Just north of Healdsburg off of the 101 Highway is a unique wine growing region in Sonoma County known as the Alexander Valley. The Russian River runs through the heart of it where oak trees and vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, and thrive in the sunshine.
The heart of the Alexander Valley is 45 minutes from our front door and we hadn’t visited in a few years, so we invited some of our good friends along, Dino and Heidi who love to go tasting and exploring (we attended the famous Kendall Jackson Tomato Festival with them last year) and off we went to visit some old favorites and new wineries we’ve never been to before.
The region is really beautiful time of year, the sun is warm but still mild, and the tasting rooms are less crowded before late summer and the harvest in the fall when the large crowds arrive. In June you can sit, sip, and stroll among the vineyards, watching the grapes forming on the vine.
We started our afternoon at Hawkes Winery, next door to the famous Jimtown Store where you’ll catch a scenic view of the adjacent vineyards and can grab a bite for lunch.
Next up was our favorite spot of the day, the Soda Rock Winery, a very old building but modern winery with tons of charm and a great place to throw a party (they have the best old barn on the property.) Just as we were arriving a team of Clydesdales pulling a wine tour carriage arrived, the timing was perfect. If you stop by, try their Entourage red wine blend, we loved it so much we brought a few bottles home.
Down the highway is Lancaster Winery, a very modern structure with an amazing wine cave but it’s by appointment only so call ahead if you want to get in! (We didn’t this time so we skipped it.)
Hanna Winery is another favorite stop, with a lavender lined drive and an incredibly scenic view of the valley. Beautiful gardens surround the tasting room and there are several places to linger outdoors, definitely worth a visit. Christine Hanna wrote a wonderful cookbook a few years ago, it sits on my shelf at home, and it’s filled with regional recipes by season.
A final stop was the Italian style White Oak tasting room, stroll the the grounds to see the whimsical metal animal structures scattered about, from gorillas to insects.
We ended our Alexander Valley adventure with an early dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen in the downtown Healdsburg Square, a very elegant place to dine with great food, but be prepared, the portions are small for the price. Bistro Ralph around the corner is a restaurant we prefer but closed for dinner on Sundays, read more about it here.
If you’re ever in the area, the Alexander Valley is definitely worth a day trip, even two days if you have the time since there are over two dozen of wineries to visit. You never know what you’ll see, everything from chickens roaming the vineyards to scenic views around every bend.
If you make the trip, be sure to share your favorite stops in the valley, I’d love to hear them. Cheers!