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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

15 January, 2018 - Wine Trends with Jeff Prather; Alexander Valley Vineyards Sustainability Award

Slow Living Radio welcomes regular wine guest, Jeff Prather to fill us in on trends, the last few years of vintage in the Napa Valley, and more.  We also congratulate Alexander Valley Vineyards on winning The Botanical Institute of Texas 2018 International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing Competition, and hear about the winery and award from Harry Wetzel of Alexander Valley Vineyards..

Jeff Prather, CHE, CWAS
Membership Specialist, Hall Wine Club
Adjunct Lecturer – Culinary Institute of America

With decades of experience in the food and wine business, Jeff Prather shares his wealth of knowledge through engaging, and often amusing, wine instruction at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia as well as working with the Wine Club at Hall Wines. Having been an actor in his earlier years, Jeff is a natural as an entertaining tasting class instructor. 

After opening the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley in 1995 as the Restaurant Director and Cellar Master, Jeff served as Director of Wine Education at Shafer Vineyards, Flora Springs Winery, as well as the historic Beaulieu Vineyard. After serving as Senior Wine Merchant for the original with Peter Granoff and Bo Thompson, Jeff was the managing Director of Azalea Springs Winery. 
Jeff went on to work for Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and Oxbow Wine Merchant for six years and for Ca’ Momi for two years before becoming an instructor with the CIA and selling wine for the Hall Wines Wine Club. 

Jeff became known for his decade of work as Wine Director for Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle which merited him several awards, including four James Beard Award nominations, Restaurant Hospitality Magazine’s Best American Wine List, Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence, and Restaurant Wine Magazine’s Wine Marketer of the Year nominee.

Jeff judges at wine competitions and is a frequent speaker and guest sommelier at national wine events. As a writer, he has been published in several magazines, was a correspondent for the Microsoft Online Network (MSN), a contributor to Oz Clark’s Microsoft Wine Guide CD-ROM and is co-author of the book “Northwest Wines.”

Alexander Valley Vineyards of Healdsburg, California Wins Top Honors in BRIT’s 2018 International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing Competition

The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT®) is pleased to announce the winners in its 2018 International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing competition. The platinum medal goes to Alexander Valley Vineyards (AVV) of Healdsburg, California, based on the winery’s on-going sustainable programs that address the three elements of sustainability:  environmental, economic, social – and the Vineyard’s wine taste. 

AVV is one of an elite group of wineries recognized as a Bay Area Green Business. They became a member of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program in 2006 and achieved vineyard certification in 2014. AVV bottled their first wine produced from organic certified grapes in 2008, today the family organically farms over 30 acres and offers two wines from 100% California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) grapes.  A second family vineyard will receive CCOF certification in June 2018.  Other AVV  sustainable initiatives include solar arrays that supply about half of the winery’s power; cover crop plantings to minimize pesticide use and control erosion; drip irrigation for precise water management; 25,000 square feet of underground, naturally cooled caves that reduce the winery’s carbon footprint; and installation of variable speed drives on all winery equipment to decrease energy waste. 

Harry Wetzel
Head of Operations / Assistant Winemaker Family Partner

When you are born into a family business and the “office” is just outside your back door, the chances are pretty good you will be put to work at a very early age. And so it was for Harry Wetzel IV, whose grandparents started Alexander Valley Vineyards and whose parents, Hank and Linda Wetzel, founded the winery.
At the age of 5, Harry was already in the vineyards that surrounded his house, picking grapes. At the age of 13, his father decided he needed to learn other parts of the business. He worked in the shipping department and then later in the vineyard, installing an irrigation system and developing a new vineyard block.
Today, Harry is one of the third generation working at the family owned winery. “For me, being part of a family business means continuing the traditions my grandfather and father started at the winery and in the community,” Harry says. “It’s also a matter of preserving the integrity of the Wetzel family name. It’s a lot to live up to given the work the rest of my family has done, but I see it as a fun challenge.”
Prior to graduation from UC Davis with a degree in viticulture and enology he worked at Kendall-Jackson’s Geyserville location handling quality control on the bottling line and overseeing the crush pad during harvest. After graduation he joined a Napa lab as an enologist where he did chemical analysis on wine, consulting with wineries and home winemakers around the country.
He officially joined Alexander Valley Vineyards in 2002 and was named Assistant Winemaker in 2004. Over the years his position has evolved and he was named Head of Operations. His principal duties include working with growers and keeping a close eye on the vineyards - from pruning to irrigation. Those responsibilities have already paid dividends, making growers more accountable for the fruit they deliver, which has improved the quality of the wine.
“For me, it’s all about making the right decisions from producing the, highest quality wine that we can, to volunteering in our community,” Harry says. Outside of the winery I am actively involved as a Board Member in the Sonoma County Vintners Coop as well as the Alexander Valley Community Hall. As a family, we have always supported community service and I want to encourage the involvement of other wine families. My family lives and works in the Alexander Valley and we want it to be a great place for the next generation. Harry and his wife, Rebecca, live with their two children on the Wetzel Family Estate.
About the Botanical Research Institute of Texas

The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT®) is a nonprofit, international research and education organization that collects and safeguards plant specimens, studies and protects living plants, and teaches about the importance of conservation and biodiversity to the world.

BRIT’s scientists and educators work together in achieving the organization’s two-fold mission of conservation and education. Its scientists travel the globe investigating habitats, finding rare and endangered plant species, and documenting biodiversity. BRIT educators create new ways to turn information into knowledge through outdoor discovery, discussion, and experiential learning for both students and teachers. 

BRIT’s work impacts our community and the world in a number of functional areas, including environment, by giving people a local sense of stewardship; society, by training a new generation of thinkers and problem solvers; and conservation, by offering methods for better stewardship of the land.
BRIT is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon.

Admission is free. For more information, visit

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