In a Horatio Alger-themed story that took him from small town Ohio to Harvard Business School, Al Scheid became a successful entrepreneur and helped establish Monterey County as one of California’s most important and diverse winegrowing regions.
Al was born and raised in Bridgeport, Ohio, a working-class hamlet of modest credentials just across the Ohio River from Wheeling, West Virginia. Sardonically it was nicknamed Beerport, because West Virginia was a “dry” state and the Wheeling citizens came across the bridge to drink in Beerport. Seeing no future in this coal/steel town, Al hitchhiked out of town in 1951 at age 19 with $42 in his pocket.
After a year in a steel mill and a tire factory, Al did a stint in the Navy, which sent him to Long Beach, California. After his honorable discharge, he went on to get his BA from Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna College) in 1957. He achieved his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1959. He paid for his education by working nights and being awarded some scholarships. After business school, he joined E.F. Hutton & Company in Los Angeles as the Executive Assistant to the Managing Partner. In 1969 Al founded his own investment banking firm, specializing in raising money for small, young, growing businesses. Doing this work enabled him to learn the pitfalls of starting a new business.
The seed for Scheid Family Wines was planted in 1971, when Al created a limited partnership to develop vineyards in Monterey County, California. While time has proven him prescient, back then it was a bold investment since winegrowing in Monterey County was in its infancy. He planted the first vineyard in early 1972.
Over the next few years, Al formed several more partnerships and eventually planted more than 6,000 acres of vineyards. By the mid-1980s the limited partners were all retired or deceased and they or their heirs wanted to sell their interests. Al began to buy the partnership interests. By 1996, he had purchased all interests of the limited partners. In 1997 Scheid Vineyards Inc. did a public offering of common shares. The stock now trades as SVIN on the over-the counter market.
In 1984 Al started funding college scholarships for his high school alma mater, Bridgeport High School in Ohio. His idea was to aid motivated high school students who wanted to attend college. Three years later Al created the same scholarship program in the Salinas Valley for King City High School and Greenfield High School was added to the program in 2001.
A natural entertainer and storyteller, Al is known for his quotes that friends and family affectionately term “Al-isms.” He calls himself the luckiest man he’s ever met, and says that he has lived an unplanned, but eventful life. Along the way, Al has assisted in raising his four children, had a successful business career and written a memoir called Breaking Out of Beerport, which covers the ten year adventure he experienced in his struggle to obtain a first class education. He also carded a 175 yard, hole-in-one on the 17th hole at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, California in 2001 – another bit of unexpected luck.
Al, now 87, is chairman of the board of Scheid Family Wines. Though not involved in day-to-day operations, he remains involved in high level decision-making and financial matters, and stays abreast of the business via regular interaction with the executive team. Al says he will retire at 5:00 p.m. on the day of his death.