Wine of the Month: Alexander Valley Vineyards

In 1962, Harry & Maggie Wetzel purchased the Alexander Valley vineyards when the Alexander heirs decided they no longer wanted to keep the land in the family. The Wetzels had traveled to many of the world’s great wine regions and had dreamed of getting into the winemaking industry. They had 24 hours to make a decision and Harry knew the Alexander Valley area of Sonoma County had untapped potential. Even though they hadn’t seen the property, it was a deal they couldn’t pass up.

They got to work, even the children, replanting the vineyards and learning about winemaking. They bottled their first Cabernet Sauvignon in 1968 and kept working to grow the property and improve the vines. Alexander Valley Vineyards wasn’t officially created until 1975 by their son, Hank. The Wetzel family and the Alexander Valley vineyards continued to grow over the years and in 1984, the region received an official appellation status. The area is now home to more than 100 wineries and some of California’s most respected wine labels.

Varietal of the Month: Alexander School Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

In 2004, Wetzel decided to focus on the flavor profile that made the valley famous, releasing a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon known as Alexander School Reserve. This vintage is a testament to Alexander Valley winemaker Kevin Hall’s skill and the valley’s unique ability to grow amazing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

The fruit was harvested from a single twenty-five-year-old hilltop vineyard. These low yielding, gnarly, mature vines produce loose clusters of pea sized grapes that ripen evenly and have incredible concentration, tremendous color and layers of flavor. After harvest, this lot was de-stemmed, fermented, then aged in French oak barrels for 24 months.

Aromas of cassis, oak, vanilla, chocolate, dark fruits and hint of eucalyptus fill the glass. It is silky with well-integrated tannins and flavors that linger for a long time, giving you a chance to reflect on the history and tradition of Alexander Valley Vineyards and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Food Pairings:

Beef, Pork, Lamb, Duck, Aged Cheddar, Gruyere, Blue Cheese 

Gruyere-Thyme Madeleines

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Brush the molds of two 12-well madeleine pans with 2 tablespoons of the butter and dust with all-purpose flour; tap out the excess.

Sift the flour into a bowl and gently stir in the thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high speed until yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the cream of tartar and sugar and beat until the mixture drops from the whisk in pale thick ribbons, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture and cheese, then fold in the remaining 6 tablespoons butter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared molds so the batter is even with the rims. Bake until the madeleines spring back when pressed lightly, about 12 minutes. Immediately remove them from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cheese and serve. Makes 18 to 24 madeleines.

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