A DEEP DIVE INTO ALEXANDER VALLEY
WITH ARROWOOD WINEMAKER,
I’ve been working with vineyards from Alexander Valley for the past ten years, and it still fascinates me how vineyard sites in the region express themselves so differently while still maintaining a signature style of the region. Site expression is at the core of my winemaking philosophy, which makes the Alexander Valley a really intriguing place to make wine from.
It helps to know a bit about the geography to better understand the wines that come from here. Alexander Valley is a long stretch of land running northwest from the border of Chalk Hill and Knights Valley up to the Mendocino County line. The Russian River runs through the center of the valley while the northeastern part of the region is composed of the Mayacamas mountain range. The AVA is diverse in both climate and topography, with the northern side of the valley considerable warmer than the southern end and the different pockets of hillside and mountain lend to various soil types and exposures to sun and fog.
Our vineyards are located in the southern part of the region, primarily on benchland of the Mayacamas, offering a moderate climate conducive to nice even ripening. From these sites, I make two different Cabernet Sauvignons: Alexander Valley Cabernet and Vales Edge single vineyard Cabernet.
For the Alexander Valley Cabernet, I aim to make a wine that highlights what I believe express the strengths of the region: well-retained acid and freshness, classic Cabernet varietal character, violet and blue fruit aromas, framed and very elegant tannins when aged long in barrel. It’s really when blending the three vineyard sites (Jimtown, Fieldstone and Vales Edge vineyard) together that a harmonious expression of the region exists.
Vales Edge vineyard is located at the very southeast corner of the Alexander Valley AVA, on the cusp of being part of both Chalk Hill and Knights Valley. This unique location has coined the name “Vales Edge,” which is really just a poetic way of saying “Edge of the Valley.” The vineyard is composed of three small parcels of Cabernet. Two of those blocks sit higher at elevation (450 ft) and are older plantings, yielding small berries with impressively structured tannins. The lower elevation block gives bright and intense violet aromatics that are so distinct that in 2014, when I first encountered this vineyard, I was convinced it needed to go into bottle on its own. I waited until 2016 to release its inaugural vintage, when I felt that the vineyard was being managed at the highest level and had more of a vision of how to express this site in a single bottling. Since then, the wine has consisted of a barrel selection that includes both the upper and lower blocks, offering a true reflection of the site.
The 2018 vintage was uneventful in the best of ways. As a result of a moderate and consistent growing season, this wine exhibits generous ripeness along with plush and ready tannins that will greet you warmly upon release. Feel free to keep a few bottles back in the cellar for up to 15-20 years, as the aromatics will unfold and evolve even more with this vintage.
Kristina Shideler, Winemaker