Thursday, November 14, 2019
Where the Wine Grapes Grow
Just like in 2017 I have a difficult time finding my "normalcy" again after our latest emergency. I struggled with that back then and I do it again right now. I've finally unpacked all the evacuation items, realizing that I packed less than last time. For example, I could leave behind all the scrapbooks because I had scanned them since the 2017 wildfire. Obviously I learned a lesson or two.
Anyway, I decided to get back to blogging, hoping to ease back into my "normal" life. I was thinking of the Alexander Valley north of town which was at the center of the Kincade Fire, our latest big wildfire. It is a beautiful valley with the Russian River lazily meandering through it. Vineyards stretch out to the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains with majestic lone trees, mainly old oaks, standing either at the edge of the vineyards or right in the middle of them. Back roads pass the many wineries and restaurants that serve farm-to-table food.
The Wappo who with the Pomo used to live in the Alexander Valley prior to Spanish colonization call the valley "Unutsawaholmanoma" which translates to "Toyon Bush Berry Place". Viticulture started back in 1843 when Cyrus Alexander began to establish vineyards in the area with vine cuttings collected from Fort Ross. The valley has become a renowned wine growing area, and AVA (American Viticulture Area) status was established in 1984.
The wine grown and produced here is truly delicious. The Cabernet-Sauvignons are top notch, but my personal favorite is the Zinfandel - for me it is THE California grape. It is a rich wine with a dark red color and flavors that explode on your tongue - I can't believe I'm writing this at 8:30 in the morning! I sure look forward to my glass of Zin tonight (probably from an Alexander Valley vineyard).
Despite the wineries that bring quite some tourism and therefore traffic to the area on a weekend, the valley has retained its sleepy agricultural character. It's a pleasure to trundle along Highway 128, a quiet back road, with a stop at Jimtown (a deli and a church) to grab a sandwich. The Mayacamas Mountains can be seen from anywhere in the valley with the peak of Mount St. Helena towering over them.
Today, Alexander Valley is the largest and most fully planted wine region in Sonoma County. It is also one of the warmest areas in Northern California during the day, but at night experiences a wide diurnal temperature variation (the variation between a high temperature and a low temperature that occurs during the same day) that offers cool climate conditions. This enables the Alexander Valley to grow a wide range of grape varieties. No wonder you can find so many wineries here.