Timeline

Harry and jet

1961:  Jet aircraft played a crucial role at AVV

While he was Chairman of the Garrett Corporation, Harry and Maggie traveled the world and visited many of the great wine regions.  Those trips convinced them that the Alexander Valley had the same potential.  When Pacific Southwest Airlines dropped their fares from $35 to $11.49, flying from Southern California for the family of six became affordable and Harry decided that making a purchase in Sonoma County was possible.  He later wrote:  “If it hadn’t been for that I don’t think I would have bothered.  Of course the travel was the least expensive thing.”

Alexander Valley 1905

1962:  Purchased first section of land from Alexander heirs

“In the summer of 1962 Russ Green told me about a property which had been inhabited by a woman in her nineties, whose heirs did not want to keep it.  That winter he called and told me he had a 24 hour option on the property and did we want to buy it with them?  We slept on it and in the morning agreed to buy.  We had never set foot on the land.” –Harry Wetzel

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1963:  Children in tow, Maggie Wetzel arrives at the newly purchased Alexander homestead.

The house had stood empty for years, five foot weeds surrounded the boarded up front porch and steers poked their heads through the windows.

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1963:  Started planting vineyards

Hank began learning about the vineyards as a young boy.  A year later his first job was tying canes and trimming vines.  He worked from 7am-4pm earning $1.50 an hour.  The real crew made fun of him, but he stuck with it.

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1965:  Introduced trellising to the region

The stakes were placed 8’ apart and rows were 12’ wide – 454 vines per acre.  Today, we’ve reduced the spacing to 4’ apart and rows are 6’ wide – vine density ranges from 800 – 1500 vines per acre with less yield per vine, but more yield per acre.

Grafting Grapes 1967

1966:  Grafting Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, Riesling & Gewürztraminer.

“Newly planted grapestock is being budded to variety this month and all day long the crew, skilled and patient, move from vine to vine on their knees.  They have let each child have a try at budding – it looks so easy and makes us all at once so clumsy.” –Maggie Wetzel

Bottling 1968

1968:  Bottling our first Cabernet

On Memorial Day the adobe was converted from barrel aging room to bottling line.  This was a family project and everyone learned as they went, prepping, filling bottles, corking the wines and applying the labels.  “We bottled our first Cabernet — two fifty gallon barrels.  It really is surprisingly good.” –Maggie Wetzel

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1969:  Hank is interested in making this his life’s work

After working on the property and interning at another winery, Hank enrolls at UC Davis in the Fermentation Science program.

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1972:  Moved Alexander Valley schoolhouse

“We have succeeded in persuading Mrs. Goodyear, a neighbor, to let us have the 1868 Alexander Valley one room schoolhouse and it has been moved to a slight rise near a huge oak tree, where one day it will be surrounded by vineyard.  The process of restoration has begun …” –Maggie Wetzel

 

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1973:  Hank introduces Linda to the home bottling line

She jumps right in and has never stopped.

 

The beginning

1975:  Winery Construction

“There is one other bold and exciting development to record.  After a year of legal work, plans made … we have bids out to build a small winery at the foot of our cemetery hill. Hank will supervise the building process, be the winemaker …” –Maggie Wetzel

First Chard 1975

1975:  Hank and Linda Wetzel begin Alexander Valley Vineyards

The first gondola of Chardonnay grapes clattered up, Hank pushed the green plastic button to start the machines.  Nothing happened.  “It took half a day to get the first gondola crushed, I was totally devastated.” –Hank Wetzel

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1976:  Second harvest

Everyone jokes that ‘at least it’s not last year’.

Wine world takes notice of the region after The Judgement of Paris Tasting, in which California Chardonnay, grown in the Alexander Valley, won over the French judges.  Glowing reviews of AVV 1975 Chardonnay by the press help to put AVV on the map.

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1978:  Sin Zin – first vintage

A large second crop of Zinfandel and a family meal led to the decision to make a little homemade wine.

Sin Zin gains a cult following.

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1979:  Katie Wetzel joins AVV

She takes on sales and marketing for the growing family business.  Traveling across the country, Katie poured our wines and educated wine lovers everywhere about Sonoma County, Alexander Valley and AVV.

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1984:  Alexander Valley is recognized as an AVA

Hank Wetzel leads the committee that took the region to appellation status as a recognized American Viticultural Area.

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1985:  Winery expansion

Tasting room, offices, permanent bottling line, barrel aging space and lab.

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1993:  Phylloxera strikes

The silver lining of phylloxera was an opportunity to revitalize the 130 acres of estate vineyards.  We changed vine density, row orientation, clonal selection and varietals, and finished replanting in 2009.  This began our focus on the varietals best suited for the area; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Merlot.

Cyrus bottle with glass 1995 vintage

1995:  CYRUS – first vintage

The inaugural vintage of CYRUS marked 20 years at AVV.  Honoring the valley namesake, this wine is a celebration of estate grown grapes, focused winemaking, extensive barrel aging and Alexander Valley.

Cave construction 1997

1997:  Construction begins on underground caves

7,000 square feet of naturally cooled underground barrel aging space for AVV’s growing production.

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1998:  Kevin Hall joins AVV

Six months later he was appointed Winemaker, a position he still holds today.

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2002:  Third generation officially working

AVV hires sales team to grow sales across the country.

After growing up on the property, Harry Wetzel, IV and Robert Wetzel join AVV.

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2008:  Harry and Maggie Wetzel pass away

Both are laid to rest in the family cemetery overlooking the land they loved.

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2010:  Certified Sonoma Green Business

Certification recognizes AVV as an environmental leader that conserves resources, minimizes waste and prevents pollution.

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2011:  Organic Cabernet Vineyard

Taking steps to preserve the property for future generations, AVV received certification for farming a small single vineyard organically.

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2013:  Winery expands again

Continuing to grow, we built a second crush pad to segregate white and red grapes.

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2013:  Giving back to the communities that have helped make AVV a success

CYRUS is named Grand Champion & Best of Show at Rodeo Uncorked! in Houston, Texas for an unbelievable third time.  Our 6 liter bottle sells for a record $215,000.  The total raised for charity at this event by CYRUS is now over $465,000!

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2015:  Celebrating 40 years of winemaking and decades on the property

We are still family owned and operated; today the third and fourth generations are continuing the traditions established by Harry and Maggie Wetzel over 50 years ago on the family estate.

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2016:  New land, continuing family farming

John, Katie and Hank are actively farming their newest vineyard themselves.  The family business is growing with this 59 acre purchase across the river from AVV.

Sonoma Green Congressional Recognition

2016:  Congressional recognition for AVV!

We renew our Sonoma Green Business certification.   AVV’s dedication to environmentally sound business practices is recognized by Congress.