Steve Schafer, Schafer Ranch and San Joaquin Wine Company
As a winegrape grower and vintner, Steve Schafer is deeply invested and involved in all aspects of the industry. His visionary leadership and proactive efforts to advance sustainable winegrowing practices help ensure that his and other vineyard and winery operations continue to be successful.
THE SCHAFER STORY
Steve’s father, Corky, started farming more than 50 years ago. Steve and his brother, Mike, now run the operation, Schafer Ranch in Madera, which produces winegrapes, raisin grapes and other crops. Steve manages nearly 1,400 acres of winegrapes, including zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, grenache, petit sirah, muscat canelli and rubired.
In 2005, Steve and his wife, Cindy, started San Joaquin Wine Company (SJWC). Four years later they launched their own wine production with four varietals – under the Moody Press Cellars label – and it has grown to include more varietals and labels. SJWC’s commitment to excellence and value are reflected in its mission: “To produce the highest quality wines possible at affordable prices from select local grape varieties.”
WINEGRAPE INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP
Since joining CAWG in 2000, Steve has been a well-respected leader in the organization, serving on the board and as chairman. His continued support included hosting a 2017 CAWG PAC event at his winery, graciously donating the venue and wine.
Steve’s leadership also includes serving on the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board and Fresno Madera Farm Credit board of directors, and as a Wine Institute district director. Steve has shared his expertise and insight at grower education meetings and in numerous industry and local news stories.
PROACTIVE ON SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainable winegrowing is an issue that Steve has championed for many years. He was an early board member of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA). He is an original member of the Sustainable Winegrowing Joint Committee, convened in 2001 by CAWG and Wine Institute to provide leadership and guidance for the development of the comprehensive California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Workbook. The committee has provided technical guidance for the Sustainable Winegrowing Program and helps develop updates to Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing.
Steve was one of many who provided expertise and time to the workbook. “In the tough competitive environment we face, we need to look for every way we can to differentiate ourselves and meet consumer expectations,” he said when the workbook was published. “This focus on sustainability is critical for our survival.”
Steve was featured in CSWA’s California Wine Community Sustainability Report 2009 about his proactive sustainable practices: no-till to reduce dust and conserve water, energy use to improve air quality, and use of solar. When the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District adopted new district rules for dust and diesel control, Steve was already implementing the required practices.
In the report he said, “An attribute of the Sustainable Winegrowing Program is that it has touched every grower in California and elevated every grower in the state to improve practices and their way of farming. Because the program elevates winegrowing in California as a whole, it helps differentiate us from the rest of the world, and at the same time the SWP encourages growers to continually improve by implementing better practices. Growers need to be willing to innovate and to think outside the box, and also be aware of how we impact the community around us.”
CAWG board member Davindar Mahil said, “Steve and his family are staples in the Central Valley winegrape community. Not only does he grow top quality winegrapes, but he also owns a diversified operation that includes raisins, figs and almonds. As a past chairman of CAWG, an innovative farmer and a dedicated member of his community, Steve is extremely deserving of this recognition.”
ON THE AWARD
“I’m very honored that they’ve chosen to give me an award,” Steve said. “I consider my participation in CAWG as one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done. Our association has done so much to advance winegrape growers and winegrape growing in California. From the moment I joined the board, I was very impressed with the level of ability and commitment of the board members and what we were able to accomplish. I am confident that CAWG will continue to lead the industry with the strength and commitment that has been its hallmark for so long.”