The Alexander Valley

By Kate Riley June 10, 2013

Just north of Healdsburg off of the 101 Highway is a unique wine growing region in Sonoma County known as the Alexander Valley. The Russian River runs through the heart of it where oak trees and vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, and thrive in the sunshine.

The heart of the Alexander Valley is 45 minutes from our front door and we hadn’t visited in a few years, so we invited some of our good friends along, Dino and Heidi who love to go tasting and exploring (we attended the famous Kendall Jackson Tomato Festival with them last year) and off we went to visit some old favorites and new wineries we’ve never been to before. 

alexander valley winery signs


The region is really beautiful time of year, the sun is warm but still mild, and the tasting rooms are less crowded before late summer and the harvest in the fall when the large crowds arrive. In June you can sit, sip, and stroll among the vineyards, watching the grapes forming on the vine.

grapes on vine alexander valley


We started our afternoon at Hawkes Winery, next door to the famous Jimtown Store where you’ll catch a scenic view of the adjacent vineyards and can grab a bite for lunch.

red chairs looking over vineyard


old vine alexander valley

vineyard view

sliding barn door

jimtown store healdsburg

jimtown menu

jimtown store cookbook

inside jimtown store

colorful seating at hawkes winery


Next up was our favorite spot of the day, the Soda Rock Winery, a very old building but modern winery with tons of charm and a great place to throw a party (they have the best old barn on the property.)  Just as we were arriving a team of Clydesdales pulling a wine tour carriage arrived, the timing was perfect. If you stop by, try their Entourage red wine blend, we loved it so much we brought a few bottles home.

soda rock winery

clydesdales and barn

soda rock doors

soda rock fountain

seating area soda rock

soda rock bottle openers

soda rock entourage

team of clydesdales and tree


Down the highway is Lancaster Winery, a very modern structure with an amazing wine cave but it’s by appointment only so call ahead if you want to get in!  (We didn’t this time so we skipped it.)

lancaster estate winery

lancaster winery wine cave


Hanna Winery is another favorite stop, with a lavender lined drive and an incredibly scenic view of the valley. Beautiful gardens surround the tasting room and there are several places to linger outdoors, definitely worth a visit. Christine Hanna wrote a wonderful cookbook a few years ago, it sits on my shelf at home, and it’s filled with regional recipes by season. 

hanna estate winery

hanna winery healdsburg view

hanna winery table view

alexander valley view

winemaker cooks cookbook


A final stop was the Italian style White Oak tasting room, stroll the the grounds to see the whimsical metal animal structures scattered about, from gorillas to insects.

white oak winery

metal insect sculpture

white oak sculpture

old car white oak winery


We ended our Alexander Valley adventure with an early dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen in the downtown Healdsburg Square, a very elegant place to dine with great food, but be prepared, the portions are small for the price. Bistro Ralph around the corner is a restaurant we prefer but closed for dinner on Sundays, read more about it here.

dry creek kitchen exterior

dry creek kitchen table setting

dry creek kitchen food


If you’re ever in the area, the Alexander Valley is definitely worth a day trip, even two days if you have the time since there are over two dozen of wineries to visit. You never know what you’ll see, everything from chickens roaming the vineyards to scenic views around every bend.

alexander valley wineries map

water tower alexander valley

sunflower and ladybug

free range chickens

stacked wine barrels


If you make the trip, be sure to share your favorite stops in the valley, I’d love to hear them. Cheers!




  1. I used to go to the wine country most every crushing season. The reason I have not in some time is due to a health issue that makes it hard for me to get on a plane (I can take a train though). This is such a lovely lovely area and so peaceful and enjoyable.
    Your pictures bring it all back to me.

  2. So beautiful! I will now be adding Alexander Valley to my next wine country visit.
    I’m from the East Bay but I love making trips to Calistoga, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Glen Ellen. Two weekends ago I took my mom to Glen Ellen for a mother daughter getaway. I wrote about it on my blog if you’d like to check it out. So peaceful and gorgeous. I’m new to your site and I love

  3. Wow! Your photos are incredible. Thanks for the write up. I don’t live too far from there (Sacramento) and now I’m excited to take a weekend trip. Beautiful!

