Starting my Alexander Valley itinerary this morning right next door to the obviously popular early-morning-coffee-pickup-stop, Jimtown Store, @ Hawkes Wine where Alex is holding a delicious cup of same- I would have some too, but have been limited to only one cup of coffee per day by Wine Road Beth and am well past that early morning cup. (Such an opening sentence indicates extremities of caffeine exposure.) Alex finds Jeremy and we are off and running on our All Things Wine Road talk. The tasting room is cool and comfy with some nice new artwork supplanting the myriad of teapots which have been more or less retired. Lots of cab and areas now for guests. I am particularly fond of the outdoor area in the two photos- I LOVE those chairs- and the late summer almost fall feel of the garden is very restful. We are all wearing sweaters this morning but the feel of incipient heat is in the air. Parting discussion centers on customer service and then riffs over into English major talk as we all three are- representing Lewis & Clarke, U Dub and Cal: so- pray tell, which is it:
Our staff IS well-trained and standing by to carry your wine orders.
Our staff are well-trained and standing by to carry your wine orders.
Guess it could be either or both….as long as the customer is happy!
Next stop, Lancaster Estate, where I am to meet with Jen and Emery and will be on the look-out for my old friend from LAX days, enologist Chris Malone. My trajectories across the valley seem a wee bit pinballish today- but the harvest made my appointments change so my trek today is not quite as linear as I had originally planned, but no matter, all places are easy to drive and proximity remains good.
Lancaster is visited by appointment only and includes tour and tasting options- many guests are visiting today- we talk about Wine Road and Emery mentions the Lancaster Estate Guest House- pictured above, it is available to rent- what a spot! Again, as is often the way for me along the Wine Road, I consider moving in.
Back on the road again, I head back to Highway 128 off of Chalk Hill to the wonderful, rustic Field Stone Winery & Vineyard where I am to meet the Master of Hospitality, Tom Prosopio.
Tom greets me in the tasting room- underground and almost hidden away in a hillside- the tasting room and cellar that is, not Tom. Topside, picnic table rounds are nicely placed under the oaks and Tom will loan a checkered picnic tablecloth and stemware to guests who purchase a bottle of wine to have with their picnic there. Tom, very knowledgeable about wine and the Field Stone offerings, is quite a concierge and will guide all guests along the Wine Road. He is savvy about wine & food pairings, too, and he and his wife, Sandy, have toured other wine regions of the world as well.
Hitting Highway 128 heading north, I am almost instantly at Sausal Winery where I am to meet Angela. Sausal is one of the oldest producing wineries in the Alexander Valley, taking its name from Sausal Creek (“willow” in Spanish- thus “Sausalito” is “little willow”- sounds so much better than in English) which runs through the Sausal Ranch there. Harvest is just about to start on the 50 – 133 year old estate vines- a pre-harvest hush in the warm air seems noticeable as I approach the tasting room up the long driveway through the vines. The Demostene family has been here for quite some time- we discuss the ins and outs of Italian names- Demostene, Ferrari (quite a common a name, per Angela) and the heritage of Italian immigrants here in northern Sonoma County.
The Cellar Cats, Sophie and Gypsie, are very popular here, and are even honored with wines named in celebration of their awesome personalities: Cellar Cats Red and the Purr-Fect Petite. Though I see a guest on the TR porch taking great shots of the kitties, I will find them to be somewhat elusive as subjects, at least for the incredibly high quality (ahem) photography for which I aim- thus, the challenge is on:
I bid adieu to all and head back south on Highway 128 to Alexander Valley Vineyards where I wanted to catch their social media guru, Harry Wetzel- we have been exchanging tweets all day, but I am too late to catch him and the tasting room is just closing. As I head out, I can see that the harvest is just beginning here, too. At times like these, sunset in a beautiful part of California, my mind often turns to history. Sausal has provided me with a great short history of the Demostene family and also the whole valley: the Alexander Valley was originally part of a Spanish land grant of 40,000 acres which was given to Captain Delano Fitch (Fitch Mountain, Fitch Street in Healdsburg) by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. In 1841, in payment for his services in land management and development, Cyrus Alexander was given 9,000 acres of land on the eastern side of the grant which became the Alexander Valley we know and love today- Cyrus’ home-site is the current AVV- in 1846 he planted the first vineyards and the rest is history. (And now Cyrus has an eponymous restaurant: Cyrus). But I digress- time to head back to the ‘burg.
Always more later….