Sonoma County region
An ultra-boutique vintner in Sonoma County, third-generation winemaker Woody Hambrecht crafts small-lot bottlings from veteran growers and off-the-beaten-path vineyards for his family's Alysian Wines.
He may come from a family with deep roots in the California wine industry, but 34-year-old Woody Hambrecht is determined to incorporate some innovative and far-reaching objectives into his Sonoma County winery.
To be sure, decade-old Alysian Wines is filled with great pedigree, having been founded by Woody’s grandfather Bill Hambrecht and Gary Farrell in 2006. Both these iconic wine figures were steeped in success, Hembrecht with Ridge Vineyards and Belvedere Vineyards and Winery and Farrell with Davis Bynum Winery, Rochioli Winery and Limerick Lane in addition to his own Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery.
When both veterans decided to retire in 2013, grandson Woody Hambrecht took over the reins at Alysian Wines and slowly began to change the direction of the smallish Russian River Valley winery.
“I had returned to Sonoma from New York (where he worked for LIFE Books) in 2010,” related Woody Hambrecht during a recent interview. “My grandfather had owned our Grist Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley for almost forty years and I took over the job of running the vineyard. I had been raised in the business since I was an infant so it seemed like the correct thing to do. I now live at Grist Vineyard so I have complete control over the growing process.”
Alysian Wines was named for a duality in interpretation. Of Greek origin, Alysian can mean ‘the journey’ or also ‘intuitive creativity’, the definition preferred by Woody Hambrecht. Alyson Wines’ production level has remained constant around the 3,000 case level since its inception.
“Our wines were wildly successful from the beginning,” informed Hambrecht. “But I wanted to try some different things as we moved into our second decade. For many years my family owned large vineyards and our wineries produced hundreds of thousands of cases. At this time, only our ranch (Grist Vineyard) and Alysian Wines are left. The fact that we were once again an artisan winery gave me a great deal of flexibility.”
Hambrecht also added that he began searching for vineyards in out-of-the-way places where viticulture was just beginning to take root. Of particular interest to the young vintner was Humboldt County (extremely Northern California around the City of Eureka) in California and the Dundee Hills (south southwest of Portland) growing area of Oregon. “These locations and the vineyards already planted there motivated me,” confessed Woody Hambrecht. “Both are pioneering areas as far as growing is concerned and the farmers located there are true visionaries.”
Hambrecht also laments the fact that his stint as owner and manager of Alysian Wines came almost two decades too late. “We just don’t want to be known as another Russian River Valley winery,” he confided. “I intend to do some things that will give us a real personalized presence in the California wine world."
To that end, Alysian Wines is already producing Alysian Vermouth that is directed at bartenders rather than the consuming public. It is Woody Hambrecht’s intent that his vermouth has a presence in bar drinks rather than an afterthought on the part of the pourer. He is also ready to unveil his first kosher wine that is made with strict kosher rules and standards in place. It is Hambrecht’s feeling that these products will add to his company’s ever evolving status as a multi-faceted winery.
"I want to live outside the box." he added. "I'm fortunate to have had the likes of my grandfather and other like Joe Rochioli (considered of of the top growers in California) and noted winemaker Shane Finley of Lynmar Estate and other top wineries to help me along my journey. I certainly owe them a great deal for Alysian Wines' continued success.”
Alysian Wines currently utilizes around 50% of organically grown fruit and also uses around 40% of estate fruit grown on Grist Vineyard. By continuing to explore growing possibilities, Woody Hambrecht sees his production increasing slowly in the future.
"I have always believed that the foundation of any winery operation is in the vineyards," he finalized. "And, now that I have seen the results of some of these really out of sight growing areas, I am inspired to do something with the great fruit I have discovered." Woody Hambrecht is a person living his dream and has incredible results to show for his efforts. He is one of a small cadre of winery owners that will forge California's future in the coming years. We are delighted to offer this wonderful Alysian Chardonnay to our Platinum Wine Club members. Cheers!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
My name is Woody Hambrecht and together with my wife, Helena, we own and make Alysian Wines in Healdsburg, CA.
In the early 1970’s, my grandparents, Bill and Sally, fell in love with Sonoma County and planted roots here. I spent my early years watching them farm and garden on the Grist Vineyard, a tradition we continue today with our one year-old daughter, Sophie.
Childhood memories of pulling leaves during picks or walking into the cellar and smelling the fermentations roaring resonated with me to my core. I knew from an early age that growing grapes and making wine was my destiny.
Much of what we do today at Alysian is estate bottlings, but over the years I have had the honor of working with industry legends such as Joe Rochioli and Kent Richie. The wine we share with you today is one of the best wines I believe I have ever made - but let’s be honest here. You start with fantastic grapes and they do most of the work for you. As Kent always says when delivering his spectacular fruit, “Woody, don’t screw it up!”
The 2015 Alysian Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay was picked in the early morning and pressed while still cold. I held the juice in tank overnight and then racked it off the solids the next morning into 35% new French oak, 40% one and two year old French oak, and 25% neutral oak. This wine went through partial malolactic fermentation to keep a lovely brightness while also showing a luscious mouthfeel.
Our wines are mostly allocated through our direct buyers, but you will find them on the best restaurant lists throughout the US, Northern Europe, and Japan.
We are not open to the public, but if you call ahead you just might catch me in the cellar.
Owner & Winemaker