  4. Wow! Breathtaking! I want to be there right now! It’s such a gloomy day in NJ. And as usual your photos are stunning!
    Keep inspiring.
    BTW, I got my copy of the REFRESH magazine.

  5. What a nice afternoon – and your photos are super. I grew up in California and miss visits to the Napa area. I am glad you got out to enjoy the beauitful country in your own backyard!

  6. Perfect timing! We are headed there in Sept. Adding your suggestions to our list!
    Thanks Kate for planning our trip ;)

  7. So funny, my fiance and I were in the area from Sacramento looking at wedding venues. I even mentioned you were at Soda Rock when I saw you pictures on instagram. Would love any tips on Sonoma and Alexander Valley locations. Wedding planning is stressful business.

    • Hi Emily, I was thinking Soda Rock would be a lovely place to have an outdoor wedding, if you like the whole rustic barn backdrop. It looks like they have a few rooms on the property in the adjacent building for staying or prepping (bride and bridesmaids and groomsmen) but I’d give them a call. Alexander Valley is a drive though, about 15-20 minutes off the highway, but scenic!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve never been anyplace like this, but hope to some day soon :)

  9. When visiting my sister, who lives in Mill Valley, CA, we took a wine tour in this same area. We stopped by Jimtown and Hawkes too! It is so beautiful! Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!

  10. Will add these to our list. Our fav is the Hop Kiln Winery along Westside Rd. Outstanding pinot noirs (our favorite in a region of great pinots) but has a very chill vibe, and affordable prices. The winery building is a restored hop kiln, many of which haven’t survived, so it is a neat connection to the historical crop in that area before the vineyards – hops!

    • Sarah we love Hop Kiln, that structure is so cool! Westside Road is Matt’s favorite, our good friend owns De La Montanya winery, try them, they have a Pizza & Pinot event that is so fun, apple orchards and bocce ball too :)

  11. You always have such beautiful photos and really know how to capture things for your readers, that may never get to go to the wineries out in Cali!
    I believe the horses are Belgian Draft Horses, not Clydesdales. Im in St Louis, home of the world famous Clydesdales. Belgians are similar, but have a blonde mane and tend to be lighter in color.
    Both are magnificent beasts!!!

    • Thanks Bonnie, Matt said the same thing, he wasn’t sure either, thanks for clarification! They were giant and so beautiful!

  12. Hi Kate,

    I was wondering which camera and lens you used on this trip? Since it was a short trip did you take your big camera the Nikon D90? I’m still deciding what to get. When I see your beautiful pictures I’m drawn back to the D90. Thanks.

  13. Love that area! David Coffaro is our favorite up there – right past the stop sign as you go out of Healdsburg town proper. They are so casual and friendly with a very drinkable and affordable wine – higher quality for the price point than most in the area. During football season, David lowers a screen and projects the games – college and pro. We love that area and I have family near so I will remember this post when we next visit! Cheers!

    • I’m sorry Lindsey, did you say he lowers a screen during football season? We’ll be there!

  14. My husband and I just got back from Napa two weeks ago and had the best time there. We stayed in Yountville and just explored the area from Calistoga down to Napa. I wanted to leave Sonoma alone so I’d have a reason to go back. ;)

  15. Lovely pictures! I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now (getting inspiration for my first renovation) but love your posts on wine country as well! My boyfriend and I will be headed up to Windsor, CA for the Vineman triathlon in late July and were wondering if you have any restaurant recommendations for that area. There will be three very hungry men and me (probably already tipsy from sipping on wine all day on the sidelines) so a place with good food but not-so-small portions would be great. We’re also going to spend a few days in Sonoma and Napa–can’t wait!

    • There are lots of great restaurants in that area Alison! We love Chinoise Asian bistro for lunch in Windsor, for nice dinners there are several in Healdsburg, we love Bistro Ralph (swankier) and Willi’s Seafood – more casual and great food. Enjoy!

  16. I’m new to your blog, and I grew up in Healdsburg. I live in LA now, but we go up often to visit and I fully intend to move back one day. I’m glad you love our little town!

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