Think back to 1973. The '60's are over,
the war is over, everything American is good and right. Country is cool and everyone
is waving flags instead of burning them. The movement of the moment is back to
the land. This is the year Karl and John Giguiere (along with John's wife Lane)
went home to the Dunnigan Hills farm they grew up on to settle down to the idyll
life on the family wheat and sheep operation.
The charm of being shepherds quickly wore off when the three discovered that sheep
use almost zero percent of their brains. The sheep were fired. The glamour of
driving tractor and moving sprinklers in the middle of the night wore off when
they realized that the traditional agriculture of the area was dying a slow death
(i.e. no money in it). Not willing to sell out the family farm, the Giguiere's
turned to local experts for advice on converting their 2700 acres to a more profitable
crop. They dutifully listened to the advice and, in 1981, planted 10 acres of
Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc anyway. The vineyard thrived. And at the first
harvest in 1983, the grapes looked beautiful. Then the family learned one of the
harsh lessons of bucking tradition: no one was bold enough to be the first to
make wine from an unknown, unproven grape growing region. Still in the young and
idealistic phase of their lives, the Giguiere's viewed this turn of events as
a challenge. They started their own winery. Naming their new venture after the
brothers' maternal grandfather, they launched R.H. Phillips in 1984 with 4,000
cases of wine. They sold every drop. Next year they sold 40,000 cases of estate
Bottled, premium and super premium wine. The year after that, they sold 150,000
cases. Today, R.H. Phillips has 1600 acres of grapes on the property, and produces
over 400,000 cases of wine.
John and Lane still live on the property. Karl still farms all the vineyards.
But the winery has grown from a three-sided building and an old Rodeway trailer
into a state-of-the art production facility.
R. H. Phillips Wine Co. / 26836 County Road 12A / Esparto, CA 95627 / 530-662-3215