Francis Ford Coppola Winery

A Weekend in…Alexander Valley

Alexander Valley, located in north Sonoma County just a hop, sip and jump from Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley, is a feast for all of the senses. Here, you’ll find a combination of lush vegetation, rolling hills, majestic mountains and – of course – 15,000 acres of planted vineyards.  

“The Valley, which stretches approximately 25 miles from north to south, was named for Cyrus Alexander, a pioneer and explorer in the 19th century who helped to settle what is now modern-day Sonoma County,” says Beth Costa, executive director of Wine Road, an association of cutting-edge wineries and lodgings across the northern portion of the county.

While one of the most diverse climates to grow grapes, Alexander Valley is most often lauded for its world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Truly, the Cabs are some of the best in the world, but don’t sleep on the Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc in the region either,” says Costa. “French Syrah and Italian Sangiovese are even growing quite well here.”

The region is also known for its hospitality, making it the perfect weekend escape for oenophiles and foodies alike.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

When planning a visit to Alexander Valley, there are two spots that may serve as the anchors of your visit. The first is Jordan Vineyard & Winery.

Jordan was founded in 1972. That year is of particular importance as it marked the introduction of a handful of wineries in northern California that helped put California wine back on the map. (Prohibition, as you might imagine, transformed the area from vineyards to other agricultural endeavors for several decades.) Without those wineries, Jordan included, what is now Napa and Sonoma would look very, very different than the adult Disneyland that it is today.

The winery is not only home to some of the best Chardonnays and Cabernets in the world, but they know a thing or two about hospitality. In fact, they will rock your socks well beyond all those scintillating sips.

Let’s start with the visual as you approach Jordan. Set across 1,200 total acres that feature olive oil making, beekeeping, foraging spaces and even a culinary garden in addition to the rows and rows of planted vines, the one thing Jordan doesn’t just have a tasting room. Well, not a basic tasting room, at least. Instead, it has a 58,000-sq.-ft. chateau on property. How big is that? An NFL football field is 57,600 square feet…so, yeah. It is big. Within the ivy-covered palace are winemaking facilities, an ample gourmet professional kitchen, dining room, tasting library, wine cellars and even guest suites.

Yes, guest suites.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery Chateau

To this day, Jordan is among the only vineyards with luxury accommodations right on property, offering three one-bedroom Chateau Suites and the two-bedroom Wildwood Cottage. The Suites feels as if transported to France, complete with antiquities from the Louis XIII, XV and XVI periods. There are also all the luxuries one might expect in a modern resort, from Wi-Fi and flat-screen televisions, French press coffee service, daily breakfast, concierge services and massive en suite bathrooms. Wildwood is perfect for a girlfriend getaway or couples’ trip as it features a full kitchen, living room, master bedroom with en suite bathroom downstairs, a guest bedroom loft upstairs, separate full bathroom and two decks with a view that will take your breath away. Those staying in both the Suites or Wildwood also have complimentary round-trip transportation to Downtown Healdsburg for dinner if requested and assistance with reservations thanks to the winery’s many local partners.

The Suites and Wildwood are open to Rewards members, which is another element that sets Jordan apart. Rather than a traditional wine club, where you pay a fee quarterly for a shipment of wines and get discounts on tastings and events, Jordan offers anyone who wants to simply join their email list to be a Rewards Member, complete with 3,000 points to start. Then, if you buy anything from Jordan ever, they give you three points for every dollar spent toward private lunches, VIP tastings and even stays at the Chateau and in Wildwood. To give an idea, a stay starts as low as 5,000 points and $250 for a weekend night.

Whether staying overnight or not, and whether a Rewards Member or not, the tasting experiences on property are nearly endless. Carve out at least two hours – three for some experiences – and make reservations in advance for any booking. If you have never been, reserve three hours and book the Estate Tour and Tasting. After enjoying some welcome bubbly and a continental breakfast, your group will board a Mercedes Sprinter for a behind-the-scenes look at all 1,200 acres with specialty sips along the way. After the lively tour – a school field trip, this is not! – you will be treated to an outdoor tasting of the brand’s Chardonnay and Cabernets, including the library versions not readily available elsewhere, and both an olive oil tasting and pairing luncheon on the hillside.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

So, what is the other anchor of the trip, you ask? That would be the iconic Francis Ford Coppola Winery (pictured at top of page). We always visit this property – especially in the summer months – for what we call a DSB. That stands for a dip, a sip and a bite.

A dip as in dip in the pool. Coppola Winery has an actual pool on property – technically two that lay side by side overlooking the vineyards – for guests, complete with outdoor cocktail bar and loungers. There are even these cabanalike structures that allow for ample space to change and relax in the shade called cabines (Italian for “cabin”) available for rent.  

There is also a restaurant that uses seasonal ingredients and features Coppola’s own personal favorite dishes, some even with stories on the menu of how and why they are special to him. Oh, before the actual food comes, there are also these little balls of love they bring to the table. Do yourself a favor and cozy up to the server so you get extras. They are a cross between savory doughnuts and almost sopapillas.

Outside of these two already impressive attractions are the actual wine – of which there is a lot – and artifacts from several of Coppola’s most famous films, including The Godfather. There is even a trophy case with many of the Academy Awards on display and the famed desk direct from the movie set out for all to enjoy.

When wine tasting, best to pace yourself. Coppola has so many brands and sub-brands in the portfolio, you could spend an entire weekend there attempting to taste them all. Like The Godfather movies themselves, certainly you can enjoy them all back-to-back, but sometimes it pays to re-watch and re-visit them one at a time to savor them properly.

Robert Young Estate Winery

Further Exploration

A proper weekend in Alexander Valley should also include some of the region’s other gems, namely Alexander Valley Vineyards, deLorimier Winery, J. Rickards Winery, Meeker Vineyard, Pech Merle Winery, Ramazzotti Wines, Robert Young Estate Winery, Silver Oak Cellars, Soda Rock Winery, Trentadue Winery and Trione Vineyards & Winery.

When seeking somewhere to stay, given its proximity to Dry Creek and Russian River Valley, hot spots like Farmhouse Inn, Harmon House, Honor Mansion (currently closed amid an upgrade) or even the new Montage Healdsburg. You can also explore out a bit and consider spots like Geyserville Inn, The Pinschower Inn, Hotel Trio or Dry Creek Inn as well.

And though many of the experiences in the area include epicurean adventures along with the wines, there are some truly tasty options for full-on meals in the area including Catelli’s, Diavola, Geyserville Grille and Bravas.

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