Napa Valley is one of our favourite spots – good wine, great food and lovely gardens. Sonoma County is its lesser know sibling and is just next to Napa. Whilst the majority of wine-tasters and tourists head to Napa, Sonoma is putting itself on the map with delicious wineries and new restaurants. Medlock Ames in Healdsburg, part of the beautiful Alexander Valley is a wonderful find. The vineyard sits in the heart of rolling country surrounded by hills and beautiful views across the wine county.
The vineyard was opened in 1998 by good friends Chris James and Ames Morison, their want was to open a wine-producing estate that didn’t rely on insecticides, chemical fertilisers or herbicides. Instead all of the farming is organic, solar power provides all the energy needed to run the estate and only 56 of the 375 acres are farmed, the majority of land is left in a natural state. They keep the remaining ground for oaks and wildflowers to grow naturally. Chris and Ames have been keen to retain traditional methods, the property is self-sufficient, too, with five ponds for collecting rainwater, and a huge vegetable garden that produces many staff lunches. The winery building is essentially self-sustaining, with thick stone walls to maintain a cool cellar temperature and lots of windows to let in natural light. The structure is built on several levels, which permits the winemaker to move juice using gravity rather than pumps, a gentle method that prevents bitter flavors from developing. The portfolio includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, a Red Bordeaux Blend, estate bottled olive oil, verjus and preserves.
Image: Food and Wine
We were particularly excited to hear more about their tasting room – which turns into a busy cocktail bar in the evening. There’s an eclectic cocktail menu that, more often than not, uses the fresh ingredients direct from the garden. The cocktails are all inspired by the plants – customers can choose from ginger thyme martinis, spicy margaritas using pepper and fresh coriander or borage cocktails.
If you’re in that neck of the woods – we would recommend a visit and be sure to tell us what you think!