Taking a brief break from the pork-and-wine orgy this past weekend, Grub Street took a drive up Alexander Valley Road, north of Healdsburg, and happened upon a tasting room we hadn’t previously known about called Medlock Ames. It was kind of rad, and wouldn’t you know, the place is actually part of a cover story in the April issue of Food & Wine. The building, a former general store and bar at the intersection with Route 128, has been completely remodeled and outfitted with various design elements familiar to city folk: sleek lines, Edison bulbs, dark wood, and industrial plumber’s pipe foot rails along the bar of the tasting room. Then there’s the Alexander Valley Bar in back, which opens at 5 p.m., when the tasting room closes — the winery was smart, you see, to hold on to the full liquor license when they took over the building, which had long been a watering hole for locals who didn’t want to drive all the way into town.
The bar, which specializes in garden-to-bar cocktails from the on-site garden, has a beautiful antique table with wooden swivel-out seats, and all the appropriate elements of a trendy S.F. cocktail bar, except out in the middle of the country. (See an example cocktail recipe from bartender Kenny Rochford here.) In order to please regulars who always came to the place in its previous, divey-er incarnation, they always keep a little Budweiser in the fridge. But sadly, as we discovered later, they close at 11 p.m. on Saturdays. So there’s that.
The winery, which is certified organic and up until eight month’s ago only had a tasting room on the premises on Chalk Hill Road, specializes in Cabernet but covers the bases of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot, and Merlot. As Food & Wine explains, the place was founded by college friends Chris Medlock James, who works in finance in San Francisco, and Ames Morison, who serves as winemaker. As an added bonus, there’s a long table where larger groups can sit to taste wines, and they can enjoy fresh Sonoma cheeses and artisan charcuterie for purchase as well.
As folks in the tasting room explained, Food & Wine kind of overplayed the wood-fired pizza oven which sits on the other side of a pétanque court in the gardens, and said that while pizza won’t be a regular feature of the tasting experience, they do plan on doing regular food-and-wine events as the weather warms up. To get in on those, however, you might just need to be in the wine club.
Medlock Ames Tasting Room & the Alexander Valley Bar - 3487 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg - 707.431.8845 - Tasting room open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, bar opens at 5 p.m. and closes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Medlock Ames Winery: Nirvana in Sonoma [Food & Wine]