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Chalk Hill And Alexander Valley Wine Trail

Chalk Hill Road, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California Winery and Wine Tasting Guide

by Peter Forbes Crossman, photography by Lee Nelson

You’re going to fall in love with these back roads in Sonoma County’s towns of Healdsburg and Geyserville.
You’ll marvel at the diverse ecosystems, peek-a-boo vistas of the Mayacamas Mountains and Mount St. Helena and yes, a wide diversity of wineries.
This Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley Wine Trail guide covers part of two American Viticultural Areas or AVAs as they meet near the intersection of Chalk Hill Road and Route 128.

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Your adventure will include thirteen wineries on a road less traveled. It’s a mostly narrow, sometimes rough, two-lane windy road and you do need to pay attention to the signs that say 20 miles per hour on curves.
Since you won’t have time to visit all the wineries on this wine trail in a single day, use this guide to pick the ones you most want to see. We suggest you visit 5 or 6 wineries, and if you plan to drink, bring a designated driver — it’s the expected and safe thing to do in California wine country.
If you haven’t followed one of our “Wine Trails” before or even if you're a veteran, you might want to review our recommendations on visiting a Wine Trail.
Be sure to leave plenty of time to enjoy a picnic at one of these beautiful wineries and make a day of it. There's a great little country store on this route and we'll point out many beautiful picnic areas at the wineries. You'll also find many fine restaurants, Bed & Breakfasts and more in Healdsburg and Geyserville.
If you follow our suggestion to focus on a single Varietal on each wine tasting adventure you can better appreciate the unique aspects of each wine maker’s skill and the considerable contributions their vineyards make to their wines.
Here’s a breakdown of who’s pouring what at the 13 wineries on this Wine Trail:
The Chalk Hill AVA is known for its Bordeaux Varietals that include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. Up the road apiece, we’ll enter the Alexander Valley AVA where Cabernet Sauvignon is king but don’t miss their Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs.

Chateau Felice, Lancaster Estate, Field Stone, Hanna, Alexander Valley, Johnson's, White Oaks, Sausal, Robert Young, Stryker, Murphy-Goode, de Lorimier, Meeker wines

Getting Started on the Chalk Hill Road & Route 128 Wine Trail

In Windsor, at the Shiloh Road exit, you’ll find the beginning of these exciting back roads that wander through old oak forests, rolling hills and the magnificent Alexander Valley.

About three miles north of River Road on Sonoma County’s Route 101 take the right side exit on to Shiloh Road. Turn right and go 0.4 miles then turn left at the light on Old Redwood Highway. Another 1.1 miles brings you to the light at Pleasant Avenue. Turn right on Pleasant and drive about 1 mile and look for Chalk Hill Road on your left. See our map to the right.
Set your odometer to 0 and your adventure begins. It’s a little more than two and a half miles to the first winery, so you may want to find a pull out to stretch and smell some fresh air.
Mileage to each location will be along the main road and represents the distance to the next winery or locations exit but not the drive into and back out. Reset your odometer when you reach the main road each time you return from side trips to wineries.
Some of the wineries on this route are not well marked. If the driver watches the odometer and the copilot watches the road numbers, you shouldn't have any trouble.

Chateau Felice 2.7 miles, #10603 Chalk Hill Road

You can see Chateau Felice’s beautiful entrance on the left as you approach from the north, If you were coming south on Chalk Hill Road you could easily miss them entirely and have to double back once you noticed the street numbers were too low.
They have a tasting room in downtown Healdsburg at 223 Center Street, and they suggest that you visit there first and schedule your winery visit then.  If it is more convenient for you to visit the winery first, please call 707-431-9010 to schedule. The property is just drop dead beautiful with two lakes, lovely gardens and a magnificent villa to welcome you.
Driving through the grand entrance, you approach the buildings on a road lined with massive olive trees. Guests rave about the experience of being hosted in the dramatic beauty of the open air dining pavilion overlooking the lower lake. The formal dining room, seating fourteen, is dominated by a wall-sized tapestry. Glass walls on two sides provide breathtaking views.

