In 1842, seven years before the California Gold Rush populated the state, nineteenth century pioneer Cyrus Alexander came to Northern California, to the area now known as Sonoma County. Alexander settled the fertile valley now named for him, selecting the premier site for his own residence. Today, Cyrus Alexander's homestead enjoys a twentieth century renaissance as Alexander Valley Vineyards, a leading Sonoma County wine estate. Harry and Maggie Wetzel purchased this chosen property from the heirs of Cyrus Alexander in 1962. Recognizing the agricultural potential of the area, the Wetzel's hired vineyard manager Dale Goode and began planting premium varietal vineyards, pioneering the earliest trellised vineyards. Within 10 years, 125 acres were planted and plans were underway for a small estate winery. From the beginning, Alexander Valley Vineyards has been a family affair. Harry Wetzel III, better known as Hank, graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1974 with a degree in Enology and made the first estate-grown wines in 1975. With this inaugural vintage, Dale Goode and Hank Wetzel formed a strong working relationship, teaming together to produce exceptional estate-grown wines literally from the ground up. Hank's younger sister Katie Wetzel joined the family business in 1979 as Sales and Marketing Director. Today, over twenty years from inception, the Wetzel family continues to explore and fine tune vines and wines at Alexander Valley Vineyards, with the assistance of Vineyard Manager Mark Houser. Older vineyards are being replanted with newer rootstocks and clonal selections. Costly French oak barrels and advanced winemaking equipment replace older apparatus. Katie Wetzel Murphy remains a tireless ambassador and spokesperson as she travels to national and international markets, not only for Alexander Valley Vineyards, but also on behalf of the Sonoma County wine industry. Annual production topped 80,000 cases in 1998, with nine varietal wines. The principal varietals, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon comprise three quarters of the total. Small amounts of Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Syrah are also produced for a dedicated following. Less than 1000 cases of Alexander Valley Vineyard's Syrah are produced each year. Syrah or Shiraz? Whether we refer to this great varietal as Syrah or Shiraz, we are essentially talking about the same illustrious grape. Grown for centuries in the Rhone Valley of France, where it is responsible in all or part for some of the greatest red wines of France (Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape included), the exact origin of this full-flavored varietal remains in debate. However, historians do agree that it was brought to Europe from the Middle East, but when and by whom remains a mystery. Some believe that it was the Crusaders, while others point to the earlier legions of Probes or even the remnants of Alexander the Great's army on its return from Persia. The latter theory is particularly intriguing since Alexander himself was so enamored of the wines he found around the city of Shiraz in Central Persia, and certainly this city is the origin of the varietal's name. In any case, Syrah flourishes today in other warm climates, particularly in California and Australia where it often goes by its original name - Shiraz.