Monthly Archives: June 2016

Wine Road Magical Mystery Tour

From humble beginnings with nine founding winery members in 1976 to a world-class wine tourism destination, Wine Road now represents 200 wineries and over 50 lodgings throughout the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys. One of the oldest associations of its kind in California, Wine Road’s legacy and impact on the region is being celebrated this year with a series of events commemorating its 40th Anniversary.

I was lucky to join a media preview of this fabulous adventure earlier this year – by far one of the most fun tours ever! I love to be chauffeured around and treated to luxury at every stop. How about you?

To participate, purchase a ticket to one of four locations – Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley or Urban Wineries from the Wine Road. On June 18, 2016 we will gather in Healdsburg Square and board a mystery bus to our destinations. These destinations are unknown – a mystery – but each one will feature wine tasting, food and special experiences.normal’> normal’>Now, I have no idea of the stops that are planned, but these valleys are my neighborhood and some of the best locations to taste wine that you can image. Each one of these has great opportunities, so I will try to help you select a destination that is perfect for you.  

Alexander Valley: In 1841 Cyrus Alexander arrived in an untamed valley to manage the Sotoyome Rancho and received 9,000 acres as payment. Here he built his home, planted an orchard, constructed a tannery, built the first grain mill in the area and planted a vineyard. In the 1880s, immigrants formed the Italian Swiss Colony agricultural cooperative at Asti and by the 1950s, the winery was California’s second-most visited tourism destination, after Disneyland. Alexander Valley received formal recognition as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1984. Located at the northern end of Sonoma County, the Alexander Valley is 22 miles long and varies in width from two to seven miles. There are 76,900 acres of land, of which 15,000 acres are planted to premium wine grapes. World-famous Cabernet Sauvignon grapes thrive from valley floor to mountain ridges. Alexander Valley is also home to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Zinfandel and Rhone varieties, including Syrah and Viognier.

Dry Creek Valley: With roots reaching back 140 years, Dry Creek Valley’s history in wine grape growing is among the longest in California. Its fertile landscape attracted settlers soon after the California Gold Rush of 1849. By the late 1880s, the valley had nine wineries and 883 acres of vineyards – the majority planted to Zinfandel, for which Dry Creek is best known. Prohibition ended this first wine boom and it wasn’t revived completely until the 1970’s. Dry Creek Valley became an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983; a two mile wide valley that is approximately 16 miles long and is named after a tributary of the Russian River (Dry Creek). Sauvignon Blanc is the standout white varietal. Cabernet Sauvignon is under-appreciated here, as are other Bordeaux varietals. Rhone wines, as single varietals and in blends including Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre are attracting serious attention. 

Russian River Valley: Russian River Valley is named for the Russians, who settled along the Sonoma coast and left a significant impact on the area. The fertile soils of the Russian River Valley provided a region apt for farming and sustaining their outposts. By 1876 viticulture was well established with excess of 500,000 gallons of wine produced and about 7,000 vine acres planted. The current era in Russian River Valley winemaking began in the 1960’s when Bob Sisson, the University of California Farm Advisor for Sonoma County, began urging local growers to turn their focus toward cool climate grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In 1983 the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) became an approved viticultural area with an expansion in 2005 to better define the unique geographical characteristics of the Russian River Valley AVA – an area influenced by cool, coastal fog — the single most important factor differentiating the Russian River Valley AVA.  While the Russian River Valley is renowned for its cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier and Gewurtztraminer thrive in the diverse neighborhoods of the Russian River Valley.

Urban Wineries: With urban wineries you get all of the above and surprises that you might not expect. In Sonoma County, many of our vineyards are in areas too rugged to be easily reached by guests, so tasting rooms are sometimes built where the wine is made – in an urban setting. This provides opportunities to experience the winemaking process and see state-of-the-art equipment – sorting tables, bladder presses, fermentation tanks, cement eggs and wine barrels. Perhaps a bottling line in action with a current vintage or a sneak peak of wine fermenting in an oak barrel will reward your travels. Urban wineries are an eclectic mix of tasting rooms, wine grape varieties and winemaking surprises. These wineries represent the diversity of Sonoma County – home to more soil types than all of France. They provide the natural chemistry for growing a variety of top winegrapes. Look for diversity in Urban Wineries, the experience you’ll find and the wines they offer.

If you have made up your mind, tickets are available at the Wine Road and I’ll see you in my neighborhood this June.

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