WHO ARE WINE FELLAS?
1912 — 1946
The Wine Fellas saga starts with Benno Schoch, who migrated from Switzerland in 1912 through Canada. In 1918 the Schoch family moved to California, where Benno began working as an importer-exporter with Schwartz Brothers. Associated with the Italian-Swiss Colony, a leading wine producer by 1941, Benno was the first to export California wines to Central and South America.
1946 — 1967
In 1946, Benno's son, Napa Valley pioneer viticulturist Ivan Schoch, began managing Martin Stelling's To Kalon Vineyard holdings — a property that is now widely considered the most valuable, historic vineyard in the Napa Valley. Well-respected in the field, he planted Hanzell Winery's first vineyards for Ambassador James Zellerbach in Sonoma County and advised Joseph Phelps in selecting some of his first iconic vineyard sites.
After Martin Stelling passed away, Ivan was presented with the distinct opportunity to buy the majority of Martin's vineyard holdings, most of which Martin's wife had sold to the Italian Swiss Colony. Italian Swiss Colony agreed that Ivan was better suited to manage the vineyard, so in 1953 they sold him what was, in fact, a considerable portion of the now famous To Kalon Vineyard (approximately 428 acres).
1946 — 1967 Continued
Ivan continued to farm To Kalon under his company Vineyards Inc., providing excellent grapes to both Beaulieu Vineyards and Charles Krug Winery, until 1962, when he sold most of the vineyard to C.K. Mondavi & Sons.
When Robert Mondavi ventured off to start his winery four years later, ushering in the start of Napa's modern wine industry, Ivan Schoch was one of Robert's two investing partners. The Rainier Brewing Company bought out their Mondavi shares in 1968, after which Ivan next purchased Souverain Winery on Howell Mountain.
1967 — 1986
While Ivan was headed into retirement. His son Nikko was developing a reputation of his own. Nikko gravitated to winemaking early on, learning from industry legends such as André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards. He studied enology and viticulture at UC Davis. Also a decorated Vietnam war hero and peace activist, Nikko quickly proved to be a natural at winemaking. He was responsible for many outstanding wines produced throughout the 1970s and '80s, including those made for Shafer, Folie à Deux, Trentadue, Freemark Abbey, and his co-owned Schomann Cellars. Nikko and his wife Bonnie established their brand, Schochenfels, in 1977.
1986 — PRESENT DAY
Gotta keep it going, right? The story continues with our present-day advocate of low-intervention wines: Nikko's son, Galen. An '80s baby and a Napa Valley lifer, Galen's been absorbing the vast wine knowledge surrounding him since childhood, nabbing his first job at age 13, working at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Which ultimately led him to the marketing side of the industry. Galen managed major retail chain and restaurant accounts for Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits, the country's premier wine distributor. He later gained certifications from the Society of Wine Educators and the Court of Master Sommeliers and studied winemaking at UC Davis CPE. What inspired him the most was working harvests around Napa Valley and traveling to France to visit cellars. Now, Galen tirelessly builds on that experience as the founder and vintner of Wine Fellas. In keeping with the historical philosophy shared by all four Schoch generations, Galen remains dedicated to his family's commitment to the good stuff.