BrokeAss Gourmet Alexander Valley Wine Adventure
I have really excellent friends. It’s true. Friends so supportive of me and of BrokeAss Gourmet, that on Sunday, they piled into cars and made their way from San Francisco to my parents’ home in Santa Rosa, CA to join me on a most excellent adventure—a mini-tour of cheap/free Alexander Valley wineries. We were tired of the crowds and overpriced tasting scene in Sonoma and Napa. We wanted to relax and sip delicious wine in gorgeous scenery—not fight to get a spot at the bar in the midst of multiple bachelorette parties, as in Sonoma and Napa. I am no wine expert, but I do love just about any activity that involves drinking wine, sunshine and good friends. And so, the BrokeAss Gourmet Alexander Valley Wine Adventure was born.
The day began with frittata, sticky cinnamon rolls, fresh figs from my parents’ tree, heirloom tomatoes from Paul’s mom’s garden and plenty of coffee to go around. Once we had fueled up and settled our stomachs (some of us had “had a few too many White Russians” the night before…), we divided into cars and made our way north to the Alexander Valley, land of unpretentious, inexpensive and free wineries.
Our first stop (after a little confusion on the way—GoogleMaps = not so awesome) was deLorimier, in Geyserville, where an extremely friendly pourer charmed us with generous pours and loaded us up with free wine magazines, maps and coupons. Generally I’m not a fan of Merlot, but I enjoyed the plummy, soft-tannin-y 2008 version she was pouring so much, I bought a bottle for $23. The open, warm, tasting room was welcoming and casual-feeling while still being classy and attractively designed. There was no charge for tasting and we left with goodies and great pointers.
Next, we made our way to Sausal Winery, a tiny tasting room set on lush grounds in Healdsburg. Again, there was no fee for tasting and the staff was incredibly attentive and friendly. None of the wines blew me away, but they were still enjoyable. Here’s the thing about Sausal though—there are cats everywhere. I’m not even talking about real live cats—there were a few wandering around, yes, but what stood out the most at Sausal was the cat-wine paraphernalia. Cat coasters, cat wine charms, cat wine stoppers, t-shirts with pictures of cats drinking wine. If you’re into that kind of thing, Sausal is the winery for you.
Onward we moved, our allergies only slightly irritated by the kitties at Sausal, to Hanna Winery. Paul (the boyscout of outings—always prepared) had researched Hanna ahead of time and determined that its tastings are not actually free, but actually cost $5. Fortunately, Paul also discovered and printed out several of these coupons, so we were covered. Our pourer, it turned out, went to high school with me (go Panthers), and so we chatted as he poured a delicious ‘05 Cabernet, a black-cherry-ish Pinot Noir and a delicious, refreshing Rosé. The Rosé originally cost a mere $15 and was on sale for just over $10. Our pourer, Ryan poured generously, was incredibly knowledgeable about the winery’s products and paid close attention to us. Ultimately, his good customer service paid off when we bought several very well-priced bottles.
Finally, as the sun was setting, we made our way to Field Stone Winery, also in Healdsburg, where we’d heard there was port. Castle-like architecture surrounded the tiny tasting room where we were greeted by what I believe was a husband-and-wife pouring team. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the pourers came out from behind the bar to hand glasses of wine to some members of our group who hadn’t made their way up to the bar yet like a gracious host greeting her guests. Again, there was no tasting fee and the pours were heavy and plentiful. One of our group members wasn’t drinking whites and so was offered different reds as the rest of us tasted whites. The port, served with complementary chocolate, was a sweet finish to a beautiful day.
Our cheeks flushed from the wine sunshine and our trunks full of newly acquired bottles, we headed back to the city to reenter the real world. Lesson learned: Alexander Valley is where it’s at for a budget-friendly, crowd-free, wine adventure.
And also cats.