Escape to Alexander Mountain

Move number one, on my recent wine country jaunt with the wife, was a stopover at the Alexander Mountain Estate of Stonestreet Winery. The Alexander Valley is beautiful beyond right or reason: a near-perfect pastoral scene bordered to the east by Alexander Mountain and other peaks of the northern Mayacamas Range, and to the west by a low run of hills separating it from the Highway 101 corridor. The valley floor itself is a patchwork of small, picturesque vineyards, with Stonestreet Winery among them.

We showed up in the late afternoon, about an hour before our reservation at Cyrus in nearby Healdsburg. You drive down a long, elegant, private road among shade trees, with vineyards on both sides, and the winery structure itself is laid out in a tasteful farm-building idiom, with the tasting room front and center and looking up at the mountains.

I’d met winemaker Graham Weerts a few weeks earlier, and he greeted us now in his office. Then he grabbed three wineglasses and a chilled bottle of his Broken Road Chardonnay—which I like a great deal—and led us out to his SUV. Graham is a rugged, outdoorsy South African in his mid-30s, and as he drove us up to the higher-altitude vineyards, from which he draws his fruit—the lower stuff goes to sister operation Kendall-Jackson—I felt that I could tell why K-J founder Jess Jackson likes this guy. Graham is a hardworking craftsman, a guy with a committed, driven interest in his work. He’s been given quite a plum with this job: Alexander Mountain Estate is Jackson’s home property, literally the place he lives, and some of the most interesting vineyard land in Sonoma County. Graham knows this.

In a very small area, Alexander Mountain Estate has a terrific variety of terroir and a very distinctive high-altitude climate, set back from the ocean. The wines are already excellent, and Graham seems to realize there’s a chance to do something beyond excellent. I, for one, am rooting for him.

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