Discovering Sonoma's Historic & Beautiful Alexander Valley

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  • By Chris Costales
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Discovering Sonoma's Historic & Beautiful Alexander Valley

Since the early days of the California wine industry, vintners have been growing high quality grapes in this pastoral corner of Sonoma County. Yes, the wines are very good and they definitely have their distinct flavor profiles.

There is a long history of growing fruit in the Alexander Valley, first grapes then prunes and now thankfully back to grapes. The first vineyards planted in 1841 belonged to Cyrus Alexander, who came to the area to manage a large Ranchero on a Mexican land grant. After his death he would be honored for his role in the early settlement of Sonoma County by having the Alexander Valley named after him. As time went on more and more vineyards were planted until 1920 when prohibition put on pause this emerging young wine industry.

 

From here until 1933 when prohibition was repealed, this area was known as what wine writer Jancis Robinson calls “the Buckle of the Prune Belt.” The first seeds of change back to its grape growing roots began in 1963 when UC Davis advised Robert Young to plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, two staples of the valley now. Robert began the hard work of replacing his family’s prune orchards to vineyards, in fact he planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon in Alexander Valley on a few acres behind the family farmhouse on his land and it helped that the harvesting crew could be picking both prunes and late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon at roughly the same time. 

The Alexander Valley is twenty-two miles long and at its widest is seven miles across with around 15,000 vineyard acres planted. This wine growing region mostly follows the Russian River as it flows southeast from Mendocino. Chardonnay in Alexander Valley can be planted near the river for a cooling affect since most of the valley is warm and dry, great conditions for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel grown here. The geography and soils in this valley are heavily influenced by the Russian River as it flowed across the landscape dropping gravel deposits and providing alluvial soils for the vineyards here. High elevation vineyards can be found here as well with some vineyards stretching as high as 2,400 ft in red volcanic soil.

 

No visit to the Alexander Valley is complete without visiting two of the iconic producers of the area, Jordan and Silver Oak. Jordan was founded in 1972 and like many Cabernet Sauvignon producers, looked to create a California wine in a Bordeaux style. What they ended up creating through their dedication to farming, quality oak aging and amazing hospitality was something worthy enough for the rest of California to emulate. Their sustainable practices include cattle grazing pastures, estate gardens for guests of the chateau and vineyards towered over by hundred-year-old oak trees that provide housing for beneficial insects and predators.

The Silver Oak property in Alexander Valley was originally given to Cyrus Alexander, who the valley is named for, in 1877 and is now planted to 75 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon along with a new state of the art winery. All of the energy needs of the winery are provided by solar panel systems and water usage has been cut by 37% with the use of water reclamation technology. This is a very important fact as years of drought have diminished the availability of water and winemaking practices can use large amounts.

 

For this Alexander Valley tasting we hope you’ll find a great selection of old favorites such as Jordan and Silver Oak wines and some soon to be favorites from wineries we are currently tasting through. We hope to see you at the store for this great tasting. $30 for 7 Alexander Valley wines at 7:00, Friday September 7th at The Wine Country!  Call (562) 597-8303 to make your reservations.  Seating is limited.

 

SAN LORENZO 2015 ZINFANDEL "ROCK GARDEN"

ALEXANDER VALLEY, SONOMA COUNTY

This is one of our oldest vineyard sites, now protected under the ‘Heritage Vineyard Site’ program. Established in 1896, and still owned by The Seghesio Family, hailing from San Lorenzo, Italy, and one of the earliest pioneers of the valley’s winegrowing potential. Peter Seghesio is at the helm here, and has produced an impeccable and highly allocated, limited production Zinfandel with all the goodness we’ve come to expect from this valley: rich and brambly forest berry flushes the senses with little hints of violet and nutmeg. On the palate, this wine is full and rich, but maintains balance, focus, and good acidity. The concentration attests to the age of these ‘grand cru’ vines, and this deserves a porterhouse with creamy homemade mashed potatoes.

$45.99 per bottle

 

NICK GOLDSCHMIDT 2015 CABERNET SAUVIGNON "THE COUNSELOR"

RIVER PASS VINEYARD, ALEXANDER VALLEY, SONOMA COUNTY

Single vineyard Cab from Alexander Valley for under thirty bucks? Leave it to our good friend and master winemaker, Nick Goldschmidt to pull this off! This Cab is dark, rich, and structured, with blackberry, hints of smoke, and a big and chewy texture with a velvety finish. This is a pretty serious wine for the money and is sure to impress.

$30.99 per bottle

 

BLUE ROCK 2015 CABERNET SAUVIGNON

ALEXANDER VALLEY, SONOMA COUNTY

A quality affordable Cabernet in Alexander Valley from vines planted in 1987. The fruit profile here is elegant with black cherry, red plum and blackberry flavors and aromas of black currant and violet. While the fruit is ripe it never quite gets to an overbearing jam quality as the very present tannin in the wine keeps it dry. An excellent choice to pair with grilled meats that haven't seen too much smoke.

$48.99 per bottle

 

ALSO COMING THIS MONTH:

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

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