Saturday, August 11, 2012

Kiwi Comparisons in Sonoma, CA

So…I know this is technically a NZ wine blog, but I took a trip to Sonoma/Healdsburg recently (in fact, my "about me" photo was taken in the Dry Creek Valley area of Healdsburg!) and couldn’t pass up the chance to tell you about a few places I visited.
The first place, which inspired the title of this piece, was Medlock Ames. When you visit the Medlock Ames website, the first photo that pops up is of sheep grazing in a field. If that doesn’t automatically make you think there will be an NZ connection, I don’t know what would.
Medlock Ames is an absolutely gorgeous property with the utmost attention taken to organic & sustainable farming & wine making processes. Located just outside of Healdsburg, in the Alexander Valley area, this winery was started in 1998 by two young men just out of college. They have a tasting room on Alexander Valley Road, but their true pride & joy is their 375 acre ranch, about 20 minutes away, nestled among quiet, windy roads and just next to a wildlife reserve. I was lucky enough to visit and here are some of the photos from the tour:
One of five ponds that collects rain water to be used to water the vineyards.
Solar panels collect energy to power the entire winery, 100%!
One of Medlock Ames wine storage areas. It was so beautifully lit.
They make a small variety of wines (only 5 varietals at the moment: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Bordeaux blend *not pictured*) but have a wide range of different vintages for tasting. I was lucky enough to sample a few:

Straight from the Medlock Ames website, they sum it up best:
• We farm and craft tiny production, high quality, artisan wines in an ethical way
• Our dedication to sustainability is a way of life, and we love what we do
• We are 100% organically farmed and 100% solar-powered and advocate progressive, creative farming
• Our eco-friendly ranch is tucked away on the edge of Alexander Valley atop Bell Mountain

• We are wine industry leaders in environmental accountability & sustainability
The reason I chose to write about this winery is that most of the farming in NZ is sustainable. If you can't make it all the way to NZ, you might want to start with a trip to Alexander Valley and Medlock Ames to get a taste of what NZ is up to. The sustainability is so important in NZ that NZ wine growers have committed themselves to being 100% sustainable by this years’ vintage, and if they achieve this, they will be the first country in the world to do so. (Read more about it here!) Medlock Ames commitment to sustainability is very similar to what is being done across the country in New Zealand. If only more wineries held themselves to this standard…
Another winery I visited which is worth a mention is Envolve Winery in downtown Sonoma Square. If you are a fan of the hit ABC reality show “The Bachelor,” you will know that Envolve is former contestant and bachelor Ben Flajnik’s winery which he owns with two friends. I will admit my expectations were low for this winery, solely based on this reality show connection, but I was absolutely blown away. Tucked away at the back of Sonoma Square, when you first walk in, you are greeted by a warm, inviting environment that feels very homey, with huge pictures of grapes & vines filling the back wall, pillows & beautiful cream colored walls (and a quiet, tucked away outdoor patio with a huge water feature). When you start to learn more about this winery (and taste the wines), it is a great experience.
Envolve is also committed to organic, biodynamic, sustainable farming, harvesting and wine making processes, and most of their wines are 100% organic & biodynamic (if you aren't familiar with biodynamic farming, read a little about it here)...not an easy thing to do, and definitely not easy to make taste so wonderful. I sampled quite a few wines from their lineup and was really impressed. A favorite was their Bordeaux blend, so limited they don't sell it on the website (it is about $68 a bottle). Their sauv blanc was very reminiscent of NZ SB, very crisp, clean & fruit forward (they have two labels, the Epilogue SB was much more characteristic of California, but the Envolve was very NZ!). These guys are doing great things and I look forward to their label growing. (As a side note, they are really awesome about interacting on all forms of their social media, especially twitter, and engage extremely well with their consumers…a HUGE plus in my book! My vote: make a mental note about this winery. It is going places!)

Learn more about these wineries:

Medlock Ames
Tasting Room & Bar (they have an after hours bar open seven days a week after 5pm that features cocktails using ingredients from their garden!)
3487 Alexander Valley Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448

Winery & Ranch
13414 Chalk Hill Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448

Contact them for a variety of different experiences including wine tasting, ranch tours & more!

Social Media:

Envolve Winery
Tasting Room
27 E. Napa Streeet, Suite A
Sonoma, CA 95476

Open seven days a week from 11am-6pm, tasting flights range from $5-$15.

Social Media:

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Sonoma/Healdsburg adventure where I recommend a few other wineries I think are worth a visit!

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