Which Do You Prefer? Dry Creek Valley AVA or Alexander Valley AVA

SSU Wine Sense Board and Guests

SSU Wine Sense Board and Guests

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – Which do you prefer – Dry Creek or Alexander Valley? This was the question on the minds of the more than 40 students who attended the SSU Wine Sense tasting last Thursday. In the end it was impossible to choose a favorite, because they were both excellent! But everyone learned much about these two distinctive and different AVAs located in Northern Sonoma County.

Dry Creek Valley Wine Association 

Location in Northern Sonoma County on the West side of 101, the Dry Creek Valley Wine Association was created in 1989. It is made up of 60+ wineries and 150 grape growers. They share a commitment to growing high-quality fruit to produce world-class wines and an interest in sustainable farming practices to ensure a pristine valley for future generations.   Dry Creek Valley is world-famous for its big, hearty Zinfandels, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone varietals.

Ann, a representative from the Dry Creek Valley AVA, led the students through a virtual tour of the Dry Creek Valley, explaining the typically foggy climate, metamorphic and sedimentary soils and the most common varietals, which are Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sonoma AVA Map from Sonomawine.com

Sonoma AVA Map from Sonomawine.com

Next she poured three of the most popular wines from the Dry Creek Valley for us. The first, being an organically grown 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Quivira Winery. Followed by a 2011 Grenache from Mounts Winery and a 2012 Zinfandel from Mazzacco Winery.  

Alexander Valley and Stryker Sonoma Winery

Located in Northern Sonoma County on the East side of 101, the Alexander Valley is 22 miles long, has 26 wineries and 130 grape growers. It is known for its world-famous Cabernet Sauvignon, and other Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition, the gravelly loam soil produces well-rounded Chardonnay wines, as well as some Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. 

Brian Shapiro from Stryker Sonoma Winery represented the Alexander Valley that evening.  Stryker mixes tradition with modern technology to create award-winning wines. The winemaking is focused on creating wines that speak for themselves. The tasting room won the Architectural Design Award for Northern California by AIA, due to its beauty and harmony within the landscape.  Their philosophy is “bold but thoughtful” which is evident in everything from their wines to their tasting room.

Brian poured three amazing wines, a 2012 Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon – all made in small quantities to ensure the highest quality wines. 

Favorite Wines of the Evening

At the end of the tasting, the students were asked to vote on their favorite wines.  The winners were:

ZinmalbecMazzacco Winery Zinfandel 2012 ($52): Composed of 95% Zinfandel grapes and 5% Petite Syrah, this wine offers hints of raspberry, boysenberry and currants, with a bit of habanero pepper.

Stryker Sonoma Malbec 2012 ($50): Blueberries, pepper jam and cedar give this wine a rustic bouquet followed with cherries and a hint of baker’s cocoa.

Blind Wine Tasting Battle with SSU Students and Quivera Winery

By Guest Author: Jenna Riggan – The latest SSU Wine Sense club meeting was full of conversation and member participation. Quivira Vineyards and Winery shared three of their lovely biodynamic wines with 23 students, who were both intrigued and impressed with the elements involved in biodynamic winemaking. Our chefs prepared a hearty meal of Lamb Shepherd’s Pie, a mixed green salad with fig vinaigrette, and an insanely delicious rum cake to be paired with the Quivira wines. For a fun twist, SSU Wine Sense officers also organized a blind tasting competition, where SSU Wine Sense members (and Quivira guest Nicholas Amtower!) were randomly assigned to teams and faced the challenge of deducing the varietal and price range of five different wines.

Favorite wine of the evening  

The favorite wine of the evening from Quivira Vineyards and Winery was the 2010 Quivira Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley ($32). However, this wine is not your typical Sauvignon Blanc, it was actually 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Viognier. The nose on this wine was typical of a Viognier, with aromatics such as orange blossom, melon and white peach, as well as a body that stayed true to the refreshing, acidic and juicy characteristics of a Sauvignon Blanc. Quivira Vineyards and Winery is located in Dry Creek Valley, with a beautiful biodynamic estate and a total of 93 acres of vines. For more information, see http://www.quivirawine.com/index.html 

Let the blind tasting battle begin!  

Our members enthusiastically dove into discussions of what their wine could possibly be. Officers could hear questions and comments such as “Isn’t that too dark to be a Pinot Noir?” and “I think this is a Chardonnay because it feels buttery and creamy…but it’s definitely an affordable one.” The blind tasting allowed SSU Wine Sense members to open up and put the knowledge they accumulated from wine club meetings to the test.  After tallying the scores, we can say that while our members were less adept at accurately guessing the price ranges, they were certainly more accurate in determining the varietals. And…they had fun while doing it!