The Russian River makes an improbable big bend through high hills before looping back on itself to arrive at the town of Healdsburg. A bit upstream of the town, at the river’s furthest bend to the south and east, lies Chalk Hill and the dramatic and magical Warnecke Ranch, with almost two miles of frontage.
The 52 acres of vineyards are the southernmost vineyards of the Alexander Valley AVA. The ranch is located at the top of Chalk Hill Road, and in fact, includes the Chalk Hill from which the Chalk Hill AVA is named. The line between the Alexander Valley AVA and the Chalk Hill/Russian River Valley AVAs runs through the property, but all the vineyards (currently) are on the Alexander Valley side.
The Warnecke Ranch has been in the family more than 100 years, and has increased in size over time. Like so many properties in Sonoma County, it has been many things: a sheep ranch, a dairy and now a vineyard. John Carl (Jack) Warnecke (1919-2010), famous architect and favorite of John and Jackie Kennedy, moved old grange halls and small buildings to the site, created the sweeping entry, and laid out the vineyards, first planted in 1972. His daughter, Margo Warnecke Merck, directly manages the vineyard today, with help from her brother, Fred Warnecke, and niece, Alice Warnecke. The vineyard is certified by Lodi Rules: the first, and perhaps most rigorous, program to measure performance in sustainability in vineyards.
In 1983, Jack Warnecke founded the Warnecke Institute, Inc, a public benefit corporation formed exclusively to promote the education and advancement of design, art and architecture. The family continues its significant participation in the arts with the Chalk Hill Artist-in-Residence program on the property, as well as advocates for affordable housing and similar community needs.
Ken and Melissa of Ancient Oak Cellars work very closely with the Warnecke family, and harvest is a cooperative affair. The grapes for Ancient Oak Cellars Warnecke Cabernet come from various blocks, but the core is usually the oldest vines on the property, adjacent to Chalk Hill Road, quite visible to passersby. Our Alexander Valley Cabernet is sourced, for the most part, from the Warnecke Ranch. The Warneckes and the Moholt-Sieberts share a common commitment to quality in wine-growing, a commitment to direct, family farming and winemaking, and to support for the arts and community.