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Brian K Miller

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Impressions of Alexander Valley and dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County)

by Brian K Miller » Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:47 am

Hello all. I've introduced myself on a few existing threads, but since this is my first new thread. Hope it's not too early to begin starting threads, but I've been doing some great tastings over the last month or so :):

I am a resident of Northern California (Solano County) almost exactly half way between San Francisco and Sacramento. I am a "city planner" by profession, and I havebecome increasingly interested in the flavors, history, snob appeal :twisted: art, and landscapes of wine, especially red wine. My tastes tend towards big cabs, Itaslian reds, and the "cheaper" second and third tier Bordeaux that I am just beginning to discover. I prefer the earthier, minerally, mushroomy, more austere side of the taste spectrum-I don;t generally likke fruitiness-although I can appreciate it in a good wine.

My favorite recreational activity is day touring on my bicycle. I'm too old and plump to "race" but I like to ride fairly seriously for fun and fitness.

Since I live in Northern California, with care and pacing and the spit bucket, I can combine cycling with my other passion, red wine.

So, over the past several weekends, I've been exploring the quiet back roads of Sonoma County's Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley. It's quite intriguing how DIFFERENT these two valleys, separated by only a few low hills and less than ten miles, are in the way their wines taste and feel. Alexander Valley seems to be earthier, darker, more asutere in character.

I'm not sure I do the tasting notes very well in explaining why I like things. It's more "I like what I like", so bear with me. :)

Some of the Alexander Valley wines I've really enjoyed lately included:

Alexander Valley Vineyards Cyrus (2002)-what a great, multilayered bordeaux blend. All the earthiness and mushroomyness that I like, but not totally shy on fruit.

AVV also produces a great cheap ($20) Cab Franc that I just tried the other day.

White Oak 2002 Napa Merlot-although made from Napa fruit, this winery impressed me overall-and this Merlot blew me away with its layers of flavors and richness. Yum,! Rich and complex chardonnay, too. And, I'm not a big white wine drinker.

Sausal-although they advertise their zins, and the 2003 reserve old vine Zin was delicious, the young man also opened a fantastic 1995 Cabernent Sauvignon. What an austere, dry, delicious wine. Even at the steep price ($50) I had to pick one up.

DeLorimier Malbec. A relatively new grape for me, but I found it quite interesting and unique in a day with a lot of zins and cabs. Cheap, too!

Stonestreet-1999 Cougar Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. I wasn't as impressed by this wineries younger, blended cabs, but this pricey steep slope wine had a lot of austerity and layers of flavor that I loved. Was it worth the price? That's a tough question

Stryker-I tried several of their reserve cabs. They had one valley floor reserve that was very austere and interesting, another that was very, very fruit forward ("sweet" almost), and an upper end mountain reserve that was quite balanced. Striking winery architecture, too. Very nice, although I didn't make it back to buy a bottle.

DRY CREEK VALLEY

Dry Creek Valley had a completely dfifferent flavor profile, to my surprise. I'm not a big fan of Pinot Noir, so my tastings were oriented to the heavier wines.

Mazzuco Winery-the only Dry Creek Valley Cabernet or Cab Blend I liked at all. Almost all of the Dry Creek Valley cabs and blends tasted very fruit forward-they almost tasted like Zinfandel to my unschooled palatte. :) Mazzuco is the only place I bough a Cab-based wine, and I loved their 1999 Matrix blend, which was bottled under their originaql family ownership. As Wilson now owns Mazzucco, we'll see what they do with the place. The Matrix was good enough to buy two bottles-very smooth yet again those tobacco and leathert notes that I love in a cab. Great Merlot, too, that was discovered hidden way in a unnoticed barrel.

Lambert Bridge. What a fun place to taste wine. Beautiful woodsy building. Happy crowd. Very wry, knowledgable guy at the counter, an adorable yellow lab puppy chewing on my cycling shoes, quite a range of wines. Sadly, there was not a single wine poured that was really to my taste. :( Very fruit forward zinfandels and cabs, almost "sweet" and even the meritage blend had that same fruity proifile, with none of the austerity I prefer. A very nice place that is very popular, but the only wine that I liked at all was their Sauvignon Blanc. They also have a tasting fee, unlike many Sonoma Wineries.

Deux Amis-a little disappointed in that the meritage blend at Mazzucco (Matirx) was mmade by the wine maker/partner at Deux Amis-and they only made zinfandels. Quite odd wines, actually. I noticed a pronounced "tomato" chacrater to the flavor profile. The winemaker suggested it might be higher acid levels than many zins. Not sure how I felt about these wines. The fourth wine, the Rued Vineyard reserve, was, however, a quite nice Dry Creek Zinfandel and I picked up a bottle.

Overall, I have to say that the wines of the Alexander Valley impress me more/fit my tastes more. I like the more auster, minerally, stoney character of their cabs.

So, overall a perfect series of bicycling/wine tasting weekends. Miles of roads await, as long as my legs hold out. . :)
...(Humans) are unique in our capacity to construct realities at utter odds with reality. Dogs dream and dolphins imagine, but only humans are deluded. –Jacob Bacharach
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William_Wilson

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Re: Impressions of Alexander Valley and dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County)

by William_Wilson » Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:10 pm

I'm new to the forums as well, I hope I don't step on any toes here. :D

Seriously, I think your tasting notes work very well. The descriptions were not overblown and provide a good "image" of the wine.

My question is, how many bottles can you safely transport on your bicycle? :D

What a great way to visit wine country--I haven't been to Northern California in years (I know, shame on me), but there HAS to be serious advantages to taking a slower pace, smelling what nature has to offer, etc. rather than zipping from winery to winery in a car with its filtered air conditioning. (Okay, so temperatures are something to consider, as are allergies.)

Bravo for an inspiring post. I live not too far from Southern Michigan's wine regions. It might be worth finding a bicycle and doing the wine trail that way.
William Wilson
The Wine for Newbies Podcast
winefornewbies [at] gmail [dot] com
[url=http://winefornewbies.net/]http://winefornewbies.net/
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Mike Filigenzi

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Re: Impressions of Alexander Valley and dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County)

by Mike Filigenzi » Mon Aug 28, 2006 4:45 pm

Nice to have another person here from a non-Bay Area part of Norcal! I've done a bit of wine-and-bike touring, and I agree with you. It's a great way to explore some of the backroads.

Mike
"People who love to eat are always the best people"

- Julia Child
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Brian K Miller

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Re: Impressions of Alexander Valley and dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County)

by Brian K Miller » Mon Aug 28, 2006 6:48 pm

Well...I also have a quite fun car (Subaru Sti), so I simply retrace my curvy, hilly routes (sobered up, of course), and pick up the bottles I've selected :lol: I have in a couple of cases come back the next weekend.

Just noticed your location, William. I am actually a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana (first 25 years of my life, and mom still lives in the northeast suburbs)-so I'm curious about your specific city or town. :?:
...(Humans) are unique in our capacity to construct realities at utter odds with reality. Dogs dream and dolphins imagine, but only humans are deluded. –Jacob Bacharach
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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Re: Impressions of Alexander Valley and dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County)

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Aug 28, 2006 9:26 pm

William, the podcast is pretty cool (on your site). I am not familar with all this computer technology but that is neat. Another two hours a day at the confuser!!

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