The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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{ }  15 valley that eventually became the home of Jordan Vineyard & Winery in 1976. As the vineyards increased, the word spread to Napa. As a result, Justin Meyer and Raymond Duncan made their first Silver Oak Cabernet with fruit from Alexander Valley in 1972. Today, the win - ery owns three separate vineyards which feature attributes used in its annual single bottling from Alexander Valley. When asked to compare the flavor profiles of the separate wines he makes with fruit from Alexander Valley and Napa Valley, Silver Oak Winemaker Nate Weis says the differences are much harder to define than most would think. "For start - ers, both Alexander Valley and Napa Valley have diverse climates, soils, aspects and elevations. When the blends are made, our Alexander Valley Cabernet leans more towards the grape's sauvage roots. While there is bright berry and some dark fruit character, it is distinctly varietal, having a spicy and savory edge that Silver Oak embraces as part of the Alexander Valley's heritage." Weis added that his Alexander Valley wine tends to be more accessible earlier which he attributes to working with grapes from cooler sites. Another popular style is the single-vine - yard selections. Rodney Strong Vineyards started this trend when they crafted the first Sonoma County single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon made with estate fruit from their Alexander's Crown Vineyard in 1974. Today, the winery farms 350 acres of the family- owned hillside vineyards, which includes Cabernet Sauvignon grapes used for three separate bottlings from Alexander Valley. Ryan Decker, who oversees vineyard operations for Rodney Strong Vineyards, says each site has its own personality. The first is Alexander's Crown (1971), which features a mixture old and new vines planted near the historic Jimtown Store at the south end of the valley. The second is Brothers Vineyard, a high-elevation vineyard planted on the west-facing slope over look - ing Cloverdale. The third site is Rockaway Vineyard, which is east of Geyserville. A New Wave In addition to using sustainable and organic farming practices, updated water manage- ment systems and eco-sensitive equip- ment, a new wave of grape growers in the region has star ted to make their own wines. An excellent example is the Hawkes label launched by Stephen Hawkes and his son Jake in 2002. Sold at their tasting rooms in Alexander valley and Sonoma, the four estate Cabernet Sauvignons are made with special fruit from the vineyards the family purchased in 1972, 1973 and 1990; the rest is sold to a variety of high- end producers. On an even smaller scale, Trione Winery makes a limited-release Cabernet Sauvignon with fruit exclusively picked from Block Twenty One at the Trione Cloverdale Ranch. Winemaker Scot Covington says he loves the distinctive flavors he gets from this isolated block that was planted in 2001 on a mixture of clay and sand loam soils laid on top of gravel. "To me, the concentrated flavors and smooth tannins are reflective of that par - ticular site and how it naturally balanced with the help of Mother Nature, the age of the vines and our winery's focus on paying attention to all details in the vineyard." PHOTO: KIM CARROLL, COURTESY OF ALEXANDER VALLEY VINEYARDS

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