California is the 4th largest producer of wine world-wide and Sonoma County is a top destination in California’s Wine Country. Practically every grape grown in California can be found here: Alexander Valley excels at Cabernet Sauvignon production, Dry Creek Valley is home to some of California’s oldest Zinfandel vines, and the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley produce top-notch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Once upon a time wines from Sonoma were considered to be value wines for enthusiasts who couldn’t afford or were frustrated with paying for overpriced Cabernet from Napa. That was then — This is now! Sonoma produces some of the finest wines with highly acclaimed ratings from judges world-wide. Sonoma County, home to (by my last count) 17 AVA’s and more than 500 wineries, grows more Pinot Noir than any other county in the state. Also found in abundance here are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with smaller, but still significant amount of Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel being produced. Sonoma’s best AVA’s include the Russian River Valley, Los Carneros (which is also a part of Napa County), Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, Chalk Hill, and Knights Valley.
It was on Westside Road between Forrestville and Healdsburg that I met up with the Captain (salute) Rick Myllenbeck, while doing a Sommelier review of the latest release of Pinot Noir from Moshin Vineyards. Rick was on a wine-buying tour and I met up with him at the tasting room. We hit not a few tasting rooms in the Russian River Valley and along the way I caught the Sonoma Cellar bug. So when Rick and Beth invited me to review their wine list I was thrilled by the broad wine program they had selected. As a Sommelier, I am always humbled by the privilege of reviewing wine lists because there are so many producers around the world from highly esteemed delimitated regions that predates the Bordeaux Classifications and as historic as the royal decree in 1757 of a closed production district in Tokaj.
As a reviewer I look for the same kind of wines I like when putting together my own lists for my clients: wines that have typicity, character and food-friendliness and that offer good value for the money. I see all of that and more on the Sonoma Cellar wine list. What’s more is that the patrons of Sonoma Cellar will enjoy by-the-flight wines that are, in many cases, wines you would never see by the glass in any restaurant. These are top quality wines with accolades galore to their names. From Best of Class B.R. Cohn to Gold Winner Michel-Schlumberger, the Sonoma Cellar wine list boasts nearly a dozen winners of the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The wines of Sonoma Cellar will intrigue the most sophisticated of palates. I highly recommend Sonoma Cellar as the tasting room par excellence in Alexandria Virginia.
Best of Class: B. R. Cohn 2010 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, Buena Vista 2012 Buena Vista Legendary Badge, Sonoma Coast.
Double Gold: Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2012 Sexton Hill Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Breathless NV Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County, DeLoach Vineyards 2010 Forgotten Vines Zinfandel, Russian River Valley.
Gold: Alexander Valley Vineyards 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Alexander Valley, Balletto Vineyards & Winery 2012 Estate Pinot Gris & Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Hanna 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, MacRostie Winery & Vineyards 2011 MacRostie Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Mazzocco Sonoma Winery 2011 Maple Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Mazzocco Sonoma Winery with four placements for their 2011 Serracino Reserve Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Pony Reserve Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, Briar Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley,
Fascination Red Blend, Dry Creek Valley and Michel-Schlumberger 2010 Estate Notre Cadeaux PorVous, Dry Creek Valley.
The International Wine Review
We were delighted to learn recently about a new wine tasting room and bistro opening in Alexandria, VA called Sonoma Cellar. It is being established by Rick and Elizabeth Myllenbeck, transplants to Virginia from Santa Rosa, California. The Myllenbeck’s know their wine and are on top of the wine scene and wines of Sonoma County which are the focus of their new tasting room. We’ve had the opportunity to examine the initial list of some 180 Sonoma County wineries they plan to work with and we were most impressed. They are small to medium-sized family-owned wineries from all the major AVAs such as Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, and they are distinguished by their quality and distinctiveness. Many of the wineries are not even widely distributed so that being able to taste them in Alexandria will be a big treat for wine enthusiasts. The Myllenbeck’s also plan to offer wines from some 20 Virginia wineries. Those selected are among the industry’s top producers in our opinion, based on our own recent reviews. We are also delighted these wines will be available for tasting in Northern Virginia as some are not widely distributed even within Virginia.
Visitors to Sonoma Cellar will be able to purchase a tasting flight, a glass of wine or wines by the bottle or case for on or off-premise consumption. They can also enjoy their wines with California-inspired dishes that will be served bistro style.
What more can one ask for in the heart of Alexandria!