Viticulture in the Alexander Valley AVA dates back to 1843 and it is likely the most well known AVA in all of Sonoma County. Alexander Valley was officially granted its AVA status in 1984 and is the most northern AVA Sonoma County, with over 15,000 acres planted. It's also the hottest appellation in Sonoma County, meaning one thing: Cabernet Sauvignon. The land and the climate provide the perfect opportunity to grow Napa Valley quality Cab without the Napa price tag which has caused people to flock to the Alexander Valley AVA in search of hidden gem wineries, high quality wines, and beautiful scenery.
Alexander Valley has the largest fluctuation in temperature in Sonoma County, dipping down into the mid 40’s at night with a huge spike in temperature in the afternoon making it an ideal climate for Cabernet Sauvignon to thrive, as well as Zinfandel, Syrah, Barbera, Merlot, and many more varietals. With that said, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the Alexander Valley AVA with over 50% of the vines planted being Cab. Only the toughest reds can survive in this incredibly hot climate with only a few rolling hills and not many hillside slopes. However, the Russian River does flow right down the Alexander Valley with vineyards and wineries bordering both sides.
Being only 25 miles east of the coast one would think that the Alexander Valley gets plenty of fog but that's not necessarily the case. The mountains from the Rockpile AVA and mountain ranges south of Lake Sonoma block off most of the incoming fog that is headed towards Alexander Valley. But have no fear as the Russian River is the savior of the Alexander Valley AVA. This vast river provides much needed cool climates in the vineyards near the river and also creates very soft, ideal soil conditions for farmers and vineyard managers.
Some of the more storied wineries in the Alexander Valley AVA include Simi, Jordan Winery, and Ridge Vineyards. While each of these wineries consistently produce high quality wines, we prefer to visit some of the smaller lot wineries that fewer people are familiar with. White Oak Vineyards is one of my all time favorites. White Oak produces exactly what you’d expect (and want) from the Alexander Valley AVA - Bordeaux Blends, Cab, Syrah, Zinfandel and some Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to cool you off on those hot afternoons. You can't go wrong chilling out at one of their picnic tables or lounging by the beautiful fountain out front. Some of our other favorite off the beaten path wineries include Lancaster Estate, Field Stone Winery, and Medlock Ames.
Looking for something else to do in Alexander Valley? Fear not, there are plenty of fun events to attend in the area. How about A Taste of Alexander Valley? Over 25 wineries participate in the appellation's event. Great wine and beautiful mountain views highlight the three day experience at Taste Alexander Valley.
All wined out? That’s fine too. Nestled behind the Medlock Ames tasting room lies the Alexander Valley Bar. This speakeasy esque bar has a cozy interior and features a knockout list of craft cocktails - the perfect way to cap off a long day of wine tasting. The bar is open seven days a week from 5pm on and also hosts a concert series on Sundays during the Summer.
Whether you're looking for Cabernet Sauvignon that rivals Napa Valley or a low production family owned winery, the Alexander Valley AVA is a beautiful, vast part of Sonoma County that anyone interested in wine should visit. Feel free to step outside of your box and try some wonderful Barbera (my personal favorite varietal) or some Cabernet Franc. Either way, if it’s coming from Alexander Valley, you can’t go wrong.