The Russian River is known for three things: Chardonnays, Pinots, and wineries tucked away, up roads flanked by redwood trees, or buried up in the pines on the top of the mountain. A majority of wineries are missing something the neighboring regions of Dry Creek Valley & Alexander Valley have: tasting views. Yet MacRostie defies the norm. Welcome to MacRostie Vineyards.
MacRostie Vineyards sits on the Northern end of the Alexander Valley along Westside Rd. I’d venture a guess it’s one of the first vineyards past the iconic Alexander Valley road sign, it’s that far north. Driving up to the vineyard, you’re not truly aware of the awe-inspiring views looking outward on the patios and inside tables. But first a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Say what? A Russian River winery serving up Sauvignon Blanc? That’s the staple white grape of Dry Creek Valley to the north. I would have been more taken aback from the varietal if I wasn’t greeted initially, outside of the tasting room, with said glass. Heck, I couldn’t even get an initial photo (which I was attempting to do) of the front of the winery before a cool and refreshingly crisp Russian River Sauvignon Blanc showed up in hand. I haven’t even stepped foot inside of the winery and the day is already brighter.
I’m game. What’s next? The two attendants asked me if I would like to sit inside or outside. Still grappling with both impeccable customer service and a Sauvignon Blanc in hand in the Russian River, I didn’t exactly have my bearings to answer correctly. I think I said I’ll just go to the tasting bar, essentially choosing option C: none of the above.
Pleasantly, they informed me they do sit-down tastings at MacRostie and I was welcomed to head inside and decide where I wanted to sit. Being it was early on a Thursday morning, there was an ample amount of seating locations for me to choose from. I decided to find one of the outside tables facing northward, toward a vineyard that, I will come to find out, has a storied past. But first, breadsticks.
As soon as I sat down, I was brought water (not to rinse), breadsticks and 3 Pinot-shaped glasses. Can I just take a moment and say how much the proper stemware makes all of the difference? The best customer service and maybe the best wine can often be tarnished by stemware purchase, or what it appears to look like, came from the dollar store. So many wineries miss the mark with this one. But not at MacRostie.
All of a sudden, I was pressed with another sort of question, which flight should I choose? Reflecting on how I failed the prior question outside, I decided to study up and read extensively through all 3 different flights. One set was primarily Chardonnay. The second was a vertical of Pinot Noir and the third was a horizontal of different Pinots produced.
After chewing nervously on a breadstick, not wanting to get another question wrong, I closed the tasting menu and awaited one of the tasting staff members to ask me which flight I wanted to go with.
No sooner had I finished munching on a breadstick did one of the staff members come out. I was just about to launch into an answer over which flight I wanted to try when he began with, “So what kind of wine do you like?”
Hold up. I wasn’t prepared for that question? I was prepared to follow the script at hand. He continued to describe how at MacRostie they like to find the wines you like to try. The flights are there and certainly can be followed. But we decided, after a brief history of what kinds of wine I enjoy (like that Sauvignon Blanc at the start) to do more of a cliff notes’ sort of flight, flowing through a few of the Chardonnays and few Pinots. I’m game. Let’s do this. Oh and I’m going to need a spit cup. I have to stay classy after all.
The first three Chardonnays were poured, flight style. That basically means instead of being presented with one at a time, I was presented with all 3 Chardonnays at the same time. I was just about to take a sip of the first one when the staff went into just exactly where the grapes were grown.
The staff at MacRostie spent more time describing the soil and climate to where each of the Chardonnays were particularly grown. From right in the Petaluma wind gap (a new AVA) that is located right within the Los Carneros AVA in Sonoma to grapes grown within viewing distance of the neighbor’s farm.
A particular vineyard, about 500 feet due north, has roots which date back to the 1973 Judgement of Paris, where the Napa boys beat the French. Though MacRostie is quick to let you know the grapes that won the Chardonnay portion of the tasting, from Chateau Montelena were purchased from the nearby vineyard. The winery failed to give Sonoma County any kudos and not-surprisingly the deal to supply future Chardonnay grapes to Mike Grgich (of now Grgich Hills) was cut off the following year. And the continual informal feud of the Hatfield and the McCoys, or Sonoma and Napa, continues. The good news is MacRostie has said grapes from that vineyard.
After tasting through the Chardonnays, the staff literally sat down to hear what I thought of the wines. This is personal service turned up to 11. After giving a mini-dissertation on how the ML (malolactic fermentation) helped the Chardonnay, we moved onto the Pinot Noirs.
The Pinot lineup moves around to all of the Pinot growing regions of Sonoma County: Sonoma Coast / Los Carneros, the Green River sub-AVA (an AVA located inside of an AVA) and about 50 feet in front of the winery in the Alexander Valley. It’s a great showcase of how different Pinots can vary from AVA to AVA, including the coveted Green Valley AVA, located in the heart of Alexander Valley. If you’re trying to picture a sub-AVA, think Lesotho & South Africa, geographically speaking. The Green Valley is entirely encircled within the Alexander Valley.
MacRostie has seating from intimate to a Bachelorette-sized party. Small tables hugged the outside area while also being flanked by large couches for a larger group of wine tasters. Around the corner down a small path sat a gorgeous table, seating what looked like 14-16 people with a small fountain nearby. Again, perfect for a bachlorette party.
Inside the winery, a similar selection of tables and couches can be found. There’s another outside tasting on a deck facing more Eastward, with a gorgeous view of the mountain ranges that brush up against the Alexander Valley.
There is no bad seat in the house. Again, the only real choice you have to make is whether you want to go inside or outside. The rest of the choices are molded with your wine palate. Be it adventurous or simple, they have a tasting for you at MacRostie.