While I have a propensity to describe Alexander Valley as a bit like the central valley in the way the topography goes, it does have a few differences (ok, so maybe more than a few differences). Namely a few rolling hills, to which one of them is where Foley Sonoma sits atop on. Welcome to Foley Sonoma.
While you may think a winery sitting atop one of the only hill tops in the valley would be seen from dozens of miles away, you’d stand corrected. It’s beautifully concealed, flocked by a slew of grapevines and trees that somewhat encapsulates the building, almost blending it into the surrounding hillside. In fact, upon driving up to the gate that bears the name of the winery, I didn’t even see it upon approach.
After driving up the slight incline and reaching the parking area, you’re immediately presented with a gorgeous lawn, the most comfortable sofa and cornhole. While I imagine the game of corn hole rotates around the property, I’m pretty sure the large sofa is a fixture on that lawn. It’s in a great spot, nestled by the edge of the grass, overlooking vineyards while having natural shade from the trees ahead. But don’t get too comfortable there initially. Wine tasting lies ahead down the vine-covered walkway.
Just as I was about to hang a sharp right and head into the tasting room, like a moth to a light, a 4-person table sits just outside of the tasting room doors with one of the most breathtaking scenes for wine tasting. While the hills rise a bit, the tasting room matches that height, so you are left standing above, probably a good 20 feet, the valley floor. Take that and give me a seating for a few of my friends and great wine and I might be here for a while. But alas, I need to get into that tasting room.
The tasting room itself is as grand as the outside seating. Large windows look out to the surrounding vineyards while a modern grey brick wall flanks the opposite direction. A large curved stone tasting counter that could probably fit a good 30-40 people holds the room. A unique feature, I don’t see very often in tasting rooms, are 4 and 6-person tables near the back wall. A great spot to kick back inside the tasting room when the temps outside hit the triple digits.
The tasting menu is as unique as the modern architecture of the building. Being in Alexander Valley, I expected a Chardonnay. But was pleasantly surprised when the first wine I’d be trying was Semillon (pronounced Say-mill-ee-own). A native to France but not common in Alexander Valley. While I more closely connect the noble Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc with the Alexander Valley, it’s actually the Semillon that has a deeper connection to the valley. For the valley is most known for it’s Bordeaux-style growing condition and, like Bordeaux, France, you can find the quiet Semillon, here as well in the valley. At least at Foley Sonoma.
Following the Semillon, I was presented with a Russian River Pinot rosé. If you’re a fan of the Russian River spice that encapsulates the region’s Pinot characteristic, you’ll find it in Foley’s rosé. It also had such a beautiful deep salmon color.
The tasting was rounded out with a Zinfandel, a Sangiovese and a Merlot to finish up with. All 3 reds are of the lighter style with the Merlot being more of a medium body. Despite the flack that Merlot has taken over the years, it’s a hearty grape. It’s the Keith Richards of grapes, if Cabernet was Mick Jagger. And let’s face it. Mick’s solo career only went so far without Keith.
There are other wines to purchase on the tasting menu, including a sparkling and a Chardonnay. While you’re tasting, you might notice some of the wines might bear the former name of the winery: Stryker Sonoma, before the winery was purchased and re-named. Same great wine, just of a former name.
The tasting fee is $20 if you’re just tasting at the counter, or $30 per person if you would like a seated tasting around the property accompanied with some meats, cheeses and olives. If you plan on the seated tasting, factor in at least an hour for tasting and nibbling. While the guide online says approx. an hour, I’d say it would easily eclipse that. And why would you really want to leave with the views presented at Foley?
The seating options continue outside the other door of the tasting room on a deck with an ample amount of shade (again, it can get hot on a summer day). If you’re wanting more grass and a fountain nearby along with some more comfy sofas, head downstairs where you’re almost eye-level with the grapes and you’ll have a serene fountain that adds just a touch of white noise to the immediate surroundings.
The winery is artfully crafted to naturally fit into the valley, even if it’s quite large and, as I call it, quietly modern. The colors of the winery blend into the golden hills. The wines are an echo to the property, an understated elegance. That’s Foley Sonoma.