Land is the true love behind this project, with minimal intervention winemaking practices to truly express the unique Sonoma volcanics, Mayacamas foothills, Russian River frontage, spiritually imbued place that is Warnecke Ranch. Alice Warnecke Sutro is 5th generation land steward here but happens to be the first in her family to produce wine from this extraordinary site. This grants her the sense of being a pioneer despite a well established family business in grape-growing, relating directly to the pioneers in her family that came to the Bay Area before the gold rush, then settled along the Russian River in premium Bordeaux land on Chalk Hill Road in 1911. In addition, she is an artist and writer who keeps a log of these passions on her personal website Odd Wine-country Thoughts, exploring the intersection of art and wine. She cut her teeth in the wine industry as assistant vineyard manager for Warnecke Ranch & Vineyard, a family business of which she is a partner, apprenticing with grapegrower and aunt Margo Warnecke Merck. After 6 years she moved on from viticulture and left working for her family business to found her own wine brand SUTRO with the support of her husband Eliot, whose palate directs the winemaking, sourcing fruit from the vineyards she knows so well and where she lives and raises her two kids. During that time she also contributed to the founding of Chalk Hill Artist Residency and was the Executive Director in its first 5 years and is an active member of 428collective, a woman's art collective.
The Sutro and Warnecke families have been in the Bay Area since the 1850's, shaping the landscape of their home town San Francisco and its environs through entrepreneurship, building & development, and the arts. Alice’s paternal grandfather John Carl Warnecke had the largest architectural firm in the U.S. in the 1970s with notable buildings in San Francisco. His father Carl I. Warnecke was a well-established East Bay architect with a presence in Guerneville. Alice’s maternal great grandfather Oliver Rousseau developed housing in the Sunset neighborhood. Alice’s paternal great-great-grandfather Sidney B. Cushing built the crookedest railroad up Mt. Tamalpais. Alice’s father Fred Warnecke has a successful Bay Area landscape architecture firm (Lone Sailor Navy Memorial) and ongoing Poets Plaza in North Beach. He also contributed much to shape the masterplan of Warnecke Ranch & Vineyard, influencing the beauty of the site as it is today. Eliot and his brother's firm Sutro Architects is employed all over the Bay Area for high-end residential work. His great-great grandfather Emil Sutro founded Sutro & Co, the oldest private banking firm in San Francisco, and was first cousin to Adolph Sutro, mining engineer, mayor and major city developer in late 19th century San Francisco.
Photo by Brett Walker