Some of the first, family ancestors arrived in California in 1835 where they settled in the town of Lockeford. Our great grandfather, Herman Walter Ehlers, began his education in wine, in 1921, working at the “National Fruit Product Company” which later became the Shewan-Jones Winery in Lodi. His first job was moving wine around in the cellar as a young teenager, where he remembers the grapes being brought to the winery by horse and wagon. Eight years later, Herman Ehlers became a winemaker for Shewan-Jones.
In 1934, Lodi saw the completion of the new East Side Winery, which was just in time for the 1934 crush. The winery installed Herman Ehlers as East Side’s first master winemaker, a position he held for over 41 years.
In 1936, East Side Winery began building their reputation as California’s leader in the production of the finest brandies. in 1954 a joint venture was formed with the Korbel Brothers of Napa. This joint venture lasted until 1975.
Herman, garnered awards all over California for his winemaking. But he felt the highest honor he ever received was a lifetime membership into the American Society of Enologists. Not bad for a self-taught man who was never afforded the time to finish high school.
1951 saw Herman’s eldest son, Walter, branched out and expanded his farming ventures with the formation of the Herman Ehlers and Sons, Corporation. At one time the corporation was farming over 4000 acres.
That same year brought the birth of his only son, Steven Ehlers, which continued the family tradition of introducing the next generation into the family wine business. Steven began working in the vineyards, at an early age. In fact, as many children of Lodi wine-grape producers, you could see these children driving tractors in their family vineyards before they could actually reach the pedals, except with the help of wooden blocks. After high school graduation, Steven found himself entering the family business.
In the following years the vineyards grew to include the vines planted on their 400+ acre, delta, island ranch. The current Ehlers family vineyards are comprised of Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Verdelho (our rare, Portuguese white wine), Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Burger, and Syrah grapes.
1976 to 1981, brought the arrival of the current generation of vintners, Steven Ehlers junior, his brother, Brett Ehlers and their sister, Elishia Ehlers. Again, the next generation began at an early age, to follow in their father’s and grandfather’s footsteps.
Now with the production of wines currently at 4500 cases a year, and multiple awards won by the current generation of viticulturists and winemakers, the family tradition moves forward.