Chateau Felice entry gate picture
Chateau Felice Gate
Chateau Felice sign on Chalk Hill Road
Sign on Chalk Hill Road

It was love at first sight when Barry and Phyllis Rodgers first drove through the gate in June of 1997 and entered what seemed like a place lost in time. The huge olive trees, the meadows dotted with cows, the lakes, the hills, and the abandoned buildings demanded their attention and captivated their imagination.

Lower lake picture at Chateau Felice
Chateau Felice winery, lake and vineyard

Barry was born in Blackpool, England, where he was educated as an aeronautical engineer. Arriving in the US in 1965, he pursued a very successful career in aerospace company management. Phyllis was born in New York, has a degree in Latin American Studies and Romance languages, and spent 20 years in computer software development, culminating in the establishment of a proprietary software company and consulting practice.
In business together since 1992, Barry and Phyllis changed gears and dedicated themselves to their new winery and paying back to their community.

Both Barry and Phyllis have been very involved in philanthropic activities. Barry has been a Trustee of Chapman University since 1993 and Phyllis has been active in fundraising for several community organizations. For four years, B&P co-chaired Chapman's American Celebration, their major annual fundraising event benefiting the scholarship fund.
Most significantly, B&P established the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman University, a national level educational center drawing 1000 attendees to each of its many lectures, and sponsoring an annual essay and poetry contest with 1200 contestants from 200 participating middle and high schools. The focus of the Center is the understanding of the forces leading to genocide for the purpose of preventing it.
This is a family winery. Daughter Samantha Rodgers is Director of Marketing and Sales. Sam manages the Center Street tasting room as well as distributor relationships nationwide. Daughter Genevieve Llerena was the first wine maker. Genevieve’s first releases, 1999 American Celebration — a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot — and 2000 Chardonnay, both won gold medals. A very nice way to introduce a new winery!
Subsequent releases have been celebrated as well, including the 2002 Chardonnay Estate which won Best of Class in national competition. In 2007 Genevieve went on to new ventures and was replaced by renowned winemaker Tami Collins. The vines have reached maturity, and Tami is very excited about the flavors and intensity of the new wines.
Remember to make an appointment by phone 707-836-9011 or by email:
Visi the Chateau Felice web site for the latest details.

Tasting room at Chateau Felice picture
Chateau Felice tasting room 180° panorama
Forest Mushroom Lamb Shanks
Serve with Chateau Felice 2003 Syrah
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 lamb shanks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds mix of morels, shiitake, and chanterelle mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
3 cups Chateau Felice Syrah
2 bay leafs
4 cups chicken stock
5 cups fresh chopped tomatoes
1 pound dried pasta
4 tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Oregano, chopped
Preheat oven to 300°F. Rub lamb with salt and pepper. On the stovetop, heat _ of the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Completely brown the lamb and remove. Raise the flame and brown the mushrooms for about one minute. Season with salt and pepper, sauté for about 5 minutes and remove.
Heat the rest of the olive oil in the pot and lightly brown the garlic. Add onion, carrot and celery, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add wine and bay leaf simmering until reduced by half. Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Return shanks to pot, cover, and put in the 300 degree oven for four hours.
When the lamb is fork-tender, let it cool. Pour the gravy into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, skimming the foam off the top. Add herbs and season to taste. Pour the sauce back over the lamb and simmer gently. Serve over Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Saffron Rice, or medium-sized pasta.

The landscape is rapidly changing as you enter the Alexander Valley AVA. As the valley broadens so do the vistas. The Mayacamas Mountains and majestic Mt. St. Helena pop in and out of sight on your right. You are leaving the close embrace of the oak forests of Chalk Hill and entering the bucolic rolling hills of open farmland. It’s a breathtaking transition.

