Friday, August 3, 2012

Soda Rock Winery – The “Alamo” of Healdsburg, California

I have been to the Alexander Valley three times, once in the summer of 2011 and twice this year. One of the wineries I visited liked my video of their estate on YouTube and requested that I make a video for them (without the “California Wine Tasting Adventures” into.) so I made five videos with alternative music sound tracks and hand delivered them on a DVD.[1] While there I visited two of their neighbors; Soda Rock Winery and Chalk Hill Estate.

Soda Rock is steeped in history and the face of it looks a bit like the Alamo and it is the original site of the Alexander Valley general store and post office. It was once the central hub of activity for the valley and historic records indicate that the first bonded winery on the property dates back in 1880.

The property was purchased by Ken and Diane Wilson in 2000. After years of neglect, this local landmark had fallen into serious disrepair. Recognizing the property’s historic value and appreciating the architecture of the stone buildings and water tower, Ken launched Soda Rock’s long-term restoration plan.

The same care and attention to detail found in the Soda Rock restoration project is evident at the Wilsons’ other winery properties as well - deLorimier, Jaxon Keys, Matrix, Mazzocco, Pezzi King and their namesake Wilson Winery. Their affinity for Sonoma County is reflected their vineyards practices - a commitment to the stewardship and sustainable farming throughout Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River Valleys.

Diane Wilson and Antoine Favero are the winemakers at Wilson, deLorimier, Matrix and Soda Rock and her husband Ken manages the vineyards and wineries. Together they farm over 500 acres of vineyard land in Sonoma County’s most renowned appellations that stem from the mountains, hillsides and benchland of Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys to the fog influenced vines of the Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. 

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

The first two wines I tasted were both Sauvignon Blancs but from different appellations that they had very distinctive differences. The first was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc - Mendocino County. This wine displays aromas of grapefruit, lemon zest, orange peel and a distinctive minerality. On the palate it has crisp acidity, is light bodied with a lingering citrus finish. This wine sells for $19 a bottle. 

The second wine was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc - Alexander Valley. This wine is more tropical with hints of mango, peaches, melon, canned pears and lemon meringue.  On the palate it is rounder and medium bodied and it also has a lingering finish. This wine sells for $22 a bottle.

Sauvignon Blanc has been my go to “summer wine” this year and I prefer them on the crisper citrus side, so I brought a bottle of the Mendocino County home.

The third wine was the 2009 Chardonnay Reserve - Alexander Valley. This wine is midway between the crisper stainless steel style and the full bodied oaky MLF California Chards. It has notes of apples, pears, Crème brûlée, butter, vanilla, and oak but it isn’t “over the top.” A nice Chardonnay if you like this style and it is at a fair price for $36 a bottle.

The first red wine was the 2009 Zinfandel – Wentworth. A well balanced Zin that isn’t overbearing with any particular aromas or flavors dominating the others. On the nose I picked up raspberries, blackberries, a hint of dried black fruits, followed by subtle aromas of cherries, spice, and vanilla. On the palate it is soft and spicy with very ripe blackberries and a hint of pepper on the finish. This wine sells for $29 a bottle.

I then tasted the 2009 Zinfandel - Rockpile Reserve. On the nose it displays red fruits, namely raspberries and plums, followed by an earthy minerality, oak and spice. On the palate the wine is focused and concentrated, the tannins are supple and well balanced, it is full bodied with sufficient acidity to provide excellent structure and backbone. A really nice wine but $60 is far more than I have ever paid for a Zinfandel.

One of the most surprising wines was the 2006 Meeks Merlot – Alexander Valley. The Meeks Merlot is named for Tom Meeks, winery/property owners from 1904-1925. This is a Cabernet lover’s Merlot, it is BIG with loads of cherries, red currants, chocolate and pie crust. On the palate it has firm tannins that grip the teeth and gums, good acidity and a long (medium +) finish. This wine is reasonably priced at $28 a bottle.

The seventh wine I tasted was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – “The General.” This is a powerful wine, dark purple color to the rim. On the nose it has vibrant aromas of cassis, blackberries, and a hint of dark chocolate. On the palate this wine is voluptuous with a mouth full of black currants, ripe black cherries and plums. It is somewhat tannic, very firm and it has a medium length finish. A nice wine but a bit steep at $50 a bottle.

The eighth pour was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – “Five Star General.” This wine demands your attention. On the nose it is concentrated and intense with layers of cigar box, blackberries and black currants, black licorice, mint and a lingering stony minerality on the finish. If I was going to buy a BIG Cab from Soda Rock I’d spend the extra $15 and buy this one for $65.

The final wine was the 2007 Cabernet Franc - Sonoma County. On the nose I picked up raspberries, blackberries, hints of cherry, vanilla, oak and a touch of spice. What I particularly appreciated was that it has NO green notes that I frequently find in Cab Francs. On the palate it has a silky texture and a mélange of wild fruits followed by a touch black pepper and spice. If you like Cab Francs, this is a nice one for $32 a bottle and I brought one home.

To see more pictures of Soda Rock Winery, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Soda Rock Winery
8015 Highway 128
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Phone: 1-707-433-3303

[1] “I work for wine!” Other wineries interested in having a custom video created please contact me at: