Wine Country Itinerary: Alexander Valley

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AlexValley-dawn.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Nestled at the northeastern end of Sonoma County, the picturesque Alexander Valley is eminently accessible for overnighters staying in Healdsburg, and it's also well within reach for day trippers driving in from other Sonoma hamlets as well as the Bay Area.  Originally home to prune orchards and meandering cattle herds, the valley and its gently sloping hillsides are now criss-crossed with seemingly limitless acres of vines, evidence of today's thriving wine industry.  Speaking of which, visitors have much to look forward to in the area's soulful Cabernets and Merlots, while those with a preference for whites will find plenty to appreciate in the region's rich Chardonnays. 
Stop 1 - Hawkes
Without a doubt, Hawkes is easily the frontrunner for funnest winery in the Alexander Valley. The new (Hawkes opened in 2007), sustainably built tasting room features a large sliding wall panel that makes for a cool indoor-outdoor vibe, and the spot hosts frequent celebrations for the likes of passport weekends, barrel tastings and even Chinese New Year (indeed, Hawkes' MO seems to be "any excuse for a party..."). Don't miss their limited production Alexander Valley Merlot, which boasts loads of forward fruit before a deliciously long finish.
Tasting Room: 6738 Hwy 128, Healdsburg, CA 95448; Open daily 10am - 5pm
Tasting Fee: varies

Lunch - Jimtown Store
Conveniently located right next door to Hawkes, the folksy-cute Jimtown Store makes some of Sonoma's best sandwiches.  Head over for a bite after tasting; favorite 'wiches include the Brie and Chopped Olive, which was hailed by Food & Wine Magazine as a top wine country snack under $10. Not hungry yet? Pick up a boxed lunch to enjoy down the road (your next stop welcomes picnickers) and be sure not to leave without checking out Jimtown's eclectic collection of whimsical gifts, American antiques and charming local products on your way out.
Location: 6706 State Highway 128, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Hours: Daily 7:30am - 5pm

Stop 2 - Stryker Sonoma
The stunning glass, concrete and wood building housing Stryker Sonoma's winery and tasting room is all about views: Visitors enjoy stunning vistas of Alexander Valley from the elevated glass box-like tasting room, designed by local architects Nielsen: Schuh. But Stryker's not just about getting an eyeful: the spot's wines will please your palate, too. Stick with the free tasting for a variety of sips, or spring for the Zinfandel flight ($5) and get to know northern Sonoma's most opulent grape. The pricier Bordeaux flight ($10) affords a sampling of more of Alexander Valley's delicious Cabernet- and Merlot-based reds.
Tasting Room:; 5110 Highway 128, Geyserville, CA 95441; Open daily 10:30am-5pm
Tasting Fee:  varies; free, $5 & $10

Stop 3 - Silver Oak Cellars
With a motto like "Life is a Cabernet," Silver Oak is without a doubt a winery with its priorities straight (and one that seems to beckon, "come on over!"). To get there from Stryker, head over to 101 and take it just north of Geyserville, where you'll find the gracious Tudor-style winery tucked tastefully into the rolling hills of northern Alexander Valley. Inside, a rustic stone fireplace anchors the spacious tasting room, where for $10 you can sample the winery's consistently award-winning Cabs. And while the spot's wines are inarguably pricey (the current release of Alexander Valley Cab clocks in at $60/bottle), they're some of the best-known bottlings produced in California, and rarely disappoint.
Tasting Room: 24625 Chianti Rd., Geyserville, CA 95441; Open Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm (summer hours)
Tasting Fee: $10

Stop 4 - Rosso & Bianco
Next, make your way over to Francis Ford Coppola's whimsical new winery, Rosso & Bianco, where food pairings and pizzas will help stave late-afternoon hunger pains and tide you over 'til dinner. Situated just a few miles south of Silver Oak along Highway 101, Coppola's new digs (which are housed in the old Chateau Souverain facility) feature complimentary tastes of simple red and white table wines as well as for-pay flights of the film director's higher-end Sonoma County wines, like the reliable Director's Cut series. Last call: the spot's eastward-facing deck - which offers sweeping views of the valley - is the perfect place to wrap up the day.
Tasting Room: 400 Souverain Rd., Geyserville, CA
Tasting Fee: varies; free, $10, $15

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I want more info on this trip

Does anyone offer a tour of this type?


If your clients are touring the Alexander Valley, they should check out this lodging list:
They will be able to chose according to their budget, and whether they want a hotel, B&B, or vacation rental.
Gina Dallara

Try this list:

Stop by J.Rickards Winery as well. They are a small GEM of a family owned winery in between Geyser Peak and Silver Oak- at 24505 Chianti Rd.
Cloverdale, CA 95425. They feature: Cabernet - Meritage Blend, Alexander Valley Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, Brown Barn Petite Syrah. Darn Fine Barn Wine!

They are having a Special "Meet the Winemaker" event Saturday the 26th. from 11-5. Tours, new releases and food pairings.

Jimtown store is definitely a great lunch pick. Be sure to try anything with their various olive spreads. (My favorite is the Fig and Olive spread!)

Overall, this is a fab itinerary. Thanks so much.

My personal favorite Alexander Valley winery is Sausal - 3 different zins, soft cabernet and a couple of newer syrah blends. Family owned & operated since mid 1950's. The oldest block of Zinfandel is 120+ years old - well worth a stop for zin lovers.

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