Alexander Valley Vineyards
I was based in American Canyon for this trip, so my drive to Alexander Valley Vineyards took about one hour and 15 minutes. The weather was perfect and the drive was magnificent through Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga, then into Sonoma County. Once I arrived at AVV, I made myself known and told the staff I was scheduled for a wine and cheese tasting ($25, advance reservations required). The host of the tasting, the new winery manager at AVV, mentioned that the tasting was a new option. I was happy to be one of the first to try it. I was given five cheeses and five wines and was asked to taste the wines alone, then taste the cheese and wine together and notice the differences. Then after trying them all, I could taste them again, which I did. My favorite cheese pairings were with the 2010 Estate Chardonnay ($18) and the 2006 Cyrus ($60, a red blend comprised of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot). Lately I’ve found myself really drawn to complex red blends and the Chardonnay was a nice balance of fruit and oak. I purchased these two favorites. I received a 15% discount on the tasting and the Cyrus, but not on the Chardonnay for some reason. It was an enjoyable tasting and I’d recommend it to those who’d like to expand their knowledge of wine tasting.
I stopped here for lunch as it was on my way between AVV and Santa Rosa. Luckily I beat the Sunday lunch crowd. Jimtown Store is a community general store and information center with a small restaurant inside. It has been in existence since 1895, situated on Highway 128 six miles north of Healdsburg. The menu items are made from scratch. For my meal, I selected homemade black currant tea and a grilled cheese special made with Spanish chorizo, provolone, roasted vegetable caponata, arugula, and garlic aioli. The sandwich was amazing and the store very charming.
Gundlach Bundschu is California’s oldest family-owned and operated winery. Six generations and 154 years later, it’s a must-visit in Sonoma County. Although it’s an old family winery, I found the ambiance in the tasting room to be very hip, casual, and relaxed. I purchased the $10 tasting, which allowed me to taste six current releases. However, I was allowed to taste two or three more when I mentioned I was a wine blogger, including a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. In the recent past, I had enjoyed the 2011 Gewürztraminer ($22.50) and the 2008 Mountain Cuvée ($24.00), so I wanted to take home something that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I decided on the 2009 Tempranillo ($37), since it’s not often in my world that I have the opportunity to drink a California-produced Tempranillo. I found myself drawn to the dark berry, chocolate/cocoa, and peppery spice I discovered in this wine. As is standard, the $10 tasting fee was applied towards my wine purchase.