Winemaker Alex Kanzler produces a limited 2,000 cases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the foggy western hills of Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. He is a director of the Russian River Valley Winegrowers association, and past chairman of the Neighborhoods Committee. The Sebastopol Hills neighborhood (or micro-region) is home to the 14-acre Kanzler Estate Vineyard, planted in 1996.
As a teenager Alex worked as a field hand on the crew that tended his family’s Pinot Noir plot, but he didn’t envision a career in wine when he headed off to the University of Colorado, Boulder. “I’d learned how to plant and care for vines, but I wanted something different at the time,” he says. Alex majored in history and sociology, thinking he would be a teacher. But after graduation, he took a summer job at Landmark Vineyards to earn a little money. "It only took a couple weeks in the cellar and I was hooked on winemaking," he says.
Alex furthered his training in Pinot Noir by working harvests with serious producers in New Zealand’s Central Otago region and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. When he returned to Sonoma County, he studied viticulture and enology at Santa Rosa Junior College while taking internships at Kosta-Browne Winery and Jemrose Vineyards — eventually becoming assistant winemaker for Jemrose under winemaker Russell Bevan. He then assumed the reins as winemaker for Kanzler Vineyards, but continued working outside the family business, at VML and Truett Hurst Wineries under Virginia Lambrix. In 2014, Alex turned his full attention to Kanzler Vineyards.
He handcrafts each vintage himself, and applies organic farming practices at the estate vineyard, including the avoidance of synthetic herbicides. Alex has been deeply gratified to guide KANZLER’s growth from acclaimed vineyard—the source of over 60 wines from top producers rated 90 to 98 points by Wine Spectator—to sought-after Pinot Noir producer in its own right.
Alex is a panelist for the Exploring the Neighborhoods of the Russian River Valley - Seminar on Saturday, March 7, 2020.