Wine tasting in the Alexander Valley

On the fourth day of our trip we headed from Windsor to the Lake county, but first decided to visit some wineries in the Alexander Valley – where I hadn’t been before. I knew very little about the wineries, and pretty much stopped at those which were on the way.

field stone wineryWe started with Field Stone winery, which looks like a partly buried stone building. It’s pretty cool. The small tasting room is off the barrel room. There is a $5 tasting fee.

The people who tasted next to us, a couple from Florida, make a point of stopping at Field Stone every year, and never fail to buy their wines. I, on the other hand, did not think their wines were particularly notable. The 2007 Field Stone Sauvignon Blanc ($16) was somewhat peachy and fruity, had medium acidity and some sweetness, it basically you run of the mill sipping white wine – nice. The 2006 Field Stone Chardonnay ($20) was very oaky but light and not too fruity, in all too light for my taste. There were flowers and acidity in the 2007 Field Stone Rose de Sangiovese ($15), while the 2005 Sangiovese ($20) was very light, with soft hints of oaks and tannins. I thought the 2005 Field Stone Convivio, a mixture of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was a nice drinking wine, but on the light side – and had similar thoughts about the 2004 Field Stone Cabernet Sauvignon ($24).

In all, I found the wines to be easy to drink, but too light for my taste. I thought they were well priced.

hanna.jpgNext stop was Hanna Winery, a very cute winery with a tasting room building that reminded me both of an Italian villa and a pagoda. There are beautiful views of the rolling hills, and Mike even found a small frog to play with outside. The tasting room is large and light, it has a section inside with tables and chairs – where they presumably pair wine with food, and a relatively small counter for regular wine tasting. It was pretty busy, despite the $5 tasting fee. The fee is waved if you buy a bottle. The winery produces about 40,000 cases a year, their wines are distributed in all 50 states, though mostly their sauvignon blanc.

That 2007 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc ($18) was fruity, peach and easy, it had a nice complexity and acidity. It was one of my favorite white wines during this trip, and I’d buy it and drink it (but I didn’t). That would not be the case with the 2005 Jasmine Rose ($14), which was flowery but had no body and didn’t go anywhere. The 2004 Jasmine Vixen ($25), a red wine that is a mixture of 5 varieties, was a nice blend with a medium body and lingering hints of oak. It had some tannins, low acidity and would be a very nice eating or drinking wine Meanwhile the 2004 Hanna Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), mixed with 21% merlot, is smooth and has medium tannins and body. Mike thought it was pretty complex and had a gentle finish that sort of lingered. He liked it, I thought it was too light. The 2004 Bismark Zinfandel ($51) had a fruity opening, was smooth and had low acidity. Mike thought it was rich for a Zinfandel. In all, we found it nice, and would like it with some cheese.

In all, we found Hanna’s wines to be consistently smooth and complex, and would drink them.

sausal wineryWe then headed to Sausal winery, which sported a simple tasting room, in a house-like building, and a cat. Apparently, their cat is always around and some people tasting with us return year after year to picnic with it. The cat is such part of the winery that they’ve even named a wine after him.
The winery is pretty small, producing only 10,000 cases a year. They sell at small wine shops and at BevMo. They specialize in Zinfandels and the tasting was complimentary.

The 2005 Sausal Family Zinfandel ($19) had a brandied beginning that reminded me of day old fruit compote, it had a medium body and light finish, I thought it was just OK. The 2006 Sausal Zinfandel XXXV, a blend of old and family wines made to celebrate the winery’s anniversary ($35) was fruitier, smooth and easy. The 2005 Sausal Private Reserve Zinfandel ($23) was less fruity, but sweet. It had easy tannins and acidity and was smooth – there was nothing wrong with it. The 2003 Sausal Cabernet Sauvignon ($24), meanwhile, had a dry start and not much body, I thought it was smooth but light. Finally, the 2006 Purrfect Petite ($15), a petite syrah, was fruity but dry and ultimately OK.

In all, we found Sausal wines to be nice and well priced, but not particularly noteworthy. We did appreciate their smoothness, however.
stryker wineryStryker Sonoma has a striking, modernistic tasting room with large views of the vineyards. The winery produces 7500 cases a year, mostly sold through the winery and their wine club. They source at least some of their grapes. They offer a complimentary tasting of 3 wines, a 3-Zinfandel tasting for a $5 tasting fee and a 4-Bordeaux tasting for a $10 tasting fee. As usual, I went for the free flight.

The 2005 Stryker Sonoma Russian River Chardonnay ($25) was served nicely chilled – which is important on a hot day, many wineries don’t. It was oaky but still reminded me of a wine cooler, it didn’t have too much flavor. Not for me. The 2005 2005 Stryker Sonoma Alexander Valley merlot ($27) had a full aroma and earthy notes, with hints of oaks and tannins. It was too light a wine for my taste, however. Finally, the 2004 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon ($24) was smooth and had tannins, but didn’t go anywhere. Mike thought it had hints of cherry and chocolate, light tannins and was very drinkable.
meeker wineryOur last winery to visit in the Alexander Valley was Meeker, which features a small tasting room in downtown Geyserville, located in what used to be an old bank. The small winery produces about 22,000 cases a year. They have a $5 tasting fee and the pours are generous.

I started with the #4 Pink Elephant Rose ($12), which was flowery but empty. The 2005 Forchini Carignane ($26) had a medium body, light tannins and some acidity. It did call for food and would go well with pasta or pizza. I liked it, but wasn’t enamored. The 2004 Kelly’s Cab from Mendocino ($32) is a nice, all around cab with soft but distinguishable tannins. It was a bit soft, but would go well with hearty foods. The 2003 Barberian blend ($32) was nice, a tiny bit tannic and flavorfu while the Blankenheim’s Frankenstein Formula 3 ($26) was tanic, with a medium to full body, well balanced.

And that was it, after this we headed towards the Lake county, where our tastings were not nearly as good.

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