A trip to the Healdsburg area wouldn’t be complete without visiting Antoine Favero. Antoine is a winemaker for several of the Wilson Family Wineries. We’ve met with him a few times at Mazzocco Sonoma in Dry Creek Valley [with a focus on amazing Zinfandels] and at Jaxon Keys in Mendocino County [love those Rhone varietals] but we felt we should expand our reporting so we agreed to meet at Soda Rock Winery in Alexander Valley, which specializes in Bordeaux varietals.
Pulling up to Soda Rock Winery should be very impressive for any first-time visitor. It sure was for us. Visible from the road is the towering figure of Lord Snort, who is directly in front of the sadly burnt-out husk of the original winery and tasting room that was destroyed in the 2019 Kincade fire. The winery building was about 150 years old and was the original site of the Alexander Valley general store and post office. Ken and Diane Wilson purchased the property in the year 2000.
By now, you might be wondering who is Lord Snort, whose photo is included with this article. Lord Snort is a 20,000 steel sculpture created by local artist, Bryan Tedrick. This is the second of his sculptures at a Wilson family winery property, being preceded by the Coyote sculpture at Wilson Winery in the Dry Creek Valley.
Lord Snort actually made his debut at Burning Man – check out this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=edNJ_uGzlmA – and the rumor is he will be there again.
We arrived at Soda Rock a little before Antoine got there and were greeted warmly by tasting room hostess, Madison. She gave us the option of tasting in the refurbished barn or outside among the trees right next to the vineyard and we chose the latter. Although Antoine had planned an afternoon of red wines for us, Madison poured us a couple of whites to get us started. She also brought over some cheeses and charcuterie to nibble on, which are available for purchase with your tasting.
Kenneth Carl Sparkling Brut – blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a kiss of Pinot Meunier. Notes of green apple, ripe pear. Made at the Jaxon Keys winery in Mendocino but available at all of the Wilson family wineries.
2019 Chardonnay Reserve West Soda Rock – Alexander Valley, 100% Chardonnay. Notes of lemon, blood orange and sweet honey.
By now, Antoine had arrived. It was such a pleasure to see him again. Not only is he a great winemaker but the passion he exudes for his craft is infectious. It had clearly rubbed off on Madison who continued to pour the wines and share her thoughts on them.
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Twisted Rail – Alexander Valley near Cloverdale Named for a 2011 abandoned railroad tunnel fire that was originally built in 1898, this wine is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot. Medium color and tannin, big and bright with notes of cigar and black cherry and a dry, clean finish.
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Five Star General – Alexander Valley. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot. The best of the barrels for each varietal go into this. Chocolate, blue and black berry notes with supple and subtle tannins.
2018 Malbec Reserve Runway – Dry Creek Valley near the Mazzocco winery. 77% Malbec, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. Tangy and deep, but brightened up by the Cabernet. Cherry, cedar and leather notes.
2019 Cabernet Franc Warm Springs Ranch – Dry Creek Valley near Lake Sonoma, the wine is 93% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. These vines are at 1700 ft elevation; they get stressed from the high elevation, but are cooled by the nearby afternoon marine breezes. Fruit forward and very well rounded.
2019 Meritage Alexander Valley – Sonoma County. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot. Notes of dark plum fruit along with chewiness from the Cab Franc, with a full mouthfeel and a long finish.
2019 Lord Snort – Sonoma County. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot We might have expected a wine named after a steel sculpture of a wild boar to be frivolous, but we should have known better. This was a serious wine, with lots of depth from the Merlot
2019 Zinfandel Wentworth – Sonoma County. It wouldn’t have been a visit with Antoine without a great Zin; this one is 75% Zinfandel, 20% Primitivo and 5% Petite Sirah. It is named after Fred Wentworth, the original owner of the Alexander Valley general store that housed the Soda Rock Winery before the fire. Tart, fruit-forward, dark fruit, chocolate and vanilla notes, tinge of nutmeg and ginger, herbaceous.
2019 Primitivo Lytton Station – Alexander Valley. 96% Primitivo, 4% Petite Sirah. Persian cucumber nose with vanilla and cinnamon notes, refreshing and cool.
We really enjoyed all of these wines and highly recommend visiting Soda Rock Winery. There is so much local history in the refurbished barn saved from the fire that we found interesting. It made for a leisurely wine tasting afternoon. We would be remiss if we did not remind our readers of the Children of Vineyard Workers Scholarship Fund created by Ken and Diane Wilson in 2002 in collaboration with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. Per the website, this fund has distributed more than $500,000 in scholarships. Antoine administers this program and was excited to tell us that one of their recipients had just gotten accepted into Yale. Wow, talk about life-changing!
Soda Rock Winery
8015 CA-128, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Please note there is also a tasting room in downtown Healdsburg:
409A Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.