Alpen Cellars was established on a family ranch in the spring of 1984.
It is situated in a picturesque mountain valley at the foot of towering craggy peaks in the rugged Trinity Lake region of Trinity County, California. Our family moved to Trinity County 100 years ago as gold miners. The ranch where Alpen Cellars is located, was established in 1855, and is only 9 miles from the 500,000 acre Trinity Alps Wilderness Area.
The family ranch has a long history; it produced food for the miners then later became a cattle ranch. In 1950 the ranch became dormant and didn’t start operating again until we planted the grapes in 1981.
The ranch has many unique features such as being California’s only winery operating off the power grid. As the closest power utility to the winery is 10 miles away. We have our own hydroelectric plant that runs the winery.
Trinity County is located in the lower Cascade Range in California.
That is between Redding in Shasta County and the Northern Redwood Coast. The winery also borders Trinity Lake, which is the heart of our community. The lake’s influence on the climate is why it has been recognized as “Trinity Lakes AVA” as its own viticulture area.
It all started in 1976, Keith Groves just graduated from Trinity High School not knowing what to do with the future. A cousin who ran a large winery in the Fresno area offered him a job, and he took it. This is what peaked his interest in winemaking. Keith went on to get a degree in winemaking from Fresno State. While in school he had to do a feasibility study on a vineyard site. So he picked his father’s (Mark) ranch in Trinity County. No grapes had ever been grown in Trinity so the assumption going in was that they couldn’t be grown. The study showed quite the opposite, this got Mark interested, so he planted 2 acres in 1981. The first business plan was to sell grapes to local home winemakers, which quickly flopped. So they became a winery in 1984, becoming the first winery in the Trinity, Shasta or Siskiyou county area.
Meanwhile, Keith started working for Korbel Champagne in Sonoma County then became a winemaker at a bulk winery called Coastal Producers that made wine for Beringer, Fetzer, Sebastiani, Round Hill and many others. After the business closed he became an Assistant Winemaker for Round Hill Vineyards in St. Helena, where he stayed for 17 years. During all this time he commuted back and forth on the weekends while Mark ran the winery when Keith was absent. As Mark would say, that was most of the time. We’ve slowly grown from 75 cases in 1984 to producing 5,000 cases today.
It seems an unlikely location to attempt to grow wine grapes.
The notion, a product of a young enology student’s vision, turned out to be notably rewarding. The combination of high elevation and favorable microclimate proved to be the ideal conditions for growing early maturing vinifera grapes such as White Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Blaufrankisch, the five varieties to which the ranch vineyard is planted with over 20 acres of estate grown grapes. As a focus of only receiving grapes from Trinity County we also produce Merlot which is grown at a site elsewhere.
Our wines have done very well in international competitions over the years including best of regions and golds at the California State Fair and best of class in the Wine of America and the Grand Cru international.