When I want a quiet wine tasting day, I go to Alexander Valley. There’s something about it that encourages me to slow down, look at the scenery and linger at the wineries. Visiting this area means you will taste many wines from Napa, Russian River, Sonoma Coast and other AVAs as well as the Alexander Valley. It also means that each winery will be a special place unto itself–places that easily feel like a second home to guests.
1st Stop Jordan Estate (11:00 a.m.)
Reserve your spot for the Winery Tour & Tasting, available Monday – Saturday. If you’ve been to the Dry Creek Valley with it’s modest and farm-like wineries, Jordan may seem a bit stuffy from appearances. But don’t be fooled, the owners and staff are some of the most warmhearted, welcoming and just plain nice people in the industry. They make one Cabernet Sauvignon and one Chardonnay every year. While I always enjoy whatever they are pouring, the library wines (older vintages) whisper to me as soon as I walk into the library. I also wish I could just live in the kitchen with their full-time Chef who makes gorgeously presented small bites to go with the wines. John Jordan continues his parents’ desire to share an estate experience with visitors. I highly recommend joining their Estate Rewards program. It is the only way you’ll get an invitation to private events and be able to stay in one of the amazing suites. Tip: Jordan wines are found in many restaurants and retail shops around the world.
2nd Stop Jim Town Store (12:30 pm)
Enjoy the brief drive up-valley to the only place to eat in the area. You can’t miss the vintage building with an old faded-red truck parked next door. Tip: It’s a small ordering area so if you peek at the current menu online, you’ll be prepared to order exactly what tickles your fancy. And take your time, Jim Town has a wine country gift shop, lots of goodies in the cold case (I recommend the uber-rich chocolate pudding) and a wine shop. Although you can eat in the indoor/outdoor colorful dining area behind the store, I recommend you move on over to your 3rd stop for a more private setting.
3rd Stop White Oak Winery (1:00 pm)
I suggest picnicking at White Oak because the wines are fantastic with food, very reasonably priced and high quality and there are several varietals so you’ll be able to get something to please everyone. For whites, they make a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay, both from the Russian River AVA. For reds, they make a Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah and a Cab/Merlot from Napa grapes and a Zinfandel and a Bordeaux blend from Alexander Valley grapes. I find White Oak’s wines to be made in an elegant style yet refreshingly accessible. The staff is friendly, accommodating and will make you feel welcome. Call ahead if you have a large party to reserve a picnic spot.
4th Stop Robert Young Estate Winery (2:30 pm)
Drive across the pretty valley enjoying photo opportunities along the way until you see a two-story white farmhouse and white barn. You’ll be drawn to the house, but alas, that’s not the tasting room. Pass the flowers and antique farm equipment and enter the intimate tasting room. You will immediately feel welcome by the staff and most likely make new friends with other guests. The wines are surrounded by ribbons and awards and you’ll enjoy several Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons and an Estate Merlot–whatever they have on hand. They make about 5,000-7,000 cases a year, so visiting may be a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to taste these exceptional wines. There is a 3,000 sq ft’ cave on the property and you may be able to get an impromptu tour if they aren’t busy; otherwise, make a tour appointment. However, just hanging out, tasting the wines and casually chatting with the staff is really all you need to enjoy the estate. Ask lots of questions, they have a great story!
Back to Healdsburg (4:00ish)
You’ve just enjoyed a kick-back day in Alexander Valley and perhaps you’re not quite ready for a brief siesta before dinner. I suggest one more stop in town at Hawley Tasting Room & Gallery in downtown Healdsburg across the street from Fideaux, the dog & cat gift shop. Hawley wines are consistently some of the best I’ve ever tasted and the tasting room is open daily until 6:00 pm.