Thursday, December 26, 2013

Spread the Warmth Gift Idea #3: Alexander Valley Vineyards

Just because Christmas is over doesn't mean that you're done with the gift giving!   There's all those people on the list you missed, New Year's Eve parties to attend, and any other excuse you can come up with to avoid your family!

Which leads us to Spread the Warmth Gift Idea #3: Alexander Valley Vineyards Wines.  I came across this vineyard almost six months ago as part of a wine tasting at Catch at Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, and Holey Moley and Boy Oh Boy all in one!

Alexander Valley Vineyards is located on Highway 128 in northern Sonoma County, 75 miles north of San Francisco.  AVV was started in 1963 by the Wetzel Family who boldly planted premium grape varieties in Sonoma (one of the first in the are).  The Wetzels sold the grapes for a number of years to other wineries and often produced a little homemade wine in the estate's adobe as a family project.  In 1975 the Wetzel family built a small winery and Hank Wetzel, oldest son of Maggie and Harry, produced Alexander Valley Vineyard’s first wine in 1975.

Alexander Valley Vineyards is best know for its Zin Trilogy: Temptation Zinfandel, Sin Zin, and Redemption Zinfandel (prices run in the $20 range).  In the beginning the Wetzel Family made four wines: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Gew├╝rztraminer.  During this time their estate grapes, including a small section of Zinfandel, were sold to other wineries.  In 1978 the pickers came and harvested the ripe primary clusters of their Zinfandel.  AVV founder Hank Wetzel noticed that the estate had a large secondary crop of Zinfandel grapes on their hillside vines that ripened some time after the pickers had finished.  Frugal winemaker that he was, he mentioned this “free” crop one evening to the rest of the family after sharing a few bottles of wine over a meal.  It was decided that the Weztel Family would pick this later crop and make a little homemade wine for friends and family.

When it came time to bottle and label the wine, family friend and employee Dennis Hill browsed through an old art history book and found a 17th German etching, titled “Des Knabben Wunderhorn”, meaning “The Horn of Plenty.”  Katie Wetzel thought the image looked perfect for a wine label, and its bacchanalian character inspired her to name their rich and robust wine: Sin Zin. 

My absolute favorite wine I tasted from the Alexander Valley Vineyards is their CYRUS, which is their tribute to the Alexander Valley and Bordeaux grapes (these bottles are still a great buy in the $50-$60 range!).  AVV takes the best of lot to make this luscious blend.  CYRUS is named for Cyrus Alexander, a 19th century adventurer, rancher, gold miner, and founder of the Alexander Valley.  The staff of AVV say that he overseas aging operations since he’s buried on hill over AVV's wine coves. 

Alexander Valley Vineyard's 2006 CYRUS received 92 Points in Wine Enthusiast Magazine and was Grand Champion, Best of Show at the 2011 Houston Rodeo Wine Competition.  The wine is aged in French Oak for a year, 2 years in the bottle, and then AVV has a release party closest weekend to March 15th (which was Cyrus Alexander's birthday).  Its taste includes intense aromas of black cherry, plum, cassis, and chocolate combine with rich complex fruit, spicy oak, and velvety mouth feel.  This year Cyrus was 206 years old!

One last reason to explore AVV is they're green (always a great excuse to drink wine)! Alexander Valley Vineyards has been certified as a Green Business in recognition for the steps they've taken to follow the best environmental practices and conserve resources (1 of only 14 in Sonoma).  As planet do-gooders they've installed solar panels to generate power for winery operations from pumps to computers to bottling equipment, constructed 25,000 square feet of wine caves, using natural insulation properties to age and store their wine and eliminating the need to build an energy gulping air-conditioned warehouse for that purpose, and they plant cover crops like rye grass and peas, preventing erosion and providing nutrients for the soil while eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers.

All reasons to grab a bottle to taste out 2013 and toast in 2014!

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