Alexander Valley
Alexander Valley

Alexander Valley Wine Region and Appellation

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Named after an enterprising pioneer by the name of Cyrus Alexander, the Alexander Valley was considered a better place to grow wheat and raise cattle before it gained fame for its grapes. In the 1880s, immigrants formed the Italian Swiss Colony agricultural cooperative at Asti. In the 1950s, the winery was California's second-most visited tourism destination, after Disneyland.

The 1960s and 1970s established Alexander Valley as a place where top-notch Cabernet Sauvignon could be grown. Today, the valley retains its sleepy, agricultural character, while comprising 15,000 vineyard acres and 42 wineries. AVA (American Viticulture Area) status was established in 1984.

Top Grapes

Summer in the Alexander Valley
Summer in the Alexander Valley

Cabernet Sauvignon reigns in Alexander Valley; some of America's most loved Cabernets are grown and made here. Merlot and other Bordeaux varietals are important, particularly in mountain sites above the valley; Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc hold their own; some of the county's finest old vine Zinfandel is grown here - often made by small wineries, and snapped up fast. A few wineries have located old vine Grenache; newer plantings of Sangiovese show promise.

The Lay of the Land

Magnificent Alexander Valley views
Magnificent Alexander Valley views.

Unlike the Russian River Valley AVA, which occupies a broad splotch of land in the middle of Sonoma County that's defined largely by climatic considerations, the Alexander Valley AVA outlines the path of the Russian River as it flows from Mendocino County southeast to Healdsburg. Over the ages, the river meandered across the valley, leaving deposits of gravel underneath the alluvial soil - ideal conditions for growing great Cabernet Sauvignon, and somewhat similar to the best vineyard soils of Bordeaux. To the west, the AVA includes mountain vineyards where the grapes enjoy million-dollar views.

Notable Wineries

Food and wine pairings at scenic Jordan Vineyard & Winery
Food and wine pairings at scenic Jordan Vineyard & Winery.

Silver Oak makes two of America's most popular Cabernet Sauvignons, and one of them comes from Alexander Valley. Also making Cabernet and Chardonnay that's loved by restauranteurs nationwide, Jordan Vineyard & Winery offers a variety of tours and food-and-wine pairings, with 360-degree views of the valley. Stonestreet Estate Vineyards, founded by Kendall-Jackson's Jess Stonestreet Jackson, strives to be the first name in mountain-grown Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals. Find at-the-winery-only exclusives at well-known Clos du Bois and find a wine wonderland for the whole family at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The tasting room at historic Italian Swiss Colony is unfortunately closed to the public. Visitors who remember the spot with nostalgia can still peek in the window, if they ask politely it's been virtually unchanged in 40 years. 

Backroad Bodegas

The Meeker tasting room in Geyserville
The Meeker tasting room in Geyserville.

Follow 'Sin Zin' with 'Redemption Zin' at Alexander Valley Vineyards, located on Cyrus Alexander's old rancho. In downtown Geyserville, Meeker Vineyard cellars wine in a Black Bart-era bank vault. Neighboring Ramazzotti offers sparkling wine, while co-op tasting room Locals offers microwinery discoveries. Bask in the last rays of daylight on the patio at sustainable Medlock Ames.

Restaurants and Lodging in Alexander Valley

Wood-fired pizza at Diavola
Wood-fired pizza at Diavola.

A solar-powered, Victorian bed and breakfast, Hope-Merrill House is furnished with wall-to-wall period decor. Up the road, Geyserville Inn offers vineyard view balconies and apartments for groups and wedding parties. Revitalized family restaurant Catelli's offers stylish patio seating, and continues to serve up gourmet comfort food, including rabbit ravioli. Nosh on salumi, wood-fired pizza and more at Diavola. At Rustic, director-turned-restauranteur Francis Ford Coppola's favorites are on the menu, from the Argentinian-style grill. 

Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight 

Sonoma County Appellations (AVA):

Alexander Valley
Bennett Valley
Carneros - Sonoma
Chalk Hill
Dry Creek Valley
Fort Ross - Seaview
Fountaingrove District
Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Knights Valley
Moon Mountain
Northern Sonoma
Petaluma Gap
Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak
Rockpile
Russian River Valley
Sonoma Coast
Sonoma Mountain
Sonoma Valley