands in every aspect—I think that’s special.”
Having himself followed previous generations into farming, Steve values the connection to those who went before him. “It’s meaningful to me to know I’m walking in the same furrows my dad walked, his father walked, as did two more generations dating to the mid-1800s.” Steve’s farming experience began when he was 14 and started working summers on the ranch. Later, he obtained an agricultural business degree from Fresno State and then enlisted in the army for the Vietnam War immediately following college. Completing his service, Steve took master’s degree courses at Fresno State, then worked in agricultural banking for two years at the Farm Credit Banks in Berkeley before returning to the ranch.
Over the years, Steve’s developed an appreciation for the resiliency that has kept the family farming in the Clarksburg area since 1868. “Each generation faced huge challenges in sustaining the farm into the next generation,” explains Steve. “In meeting those challenges, they have built into the family fabric an appreciation for the hard work and innovation it takes to maintain the family farm. Each generation has developed a strong respect for what other generations have gone through, the life lessons of perseverance, patience, work ethic and faith.”
Steve feels especially blessed and fortunate that all three of the couple’s children chose to be involved in Heringer Estates. Mike is the winemaker; Stephen, vineyard and general manager; and Stacy, wine club manager. “That’s just awesome to me and it expands the opportunities for subsequent generations,” he says. It used to be that pretty much the only opportunities on the ranch were to farm. But with the advent of the winery, Steve and Donna’s grandchildren will have the option to work in areas such as marketing, accounting, events coordination, customer service, and the tasting room while still being part of the family business.
Visiting with the public, enjoying conversations about wine and life, is what Donna Heringer most appreciates about her role in Heringer Estates Family Vineyards & Winery. This enriching element only became part of the family farming business, however, when they became involved in the wine industry. Donna also appreciates how working together presents the opportunity to see her children more often than she might otherwise and in a different light.
Donna is also the merchandise buyer for the tasting room and assembles gift baskets. Until 2012, when she happily turned the responsibility over to another team member, Donna also did the food preparation for all Heringer Estates events. When the tasting room first opened, Donna worked there on weekends, while continuing with her weekday job as school secretary at Delta High School in Clarksburg—a position she held for 25 years before retiring. With the hiring of tasting room associates, Donna stepped back from working at the counter and concentrated her efforts on her other responsibilities.
Having all of her children involved in the family business brings a certain amount of maternal satisfaction, of course, but more than that Donna believes it makes good business sense. She sees it in the daily interaction between her sons and the successful way they work together. “It’s a wonderful balance the two have. Mike is very creative and artistic. Stephen is very methodical, organized and structured. They are respectful of each other’s strengths and get along with each other very well.” Donna also believes her daughter’s wine club manager position is a good fit for her, as she’s utilizing her college education in recreation administration and special events. “Stacy is in her element in the wine club—that’s where her strengths are.”
Embracing the fullness of life in the Sacramento River Delta, Marjorie and Lester Heringer were dedicated to providing an agricultural heritage for their seven children. The grandparents of Heringer Estates owners Michael, Stephen and Stacy, the couple continued the legacy of Lester’s great grandparents, farming crops in the rich soil and providing the opportunity for their children to do the same. Marjorie and Lester enjoy attending Heringer Estates events at the home ranch, visiting with guests, and seeing their grandchildren continue the family’s agricultural legacy.
The couple first met in Clarksburg and were married in 1943. Marjorie has a degree in home economics and nutrition from the University of Oregon and Lester has an agriculture degree from UC Davis. Following serving in World War II, Lester returned to Clarksburg in 1945 and was made commandant of the Clarksburg Prisoner of War Camp, located on the Heringer home site. The camp housed about 250 German soldiers who worked as agricultural laborers.
When his military service ended, Lester returned to farming with his family. He, his five brothers, and five cousins all farmed together from the mid-1940s until the early 1970s. In 1973, Lester and three of his brothers bought out the other seven. They farmed tomatoes, alfalfa, corn, sugar beets—almost anything that could be grown in Clarksburg, they grew. The first mechanical tomato harvester was financed by the Heringers and the prototype machine tested on their ranch.
It is also with a strong sense of sadness and loss that we share with you the passing of our family patriarch, our father and grandfather Lester S. Heringer Sr. in late November at the grand age of 97 years. Dad led a wonderful life, full of health and vitality and married to his childhood sweetheart for 72 years. He mentored our large family in a strong work ethic, integrity and innovative productivity and he was a large presence in our daily lives. We will miss him greatly, but we are at peace knowing that his legacy and our remarkable heritage is firmly implanted in the next three Heringer generations.
-Stephen F. Heringer (Sr.)