One of my axioms in wine is that “wine is meant to be shared!” This hold true whether the wine is from Texas or California, especially in the Alexander Valley in northern Sonoma County. I am sure you have heard of the Kinkade Fire which caused the destruction of two wineries (the historic Soda Rock Winery and Field Stone Winery) along with many homes. I interned at Alexander Valley Vineyards in 2007 as a “cellar rat” and got to know the Wetzel Family. They lost several outbuildings on their 1,000 acre estate. Third-generation Harry Wetzel told me the winds were blowing burning embers great distances and hitting like burning incendiary missiles, miles from the main fire. These missiles were projected through the air with the 40-70 MPH winds. The Alexander Valley Vineyards property was used as a staging area with two fire fighters normally assigned to protect the numerous wineries in the area. Much of that area was hit heard with mandatory evacuation orders and planned electrical shutdowns to hundreds of thousands in the wine country. This particularly hit wineries in the area hard since modern day winemaking requires electricity for refrigeration used during fermentations to keep temperatures from getting too hot. Red wines also need periodic “pump-overs” to assist in fruit extraction in red wines by drawing the fermenting juice at the bottom of the wine fermentation tanks and pour over the floating skins to re-liquefy those skins with the wine. The “strikes” were against our California friends, but their resilience and passion for their wines is awesome. Auxiliary generators were a scarce commodity in many stores since many wineries were using them for their winemaking needs. There were many brave winemakers braving the devastation to stay with their wines.
The Kinkade Fire is now history. The majority of the area that burned was on Federal Lands in the mountains. Although the new media overplayed the disaster, the Alexander Valley wineries are now open and gladly welcoming visitors to their vineyards and wineries. Each of my friends in the area are saying to me to please encourage people to visit. Their chorus rings out that everything is fine in Sonoma County, but with few and limited exceptions. The BEST thing we can do is to support our Sonoma Wineries who have gone through so much by buying their wines. Better yet, visit them and show your support. The City of Healdsburg was spared from the fires by the Grace of God. It is one of my favorite cities with its numerous wine-tasting rooms, gorgeous “Town Square,” and numerous “mom and Pop” shops. This City typifies an old-fashioned town in which we grew up. They have their weekly Farmer’s Markets and outstanding restaurants and hotels. I know they would welcome you to visit their town and help them to recover from their “week of Hell!” Best time to visit is from Tuesday on through the week since many wineries shut down on Monday. BTW, the hotel rates are cheapest from Monday through Thursday nights! Let’s do the neighborly thing and head to California to help out this unique area re-build its economy. I am sure you will be thoroughly enjoying yourself in the process!
Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot
Wine Characteristics: This big red merlot has great tannin structure with tones of black and red cherry, vanilla, and plum
Pair with: Grilled Texas Ribeye Steak
Where to buy: HEB, Kroger’s and SPEC’s (most stores)
Price: $17.95 per bottle