Following are profiles of the top day-to-day leaders from the Business Journal’s lists of the largest independently owned wineries under 100,000 cases, published in March, and the largest wine companies, published in May.
Listed alphabetically by company name.
Proprietor and winemaker
Alexander Valley Vineyards, 8644 Highway 128, Healdsburg 95448, 707-433-7209, www.avvwine.com
Harry and Maggie Wetzel in 1962 purchased property from the family of Cyrus Alexander, after whom the valley is named. Their oldest son, Hank, launched the winery with 7,000 cases in 1975 based on the business plan from his senior project for an undergraduate fermentation science degree from U.C. Davis.
Red wine makes up 75 percent of production, with half being in cabernet sauvignon, one of the varieties for which the valley is known. The winery produces 17 labels, ranging from the trademark Sin Zin zinfandel and proprietary blends such as Cyrus. Production last year was 175,000 cases.
Mr. Wetzel said the winery’s key to weathering the current economic recession has been sticking with estate-bottled, appellation-specific wines at affordable prices. For example, Decanter magazine recently rated the Alexander School Reserve cab, which retails at $35 a bottle, just behind a $150 Napa cab for the 2006 vintage.
Managing partners of the winery are Mr. Wetzel, his wife, Linda, and his younger sister, Katie Wetzel Murphy. New owners of the business are his sons, Robert, national sales manager, and Harry IV, assistant winemaker.
This year the winery was certified as a Sonoma County Green Business, one of 14 local wineries to earn it so far.
Co-founder, general manager and Tribute winemaker
Benziger Family Winery, 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen 95442, 888-490-2739, www.benziger.com
Mike and Mary Benziger co-founded the winery in 1980, and since that time the family business has been a leader in environmentally friendly winegrowing and advocate for Biodynamic farming. The family company’s labels include Benziger, Imagery and Biodynamic-focused Tribute.
Also in line with the family’s forward-thinking was the launch this year of smart-phone applications that provide dynamically updated access to information on the wines and events.
Among the family involved in operating the organization is his brother-in-law and President Tim Wallace, who joined the company in 1988 from stints at Time-Warner International Division and the marketing division of American Home Products Corp.
Peter Mondavi Jr. and Marc Mondavi
C. Mondavi & Sons, 2800 Main St., St. Helena 94574, 707-967-2200, www.charleskrug.com
President and CEO Peter Mondavi’s sons Marc and Peter Jr. oversee Napa Valley’s oldest winery, started by Charles Krug in 1861 and acquired by their grandparents Cesare and Rosa Mondavi in 1943. At 1.5 million cases produced last year, the winery is among one of the North Coast’s largest producers. Brands are CK Mondavi, targeted to the mass market, and Charles Krug, positioned toward the higher end of the market.
Marc Mondavi, born in 1954, started working at the winery at age 10 and returned after college in 1978.
Peter Mondavi Jr., born in 1958, has graduate engineering training and was heavily involved in the nine-year, $44.5 million vineyard and facility capital project that wrapped up last year.