From the Road: Alexander Valley Vineyards
Written by Sterling Carlton, Beer, Wine & Spirits Specialist
I left foggy Davis around 10:30 am on Friday, December 3rd heading west on Highway 128. My check in to Alexander Valley Vineyards wasn’t until 3:30 pm so I figured I would swing through the Napa Valley and check in on a few of my old haunts from before the pandemic. It was surprisingly sunny in the Berryessa lowlands, but as I climbed into the hills, the dense fog set in. The kind of fog you expect to break down in and have zombies come out after you. Alas, no zombies on this trip. The fog cleared as I made my way into the Napa Valley towards the Silverado Trail and a giddy type of excitement came over me. It felt like the first time I had ever visited the Valley, but I knew it was home. It’s the sort of excitement accompanied by a little apprehensive energy: What incredible or interesting wines might I find on this trip? What delicious little drops of preserved sun might find their way into my glass and bring joy to my day? What might make me think, “perhaps I don’t ‘get it’ as well as I think I do?”
After making a brief stop at Backroom Wines, a wonderful family-owned shop just up the street from Oxbow Market, I grabbed a bite at Hog Island Oyster Co. Stomach full, I finally made my way up the Valley to Alexander Valley Vineyards.
Almost – I actually missed the turn my first time by. This estate isn’t like its counterparts down the valley in Napa. As I drove down the main drive between the vineyard blocks of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cabernet Franc, it struck me how rustic and frankly charming the estate is. Other estates feel modern and a bit bustling at times, but AVV is pure serenity.
The estate is full of life too: eagles, vineyard dogs, birds hiding acorns in the pockmarked walls of the workshop next to the winery. Even the staff, who I saw dancing up the hill to the winery, gave a sense of joy and freedom to the estate.
Once checked in, I had the pleasure of getting free reign to taste their lineup of wines. The Syrah really stood out to me with its supple structure and aromas of dark cherry, dark berry fruits, violets, vanilla, and white pepper. It’s a delicious expression of one of my favorite Rhone grapes.
Their tete de cuvee, Cyrus, named after the founder of the Alexander Valley, Cyrus Alexander, was delicious as well, for the Cabernet lovers out there. Well structured and balanced, it had taught fruit character and integrated tannins. The fruit was fresh, not raisined or cooked, and the acid crisp. Not only is it a wine to enjoy now, but one that will give a lot of joie de vivre with many years of bottle age on it.
Ultimately, my favorite part of the stay was getting to explore the hills of the estate to see all of the different vineyard blocks they manage. Alexander Valley Vineyards is dedicated to sustainability, cover cropping, transitioning their vines to organic and maintaining wide riparian passages. You get a sense they really care about the stewardship of the land they are charged with. It was really great to see the jackrabbits running through the cover crop of fava beans and peas and amaranth and I can’t wait to go back in the summer to see the vines in full swing. This trip reminded me that the best wine is grown in the most beautiful places in the world.
Find the following Alexander Valley Vineyards wines in the Wine Department.
Organic Cabernet Sauvignon – lush, juicy flavors of cherry, cassis, blackberry, plum, oak, chocolate and a note of cool menthol
Syrah – blackberry jam, black cherry, plum, white pepper and vanilla
Chardonnay – hints of citrus and bright flavors of pear, apple, tropical fruits and peaches with just a kiss of oak
Merlot – juicy red cherry, cassis, blackberry, plum and chocolate notes with a long, juicy finish
Zinfandel – spicy with rich earthy flavors of black cherry, plum, black pepper, apricot and a hint of chocolate
Organic Gewürztraminer – silky & rich with spicy flavors of apple, pear, grapefruit and nice acid balance on the finish