This winery was founded in 1961 by Harry and Maggie Wetzel, who uprooted their life and moved to the Alexander Valley. They built their winery and estate from scratch and since their inaugural wines were bottled they’ve continued to grow, innovate, build and gain recognition. Still a family affair, AVV as it’s known is now being run by third generation Wetzels.
Founder, Harry, was a successful businessman who’d been lucky enough to travel the world with wife Maggie. They’d experienced many of the great wine regions, but it was Sonoma and the potential of the Alexander Valley that always excited them.
When they got a 24 hour option on a property, they had to make a quick decision, and ended up purchasing the estate without ever having seen it. When they turned up they found a house that had been sitting idle for over 5 years with plants growing through the windows and a lot of work required.
After 6 years of planting and preparing the vineyards and getting up to speed on the wine production front, they finally had 2 barrels ready to bottle, and that was it, in 1968 - with no bottling line the whole family got involved, filling, corking and labelling their wines by hand.
In 1984 the family, especially 2nd generation vigneron, Hank, was instrumental in the creation of Alexander Valley AVA.
In subsequent years the winery have had to contend with a phylloxera outbreak, but haven’t let it slow them down. They’ve launched their iconic label - Cyrus, they’ve dug over half an acre of underground caves for ageing their wines, and they’ve converted the entire estate to a fully certified sustainable entity.
Their winemaking philosophy follows the well trodden path in California - terroir focussed wines made in a traditional manner. It’s best summed up by the family themselves…
“Our winemaker Kevin Hall is constantly adapting to the rhythms of nature, the readiness of the vineyards and the evolution of the individual wines. While our vineyards provide the sense of terroir and consistent character of our fruit, our winemaking staff provides the invaluable experience. Their work is constant and crucial; topping the barrelled wines to minimize air contact as they develop, monitoring and measuring the young wines as they progress, and tasting, tasting, tasting. Decades of experience tying vineyard and winery together give AVV total control of wine production, resulting in rich, complex wines that showcase a truly robust sense of place.”
The Alexander Valley is one of the greatest locations in California - just over the hills from Napa and making wines just as miraculous. Many people can’t look past this fantastic AVA once they experience it, and there is no better place to start than Alexander Valley Vineyards.