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Keith Groves: Making Wine Off The Grid

Wine is rarely made these days without electricity to power crushers, wine presses, pumps, bottling equipment and lighting, but for winemaker Keith Groves of Alpen Cellars being off the grid comes naturally.

 That’s because he relies on hydroelectric power to operate the winery. “Power lines ran out here a hundred years ago, but after that ended we had to find another source of electricity.”

  Groves found it in China Creek, a mall stream that crosses his family’s 300-acre ranch.  “At max, we get 3.5 kilowatts of power from the creek,” said Groves, who with his father  Mark, mother  B.J. and wife Bonnie  produce chardonnay, white riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot noir, pinot gris, merlot and lemberger/blaufrankisch varietals. 

 Renewable energy isn’t the only aspect of Alpen Cellars that’s sustainable.  Groves said, “Most wineries chill their wines with a lot of refrigeration, we use ice-cold water from underground springs, instead.”  However, of all wineries in the vast Shasta Cascade region, Alpen Cellars is the only one that’s completely off the grid. 

  “We’re known for our riesling which has scents of apricots and ripe peaches, though chardonnay is our best-selling wine.  It represents about a third of the 5,000 cases we produce,” he explained.  The winery, established in 1984, distributes its wines to shops from Eureka west to Burney Falls and from the Oregon border south to Corning, with selections sold in such well-known outlets as Costco and Safeway.  “We’re also distributed from San Francisco south to Santa Cruz,” Groves added.

  Many Alpen Cellars wines have won awards, including its blaufrankisch which won double gold at the California State Fair.  Described as Alpen Cellar’s “richest red,” blaufrankisch is said to “start with crisp cherries and finish with ripe blueberries, lingering soft tannins coat the palate.”

  Estate wines are grown on 17 acres at Alpen Cellars with additional grapes coming from eight acres within Trinity County.   One Maple Vineyard (Lewiston) and Alpen Cellars are the only winemakers within the Trinity Lakes AVA, one of two American Viticultural Areas in the Shasta Cascade region. 

  Alpen Cellars is open for public tastings from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day, and by appointment thereafter.  Directions to the winery are found at www.alpencellars.com or call (530) 266-9513.  Wine tasting can also be experienced throughout the Shasta Cascade region with concentrations of wineries near Manton, Oroville and Chico. More is found at www.alpencellars.com. 

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