E2 Family Winery

9009 West Highway 12
Lodi, CA 95242

209-993-2334

Open: Year-round

About Us:

The Ehlers family history, within the wine business, began during the early days of prohibition. Some of the first,family ancestors arrived in California in 1835 where they settled in the town of Lockeford and in the town of Courtland, along the Sacramento river. The more recent family migrated to California after a brief stay in Minnesota after arriving from Germany.

However, our father, grandfather and 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, while gaining experience working in the laboratory with E.H. Brown, protégé of Professor W. V. Cruess, a noted enologist of the day, Herman Ehlers became a winemaker for Shewan-Jones.

During his time as winemaker for Shewan Jones, he had an opportunity to be involved with the wineries two largest contributions to the wine industry. The first innovation was the use of sulfur dioxide to prevent the growth of bacteria in wine with the second innovation being the first winery in California to use refrigeration, to maintain the stabilization of wines.

Since this period was during prohibition, the only wines bottled and made were sacramental wines. After the repeal of prohibition, however, the winery began making a variety of red and white wines while continuing to concentrate heavily on sweet vintages.

In 1934, as the newly formed FBI looked for the Chicago mobster John Dillinger and, in Germany, Adolph Hitler rose to power, 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 along with serving on the wineries board of directors for 7. Herman Ehlers had also returned to Germany a few times to explore and assist with winemaking at the request of a few German wineries.

In 1936, East Side Winery built their brandy production and bottling room along with the installation of new storage tanks. Thus, began East Side Wineries reputation as California's leader in the production of the finest brandies. 1954 saw the inception of a joint venture between East Side Winery and Korbel Brothers of Napa. This venture operated with Herman Ehlers making the brandy and East Side Winery providing the bottling services. Korbel, in turn, provided the bottles, labels and marketing of the brandy. The success of this association lasted until 1975.

During the peak production period for East Side Winery, along with their bottling of brandy, they were producing 50 varieties of dry wines and from 16 to 20 sweet wines.

Four winemakers developed under the skillful training of our grandfather, Herman Ehlers, during his time as master winemaker for East Side. They were Leo Berta of Paul Masson; Lawrence Quaccia and Delford Seeman of the Guild Company; and Reggie Gianelli, who took Herman's place as winemaker at East Side. Ultimately, the last people to be tutored by Herman Ehlers were his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Herman Ehlers' eldest son, Walter, continued in his father's footsteps by beginning his training in the winery cellar room and tending to the family vineyards. The Ehlers family first, 65-acre vineyards were comprised of some of the older California varietals, such as, Emerald Riesling, Petite Syrah, Ruby Cabernet, Barberra, Semillon. and Mission.

In the 1970's, Herman Ehlers created a dessert wine called Angelic Antigua. In fact, the story is told that ".... a gentleman from New Orleans use to fly into Lodi on a regular basis, using his own plane, just to purchase cases of Angelic Antigua and visit the master winemaker." The family still retains two bottles of Angelic Antigua, with its unique thin cork skin label, of which each bottle was numbered before offered for sale. The most recent appraisals of these bottles were at $500.00 each.

This wine, along with many other wines made by Herman, garnered awards all over California. In fact, Herman Ehlers garnered too many gold, silver and bronze medals, from multiple competitions through out his career, to count. 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, but instead, worked for the family during the long years of the depression.

1951 saw Herman's eldest son, Walter, branching out and expanding 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, learning to irrigate, prune, sucker, and harvest the grapes by hand. 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.

Memories, for Steven, include having the local school bus drop him off at the winery, where his dad, Walter Ehlers, and grandfather, Herman Ehlers, were at work. Perched on a bar stool, in the laboratory, often found Steven watching grandfather Herman, working his magic in creating his multiple, award, winning wines. Thus Steven continued his "on the job training and experience."

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