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Petaluma Profile: Winemaker Alex Holman has kept himself moving

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No matter what questions you have about making liquid sunshine, Alex Holman has the answers.

After studying chemistry and winemaking at Fresno State and spending five years in the Army, the San Francisco native has created wine in all of Sonoma County’s 17 appellations.

“I’ve pretty much done it all,” Holman says. “In Fresno, I started as a ‘lab rat’ making Calcium Thiosulphate and other chemicals for vineyards, then moved on to be the lead chemist for Christian Brothers brandy, port and sherry programs.”

After Holman met his graphic designer wife at a cousin’s wedding in San Geronimo, he briefly relocated to Novato, where she had a home.

“As it turned out, the house was too small for both people and my three dogs, so we picked Petaluma as the perfect place to be, and have lived here ever since,” he explains.

In 2003, Holman designed, purchased and installed the enology lab at Paul Hobbs Winery in Sebastopol and a few months later, became the enologist, assistant winemaker and cellar master at Dry Creek Vineyard in Healdsburg. His jobs and workplaces continued shifting north, and in 2007, Holman became the Estate Winemaker for the 3000 cases produced by J. Rickards Winery in Geyserville.

“I loved the job, but the commute was a killer,” he allows. “So when they needed a full-time winemaker for the 5000 to 7000 cases produced by Keller Estate Winery right here in Petaluma, I jumped at the chance.”

Holman’s duties expanded with the case volume.

“In addition to controlling the winemaking from vineyard to bottling,” he says, “I managed Keller’s facilities and 93 acres of vineyards, obtained the sustainability certificates for the winery and vineyards, and was the T1 water operator for the estate and six residences.”

Always moving forward, in March, Holman took on the challenge of being winemaker for Notre Vue Winery located in Windsor’s historic Balverne Estate.

“Since I’m pretty much free to help things grow in a manner that pilots the direction of the brand,” he says, “I’m taking the time to become familiar with all aspects of the estate’s 250 acres, multiple soils, and the myriad varieties of grapes grown on the property. I’m also tasting every barrel I’m inheriting.”

In addition to winemaking, Holman is an accomplished cook, an avid home brewer, and furniture maker who turns wine barrels and staves into beautifully crafted pieces of functional art.

When asked what the best time of year is to visit Norte Vue Winery, Holman’s answer reveals his personality.

“Spring is great because the weather is sublime,” he says. “We’ll have new wines for summer, a joyous time. I just love a fresh wine. The fall harvest offers an extra treat since you get to taste off the vines, and get close to the blue-collar aspect of winemaking. And winter is the time for the tasting room. Of course, the best thing is to become a member of our wine club and enjoy all the events Notre Vue provides from wine tastings to movie nights, to art creation and appreciation, and our exquisite sunset dinners.”

(Contact Gil Mansergh at gilmansergh@comcast.net)

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