Sonoma
: Alexander Valley and Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVAs

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

The largest and most fully planted of Sonoma county’s many vineyard valleys, Alexander Valley takes in the Russian River watershed upstream of Healdsburg north all the way to the Sonoma–Mendocino county line north of Cloverdale. In 2011, the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA was created within Alexander Valley at its northernmost edge and spilling into mendocino county. If the general history of the area is long, with vines dating back to the 1850s, the particular history of superior varieties is—a few rare plantings excepted—as short here as almost everywhere else in California. Before prohibition, hops and prunes blanketed the Alexander Valley and remained the major crops, along with some plantings of mixed black grapes for bulk red, into the late 1960s and early 1970s. Simi winery started the renaissance in 1970, when a new owner breathed life into a moribund cellar. Chateau Souverain picked up the traces in 1973 and then Jordan Vineyards added a stamp of elegance in 1976. Growth has been steady since then and by 2013 there were more than 50 wineries and 15,000 acres/6,070 ha of vines. kendall-jackson’s 1996 purchase of the mountain vineyards on Gauer Ranch, renamed Alexander Mountain Estate, represented another step forward for Sonoma, while gallo’s acquisition of nearly 1,500 acres/600 ha since 1988 in Alexander Valley alone signalled a new era for both Gallo and Alexander Valley, and encouraged others to follow suit.