Sonoma County's Alexander Valley is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. I suppose that's right, but it's shortchanging the region, too.
Where is it?
Alexander Valley is in northern Sonoma County just east of the towns of Healdsburg and Geyserville. As you travel up US101 Dry Creek Valley is to your left, Alexander Valley to your right.
What grows there?
AV is a warm growing region which is great for Cabernet, but there are other grapes that do well. The Russian River flows through the valley. Along the river there are different soils and cooler temperatures where you find Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and even Chardonnay. There's a good bit of Zinfandel and Syrah, also. A couple of the great Alexander Valley Zins are from Sausal and Scherrer. But Cabernet is king in Alexander Valley.
What's going on in Alexander Valley?
The wineries participate in several events during the year, but their own big affair is Taste Alexander Valley that takes place on a June weekend.
River Rock Casino, operated by the Pomo Indians, is a very popular eyesore. Okay, maybe it's not that ugly, but it sure does stand out. You can't miss it. Maybe that was the idea.
The Jimtown Store has been there forever and was recently remodeled to attract visitors and is a popular lunch stop. Actually, it's about the only lunch stop unless you go into Healdsburg or Geyserville. Note: The excellent Santi Restaurant in Geyserville recently closed that location and moved to Santa Rosa. There just wasn't enough off-season business up in Geyserville.
Francis Ford Coppola bought the former Souverain Winery three years ago and has plans for a big resort complex--some of which is getting shot down by the county. But so far it appears he'll have a restaurant, a pool and an amphitheater as he's trying to become a family destination.
There are about 40 wineries that call AV home. Some of the better known ones are Clos du Bois, Geyser Peak, Jordan, Rodney Strong, and Simi. Some of my favorites are Field Stone, Stryker, and Trentadue.
Some specific wines you may want to try:
Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah
Hanna Sauvignon Blanc
Robert Young Chardonnay
Sausal Century Vines Zinfandel
Simi Landslide Cabernet
White Oak Merlot
It's a great area to visit in that it's easy to get around and you won't find it crowded other than during a couple event weekends. This is definitely laid back wine tasting at its best.
One of the nicest wine country drives is on state highway 128 from the north end of Napa Valley in Calistoga through Knights Valley and into Alexander Valley to Geyserville.