Sunday, August 21, 2011
My Surprise Journey To Alexander Mountain
As mentioned in a previous story, I spent most of an entire day recently learning all about Kendall Jackson wines. I had visited the Kendall Jackson Wine Center in Fulton, CA and had spent a glorious morning on a media appointment sampling some culinary delights paired with some fantastic wines. It was terrific! But what lie ahead would prove to be one of the most amazing, educational and unforgettable experiences of my very short wine-related career! When I think about that day and the amazing things I was able to see and do, I smile and shake my head and think to myself how fortunate I am to have come this far. Words just simply cannot describe what I was thinking and feeling that day. I wish all of you could do this. If I were to put a list together of the things wine lovers must do before they leave this world, this would be number one!
Following that fantastic food and wine pairing session in the gazebo, I was given a tour of the Culinary and Sensory Gardens on the Kendall Jackson property. What differentiates these gardens from gardens at other wineries? I'm very happy to report there was a reason why I was to do this. I would highly recommend everyone take this tour because you will learn much about why there are certain flavors in wines and how terroir affects how a wine is going to ultimately taste. Some of the plants were edible, so I tried them to see if I could match their flavors in certain wines. It was an interesting experience. The gardens are very peaceful so it's a nice, mind-clearing and calming experience as well.
Following this short but extremely educational garden tour, my gracious host Dale and I climbed into his SUV for what I call the drive of a lifetime! We would head up highway 101 toward Geyserville to visit Stonestreet Winery. Now, mind you, this is the farthest north I have ever been in California. I had never gone to Geyserville, which is northern Sonoma County. You will be driving along the highway, then all of a sudden out of nowhere comes this absolutely breathtaking view of the mountains. I think my jaw dropped! I've seen some beautiful mountain views in Napa Valley before, but never anything like this! I couldn't get a good shot of it through the front window of the truck! I was stunned. To look at this every day would be a sight to behold! So when we finally arrived at the winery, I got a side view instead...
Stonestreet Winery, is located in the Alexander Valley and is beautiful. I didn't have much experience with their wines before. The only thing I did know was that Jess Jackson's middle name was Stonestreet so this winery must have meant a lot to him. We stopped at the winery to pick up some wines to take to our ultimate destination. Dale and I stood outside and he pointed at a ridge toward the top of the mountains and said, "Do you see that little ridge up there? That's where we are going!" Hooo-wee! Talk about an adrenaline rush!! Inside the winery was a scale model of the Alexander Mountain estate and Dale took the time so show me our route and where we were headed next.
Off we went. I did not know what to expect. As we drove along, Dale talked about the history of Alexander Mountain, which is part of the Mayacamas mountain range. He spoke of the seismic activity up there and how many of the roads were unpaved for a reason. All the seismic activity kept the roads broken so they gave up trying to keep them covered. It sounded like a geological nightmare but all of this added to the beauty of the place and the special wines that came from there. We came upon a gated area, which is where the private Jackson property began and we let ourselves in.
I saw some really interesting things up there including "air conditioning" for the grapevines. Yes, even that high up it can get unbearably hot. As we kept driving up the mountain, Dale pointed out different single vineyard areas for which some of the Stonestreet wines are named. One of the vineyards we passed was the Broken Road Vineyard, and I would sample the wonderful Chardonnay from this vineyard later. And as we headed toward our destination point, the road suddenly became unpaved and much narrower! I could feel the fear begin to overtake me. I trusted Dale to get me there. I tried not to let my fear get the best of me! We finally reached our destination, 1800 feet up, a place called Monument Ridge--just myself, Dale, four bottles of wine and a breathtaking view in one of the most beautiful spots on earth--so far away from anything, you could hear a pin drop on the ground! What an awesome feeling that was!
I walked around the area to a little look-out point they had set-up there and started snapping photos. The look on my face was priceless I'm sure! If anyone would appreciate this, it would have been me. I almost started crying.
We unloaded the wines and sat at a picnic table and began tasting them slowly one by one and evaluated them. This is where the experience of visiting the sensory garden came in handy. As we were tasting them, especially one of the reds I will talk about here, there was a reason why I was picking up certain flavors in the wine. It all had to do with the terroir and the plants growing in the area.
We sampled four amazing wines that I would highly recommend to everyone:
2009 Stonestreet Alexander Mountain Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($35)--rich with pineapple and passion fruit, elegant, fuller mouthfeel than most wines of this varietal. Beautiful wine!
2008 Stonestreet Broken Road Chardonnay ($40)--as we drove up the property, I was able to see the single vineyard this Chardonnay came from. Another very rich, well balanced wine with flavors of fig and pineapple. Very tropical.
2007 Stonestreet Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon ($45)--Wow! Talk about intense! Amazing Cabernet! Currants, plums, cigar box, you name it. Huge fruit packs a giant wallop on the front and the finish never ends!
2006 Legacy ($85)--This beauty is a supermodel! Elegant, velvety, sophisticated Bordeaux-blend. I couldn't get enough of this wine. I would have loved to just sit there all afternoon and sip on this one.
These are amazing wines that everyone should enjoy! What an unforgettable experience! Eventually it was time to go back down the mountain and we took a slightly different route coming down and I was able to see some extraordinary things such as a memorial to Jess Jackson, who passed away recently and one of the homes he and his wife Barbara Banke owned. I have to tell you, I am forever changed by this visit and now that I have seen the wonderful things that this man was able to accomplish and the feeling of "family" that he brought to his company, I will continue to support them and sing their praises. Visiting Monument Ridge is something I will always hold near and dear to my heart.
Once again, I would like to thank Dale Cullins, my wonderful and gracious host, for spending the day showing me all these awesome things. And I would also like to thank my friend, Al Samuelson, for giving me the surprise of my life. I am forever indebted to both of you!
For more information on Stonestreet Winery, please visit stonestreetwines.com. For information on the Kendall Jackson Wine Center and their gardens, visit kj.com.
"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.