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Kanzler Russian River Valley

Winemaker Alex Kanzler produces a limited 2,000 cases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the cool western edge of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. Planted just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, the renowned 15-acre Kanzler Vineyard was one of the first established in the rolling hills southwest of the town of Sebastopol, California.

The growing region—now informally called the Sebastopol Hills neighborhood—was once thought to be too cool for grapes. It has proven ideal for the notoriously difficult Pinot Noir, which enjoys the well-drained Goldridge soil predominant here, and sunny summers tempered by cooling ocean breezes. Most nights the fog rolls in too, allowing grapes to ripen slowly and develop the deep, complex flavors for which the Kanzler Vineyard is known.

Alex grew up on the vineyard his parents planted, and worked as a field hand at 16. After college he surprised himself by falling sincerely in love with winemaking. He honed his craft at exceptional wineries in Oregon, New Zealand, and Sonoma. At KANZLER, he handcrafts each vintage himself, and applies gentle farming practices such as dry farming and the exclusion of synthetic herbicides. He also farms nearby Walker Station Vineyard, a gem of the Green Valley neighborhood.

Alex’s wife Breauna Kanzler allocates bottles via the mailing list during biannual offerings. She also hosts tastings and tours for overnight guests of the estate vineyard house.

The vineyard’s sought-after grapes have been featured in vineyard designate wines by other top producers such as Kosta Browne and Lynmar Estate; the vineyard is the sole source of over 60 wines rated 90 to 98 points by Wine Spectator.

Kanzler Vineyards was founded in 1996.

Alex Kanzler

Alex Kanzler Winemaker

Alex was fortunate to spend his childhood growing up among the idyllic vineyards and apple orchards of western Sonoma County. But when he headed off to the University of Colorado, Boulder after graduating from Sebastopol’s Analy High School, he didn’t really envision a career in the wine business.

 “I spent a lot of time in vineyards growing up,” says Alex, who worked summers as a field hand in the vineyard crew that tended his family’s Pinot Noir vineyard. “I learned how to plant and care for vines, but I wanted something different at the time.” At school he majored in history and sociology and planned to be a teacher, but after graduation he quickly discovered that winemaking – and specifically Pinot Noir – was his passion. “My first harvest at Landmark Vineyards was just a way to earn some money, but it only took a few weeks of being in the winery before I was hooked.”

After Landmark, Alex was off to New Zealand to work the 2009 southern hemisphere harvest, landing in Central Otago with Pinot Noir specialist Carrick Wines. Next he traveled to Willamette Valley in Oregon to work the fall 2009 harvest with stellar Pinot Noir producer Domaine Serene. Returning to Sonoma County in 2010, Alex continued his career path by working in tasting rooms, studying viticulture and enology at Santa Rosa Junior College, and completing a final internship under Shane Finley at Kosta-Browne Winery and Jemrose Vineyards. In 2011, Alex began working as a cellar assistant at Vinify Wine Services. While at Vinify, he was promoted to Assistant Winemaker of Jemrose, where he worked with winemaker Russell Bevan. Later that year, having worked hard, studied diligently, and learned his craft from some great mentors, his parents Stephen and Lynda were thrilled when Alex assumed the reins as winemaker for Kanzler Vineyards.

Meanwhile, Alex continued working outside the family business. In 2012 he was lured to VML Russian River Winery by founder and Winemaker Virginia Lambrix to be their cellarmaster. Over the next two and a half years Alex and Ginny teamed up to craft VML wines as well as the wines of publically traded wine company Truett Hurst. During his time at VML, Alex progressed from Cellar Master to Assistant Winemaker to Associate Winemaker. In August 2014, Alex resigned from VML/Truett Hurst to focus exclusively on the family business.

Today, Alex and his wife Breauna spend much of their time on the estate vineyard in the Sebastopol Hills where he grew up—Alex supervising farming, and Breauna overseeing the overnight Farm Stay experience, vineyard walks, and private tastings. “West Sonoma County is a truly special place,” says Alex. “The vineyards here are world class.”