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Ahnfeldt Wines - Napa Valley


90 Points - Wine Enthusiast magazine.

When Bruce Ahnfeldt was only fifteen, he went into business with his older brother Charlie, who was nineteen. The brothers leased a 10-acre apricot orchard in Los Altos Hills, just above the city of San Jose. For the next two years, the Ahnfeldts spent a good deal of their time and all of their summers growing, picking, drying and finally selling the apricots. At one point, after someone stole some drying apricots, the brothers were forced to spend nights in sleeping bags to protect their investment.

“It was a wonderful time for us,” recalled Bruce Ahnfeldt, now 54. “Charlie and I did everything ourselves, from pruning, spraying and picking. The experience taught me a great deal about life and also planted the first seed in my mind as far as growing something, respecting the soil and nature itself.”

Ahnfeldt matriculated to San Jose State (Bachelors in Business Management) and then to Lincoln University‘s school of law. He began law practice in 1979 in San Jose just as Silicon Valley was beginning its incredible eruption onto the world’s stage. A year or two later and Ahnfeldt was attracted to an asbestos lung case centered around Mare Island where most of the plaintiffs were either from Napa Valley or the town of Vallejo. The young lawyer found himself practicing in San Jose but spending most of his time around Napa Valley.

In 1985, he moved permanently to Napa Valley where he found a building site for a home that also contained enough room for a five-acre planting of Cabernet Sauvignon. For Bruce Ahnfeldt, the move was significant in that it fulfilled his longing to return to the agri-business.

When his vines began to produce viable fruit, Bruce’s first customer was Bernie Weir of nearby Hagafen Cellars. For the next two decades, Bruce Ahnfeldt acquired several other small parcels in various parts of Napa Valley and also acquired the rights to long term leases on two additional parcels. He planted them in Bordeaux varietals, from Merlot to Petit Verdot. His management company controls the more than 20 prime acres and is now run by Ahnfeldt’s son Garrett, 26. Still primarily growers, their client list has grown to the like of Beaulieu Vineyard, Markham and Kendall-Jackson.

Even with the success he experienced as a premium grape grower, it took a lot of urging from his long time secretary Cynthia MacLean, for Ahnfeldt to finally decide to found his own winery.

“Cynthia had been with me for ten years,” he related,” and for most of the time she had urged me to get into the winery end of the business. She loved my grapes and was married to noted winemaker Craig MacLean who had an outstanding resume and trail of successes. Cynthia was also proud of the fact that her husband was one of the few winemakers with a Masters in Enology from UC Davis that was also an expert on Bordeaux blends, which happened to be my favorite type of wines. In the end, I knew she was right and I got together with Craig.”

The rest is Napa Valley history. The first release of 625 cases came in 2005, before Bruce Ahnfeldt was even able to secure his business license. After receiving numerous compliments from friends and acquaintances he knew to have good palates, Ahnfeldt decided to take a pair of bottles to the Wine Spectator for judging. He called a few weeks later and was told the periodical never gave out results of its tastings. A month later, Ahnfeldt returned to his office to find his phone ringing off the wall. His first Merlot received a 94 rating, and literally hundreds of collectors and drinkers wanted to buy his wine.

Ahnfeldt returned each phone message and assured each caller he would honor their order---after his license application was approved.

The rest of the story could be expected. Ahnfeldt Wines releases have continued to receive high honors and the winery’s production has risen to around the 2500 case mark. Bruce Ahnfeldt indicated that if he was able to insure a really quality grape supply he might slowly increase the winery’s production to around 5,000 cases, but no more.

Ahnfeldt Wines’ logo features a beautiful Friesen stallion that is one of three Friesens he owns. His homage on the label relays the message that his favorite horse is both classic and graceful while his wines are elegant, smooth and balanced.


  1. Ahnfeldt
    2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
    Ahnfeldt
    Monticello Vineyard
    Napa Valley

    $40.50

    $50.00
    90 - Wine Enthusiast
    id: 181
    Special
    Platinum

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