In the heart of Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, nestled between grapevines and the area’s rolling foothills, is the modern yet rustic Medlock Ames Tasting Room and Alexander Valley Bar. This tasting room is the only place in town where you can enjoy all of the lovely wines made by Medlock Ames just up the road at their Bell Mountain vineyard. And just as they shout out the last call, the bar next door starts serving up fresh, garden-inspired cocktails using ingredients grown on location. It’s all too convenient, well…convenient, tasty and so very much appreciated.
As I have said before, they make some of the best Californian wine you’ll ever drink. So where to start? Well, if you can get your hands on it, I suggest their first vintage–a 2001 Merlot. It’s like blackberry cobbler. And it’s ready for drinking now, so do not cellar this wine. Another favorite of mine is their Rosé, and I say that as a non-Rosé fan. It proves that Ames Morison (the winemaker) is a genius. The wine tastes like a freshly picked organic strawberry.
Now, admittedly, having your tasting room separate from the vineyard kinda goes against a very established wine country paradigm. And at first, I confess, I did find it a bit strange. But Ames explains in the video below the very reason for that decision.
I visited the tasting room and bar a few months back while on a three week road trip in a borrowed Chevy Volt. Located at the intersection of Alexander Valley Road and Highway 128, the place has been a neighborhood fixture since the early 1900s when it was better known as the Alexander Valley Store and Bar. The bar part was added on during the ’60s where it quickly became a favorite amongst the Easy Rider crowd. And that history exists in more than just spirit at the new tasting location.
Reclaimed wood from the original structure has been reused throughout the property. The garden (which is organic but not certified) is a sea of citrus fruits, chili peppers, vegetables and herbs, such as pineapple sage and cilantro. No fancy imported olives or overpriced picnic-ware are found here. Just good wine and canned produce from the garden. And the place has been known to host a farmers market or two, as a bit of a throwback to the “store” it used to be. If anything, the seasonally inspired cocktails, like this Lavender Splash cocktail, are a great reason to visit!
With Medlock Ames, it’s all about delivering a distinct sense of place. And I think that is why this annexed tasting room really works. The tasting room and bar follow many of the same tenets as the 400-acre vineyard located at Bell Mountain. The vineyard is certified organic, but the tasting room gardens are not. However, they are farmed in the exact same manner. The winery located at Bell Mountain is 100-percent solar powered and also happens to be a gravity flow system, which benefits both the wine and their electricity bill. I am telling you, this place is top notch when it comes to sustainability.
If you haven’t been to Alexander Valley, I suggest you visit. This northern Sonoma region is what most of the area used to be like before those Napa-esque values started spilling over the county lines. It’s extremely welcoming, homey and downright fun!
The Alexander Valley Bar best captures this spirit. It’s kinda like Cheers. And even if someone there doesn’t know your name, it’s just a matter of time.