Rodney Schatz has been in the farming and grape-growing industry his entire life. He grew up in Victor, where his family still produces grapes for several area wineries.
After finishing college at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, starting his own vineyards and winery was a natural transition.
In 2001, he and his wife, Gayla, started building their winery, Peltier Station, on Kennefick and Peltier roads in Acampo. And in 2002, they celebrated their new venture with their first crush.
On a day when rain was beating down on their country winery and vineyards, the laid back and friendly Rodney Schatz and his friend and winemaker JC van Staden sat down to talk about the wines of Peltier Station.
Q: How would you describe the wines you produce?
Rodney: There are eight or nine wines. But in general, what we’re trying to do is create really flavorful wines with character true to the varietal and be conscious of the price. We want to create very stylistic and dry wines, and we’re not trying to change what the varietals are, but showcase them.
Q: What is your personal favorite wine?
Rodney: Probably the Viognier, although that’s not your everyday drinking wine. It’s probably your most interesting one. It’s a bold white wine.
Q: What is your favorite part of the wine industry?
Rodney: I like November, when harvest is over (laughs).
Q: You’ve been called an incredible chef. What are some dishes you like to pair with Peltier Station wines?
Rodney: I like abalone with my Viognier. I grill it fresh or deep fry it (I dive for abalone at Point Arena). With Zinfandel, a rib, like a pork or beef rib, something that’s spicy, would be good.
Q: What do you grow, both on this property and throughout the area?
Rodney: We grow Zinfandel, Teroldego and Vermentino on this property. Everything we grow is in the appellation, as far north as Elk Grove and as far south as Victor.
Q: You grow two varieties of Italian grapes. Tell me about your Italian heritage — has it influenced your winemaking?
Rodney: My mom’s side is the Maringo family. The family hails from the northern regions of Italy. My mother and grandmother (taught me to cook).
Q: Your winery is part of the Lodi Rules Program. What is that?
Rodney: It’s a third party certification that quantifies the inputs and production practices that we use in farming the vineyards. It’s not organic, but it’s using a sustainable approach to your operation, to maximize your effort and also stay profitable.
Q: What is the history here with trains?
Rodney: The tracks running along here are out of service, though that traction line served the farming community between Stockton and Sacramento. A lot of the packing sheds were along this track. Where this property is, there were three different sheds for shipping grapes and fresh fruit to other parts of the county or Sacramento.
We took the concept of the train and ran with it, and came up with Peltier Station.
Q: Why did you want to buy this location?
Rodney: I bought this when I first got out of college in 1985. It wasn’t our intention at the time to build a winery. It took us about 12 years to figure out we wanted to put this here.
Q: What are your favorite things to do in Lodi?
Rodney: Eat and drink, I think. Crush Kitchen, Pietro’s and Saigon Grill — I think they’re great.
Q: JC, you’re from South Africa. How did you become Peltier Station’s winemaker?
JC: I got stuck here. Me and my wife got married and we wanted to travel the world a bit. We’d been to France, worked there, can’t speak French. We figured we come to America and (try) the English. We came to Michael- David in 2003. 2005, I went back to South Africa. A few years later, I managed to come back here and Rod called me up and said, “I’m looking for a winemaker,” and that was about it.
Q: How would you describe the wine?
JC: I think Lodi is known for more fruit-forward style wines. It’s only in the last eight to nine years that we’re actually trying to do something better. The more we actually get established, the more it gives the winemakers freedom to go for it and make wines that are more true to varietals.
Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.