An Interview with Alexa Wood of Beltane Ranch
Describe your family’s Sonoma Valley roots.
My great aunt and uncle moved to California from a South Dakota lumber camp in 1905. They were raising turkeys in the Central Valley when the depression hit. So they came here in 1936, with all their turkeys. The ranch was pretty run down then, there was a horse trader camping here. But they went to work and raised turkeys. The vineyards were planted in the sixties. That was the beginning of the wine business in the valley. When my grandmother passed away in the seventies, my mom started the bed and breakfast. She loved the place more than anything. Now we have about 25 acres under vine. Plus, we’ve got five acres of olives. We raise grass fed beef. We have the gardens and the bed and breakfast. So we’re still true to our agricultural roots.
What do you appreciate most about Sonoma Valley as a wine region?
I love that it’s still not glitzy. A little off the beaten path. I like that we still work with our neighbors and people we’ve known a long time. It has this low-key authenticity to it that makes it a real pleasure to live here. But I think our wines hold their own against anybody. We make some spectacular wines, but in a quieter way. Our fruit has always been greatly admired by winemakers from all regions. People who know wine have great respect for Sonoma Valley fruit. We’re just slightly under the radar.
What do you wish more people knew about Sonoma Valley?
People who come to the B&B, they come from Europe or around the country, they don’t know what to expect. But after a day or two they are amazed. They love the authenticity. It’s just real friendly. You can walk into some of these smaller places and you’re talking to the winemaker. There’s still an old-fashioned warmth. There’s a hands-on quality to a lot of the wineries and growers around here. And people appreciate that we’re not just wine. We have a wonderful agricultural area in addition to wine. People are just astounded. They say, “don’t ever change.” They feel like they found a hidden gem.
Is there a personal story or anecdote that sums up, for you, the Sonoma Valley experience?
Wow, there are so many. The old times go back so far. I met our vineyard manager 35 years ago when he was a grape picker and I was a driving a truck, hauling grapes. Now he owns a successful vineyard company with his son and my kids are taking things over here. And we’re still friends, still working together. It’s like that with a lot of other people, too. Ties go back here a long, long ways. That’s how I met George MacLeod. I was still driving the truck and my daughter was about six weeks old in the car seat. I was delivering grapes and George was delivering grapes. He called me The Truck Driver With The Baby. For years he called me that. And that baby now has a baby of her own.