After working in wine for over three decades, I like to think I have an innate talent for recognizing right away when a wine is special. After the first sniff of Aleksander Estate’s illustrious Bordeaux-style blend, I knew we had something marvelous on our hands. Aleksander Estate is the newest Paso Robles star and is rooted in a belief that a family’s bond is the strongest bond of all. Their journey started in Slovenia, a country recognized for distinct wines of all kinds. Goran and Ksenija Vuja were professional volleyball players, while their son Aleksander “Sasha” was a young, rising basketball star. The family moved to Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, where Sasha signed a professional basketball contract. Goran felt inspired to take full advantage of living in another incredible wine region. Together, Sasha and Goran’s passion for wine developed further and they hoped to one day make wine of their own. In 2009, while Sasha was helping the Lakers to what would become a championship season, Goran and Ksenija focused their time on finding the perfect piece of land for their family winery. With soil like Bordeaux and sunshine like Napa, the S&G Estate in Paso Robles was the ideal foundation. Aleksander Estate’s wines are far more than world-class Bordeaux blends—they are the result of a family’s promise to make something truly spectacular. These wines are not to be missed. Here, my conversation with Sasha about family, winemaking, and business.
Why did your family come to Paso Robles to make wine?
We saw great potential in the region, primarily in terms of terroir, as well as the Central Coast’s growing recognition as a wine county. On a more practical note, Paso also stood out for its proximity to our home base, Los Angeles. Our quest for the ideal property was deeply influenced by our search for the Merlot variety of grapes. When we came across the property that we now call S&G estate, we immediately recognized its potential and could not pass up the chance to call it our own. Its healthy vines, idyllic landscape, and charming aesthetic made it the perfect place in which to bring our vision to life. Our main Merlot vines, which are now nearly 30 years old, provide us with quality fruit each year.
What is the mission of Aleksander wine?
To produce a quality product and a meaningful wine experience. Our wine club was founded on our desire to connect with our members in a human way. Wine is poetic and powerful in that it has the capacity to bring people together and reignite their appreciation for the simple things: conversation, laughter, and storytelling. It is our hope to make Aleksander a family tradition, one that will be passed down from generation to generation. Aleksander will always reflect our Old-World palate and the wines we love to drink. If I could use a somewhat marketing catchphrase, our goal is to “produce Old-World-style wines in the New World.”
How does wine coincide with your basketball career?
I discovered my passion for wine through basketball. I began to explore the wine regions of Italy with my dad during the early stages of my professional career. I quickly developed an interest in the wine industry and was eager to expand my knowledge. Team dinners almost always included wine since it is an essential facet of Italian culture, and sharing a good glass of wine after a win, or even after a loss, always brought the team closer and made for interesting stories and anecdotes. During off-season, the wine-making process also helps me to relax and unwind before the basketball season.
What does the future of Aleksander wine look like?
The future of Aleksander looks bright! As with any business, it took us a couple of years to learn the industry. I’m a firm believer that life is not a sprint, but a marathon. We have been blessed to have met the right people who see potential in our product and our family passion. We are constantly inspired by the support and loyalty of our wine-club members and are committed to nurturing our family tradition.