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Wine Country Personality

Graham Weerts, Winemaker

Stonestreet Alexander Mountain Estate

When Graham Weerts moved to Healdsburg, California in 2004 to become Stonestreet’s winemaker, he migrated nearly as far around the globe as is possible. Cape Town, South Africa, from where he hails, is about 11,000 miles from Northern California as the crow flies.

In many ways, these two distant spots on the globe have more similarities than one might expect. Both have temperate climates, ocean coastline and mountain ranges with mineral-rich soils - making them ideal for growing spectacular wine grapes. Graham was lured to Stonestreet by the opportunity to make wines from vineyards he considers among the most dramatic and challenging in the world.

He'd learned about the Alexander Valley and Stonestreet's Alexander Mountain Estate when he spent the 1999 harvest working at nearby Vérité Winery. That year he became acquainted with the Mayacamas mountain range and its potential for growing world-class wine grapes, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. After that season, he returned to South Africa where he worked as a winemaker for a few, smaller new wineries before Bellingham Winery recruited him in 2001. He stayed at Bellingham until 2004, when he joined Stonestreet.

It was perhaps inevitable that Graham would pursue winemaking. It's a career that draws upon his agricultural heritage and his intense love of the outdoors, while also offering creative outlets and intellectual challenge. To him, no other product that humans make offers the complexities and artistic value of wine. It unites people of all cultures. As Graham likes to say, "Few wars were started over a great bottle of wine."

He remembers that it was his father who first introduced him to good wine, and this affected Graham as well as his brother who became a viticulturist and nature conservationist. Graham earned a degree in viticulture, wine science and pomology from the Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 1996.

Even before he graduated, he'd worked as a field hand during harvest at a South African wine estate, later moving from the vineyards into the winery as a cellar worker. As he recalls, that was back in the days when he was still thin enough to get into the old vats and concrete tanks to clean them. His stint as a cellar rat led him to the post of assistant winemaker at Mulderbosch Vineyards. He also spent a season working for Chateau de Terrefort-Quancard in Bordeaux.

Since his arrival to Stonestreet in 2004, Graham has taken his remarkable knowledge of the vineyards and crafted impressive wines from Sonoma County’s finest mountain vineyard sites. His unique way of farming is evident in the wines and Graham takes great pride in all of them. "These wines exemplify mountain vineyards: the fruit has intense color and flavor, characteristics that are distinctive in the grapes and in the glass." Graham’s wines can now be enjoyed at the new Stonestreet tasting room in the heart of Alexander Valley and at fine wine shops and restaurants nationwide.

Besides his obvious passion for wine and winemaking, Graham enjoys cooking, mountain biking and touring South Africa to photograph the last great beasts of the world that reside there. Perhaps his favorite sport is kayak racing, which he pursues competitively.

For additional information on Winemaker Graham Weerts and Stonsetreet Alexander Mountain Estate, please visit stonestreetwines.com.