Chalk Hill Road panorama picture
Rolling hills panorama

Lancaster Estate Vineyard & Winery 4.3 miles, #15001 Chalk Hill Road

Located at the southern tip of the Alexander Valley, Lancaster Estate rests in the foothills of the western Mayacamas Mountains at the confluence of the Chalk Hill and Knights Valley AVAs. Within the rolling hills of this "golden triangle," an ideal climate of warm days and cool nights combines with the region's myriad soil types to produce red wines of uncommon grace and style.
Their stately entrance on the left side of the road takes you immediately into the vineyards. The winery is on your left. Keep an eye out for their speed bump — it’s serious!
The Lancaster Estate tasting room looks and feels like an elegant living room. The ambiance is just delightful. Call ahead to schedule a private tour that includes their beautiful caves and vineyards. This is truly a sophisticated educational experience since the Estate does every step of their wine making right here.
Founded in 1995 by Ted and Nicole Simpkins, Lancaster Estate has been successfully in pursuit of making world class Bordeaux-style wines. An ambitious task, but the gold medals and high praise in the wine press make it clear they have reached their goal.

Bordeaux-style wines are a blend of red Varietal grapes, often called Meritage, Proprietors Table Red or other related names. The Varietals grown in Lancaster Estate’s vineyards are specifically chosen on the basis of the terroir of individual vineyard blocks and include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot.
Taking on the task of making these complex wines is winemaker David Elliott. Each harvest he must choose how to blend these Varietals. One year may favor one Varietal as the star of the harvest and the next year it’s another. There’s no fixed formula for making these big, bold and complex wines that cellar very well. You’ll need to try them all to see which ones speak to you.
Make sure to contact Lancaster Estate Vineyard and Winery for a private tour via phone 707-433-8178 x 209 or email at
Visit the informative Lancaster Estate web site and see the many other fine wines they have available.

Lancaster Estate
Red Wine
label and tasting notes

Field Stone Winery & Vineyard 1.1 miles, #10075 Highway 128

About 0.9 miles from Lancaster Estate, Chalk Hill Road dead-ends on Highway 128. A sign directs you to turn left at the stop sign toward Healdsburg. After driving another 0.2 miles, look for Field Stone Winery & Vineyard on your left.
Now the valley has really widened out and the views are becoming bigger and bolder.
Oak trees shade the short drive to the Field Stone Winery & Vineyard parking lot and picnic grounds. Look to the North for a beautiful view of their vineyards and more.
It’s also pretty out back looking West just past their picnic grounds. There are plenty of interesting tables to choose from and they’re made from wine barrels — how fun.
John Staten began his dream of making world-class wines in 1977. As owner and vintner he’s overseen the development of some really world-class wines.

Field Stone sign and entrance picture
Field Stone Winery sign
Drive into Field Stone Winery picture
Drive to Field Stone
Field Stone Winery panorama picture
Field Stone Winery

John is an ordained Presbyterian Minister, the only winery owner we know of in this area to have this rare distinction.

With the help of wine maker Tom Milligan, who joined the winery in 1998 they are now producing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Sirah, Viognier and a Vintage Port.
The entrance to Field Stone's earth sheltered working winery and tasting room is between the two picnic areas.
Call ahead to arrange a special tour or just to let them know you’re coming at 707-433-7266 or email at
The Field Stone Winery web site is the place to get additional information about visiting the winery and purchasing their wines.

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon
label and tasting notes
Petite Sirah grapes picture
Petite Sirah grapes

grow along the drive into Field Stone Winery and Vineyards

Hanna Winery 0.9 miles, #9280 Highway 128

I love the winding drive up the hill to this winery with its pretty border of flowers, well-manicured hedges and a magnificent oak standing guard in front of their tasting room. As always, I’m struck by what a little change in altitude does to what you can see.

Hanna entrance and sign picture
Hanna Winery entrance
Grapes and grape vine panorama picture
Grape vines along the drive to Hanna Winery
Hanna Vineyard and winery picture
360° panorama of vineyard and winery
Vineyard view picture
View from winery deck

Sauvignon Blanc wine label and tasting notes
Hanna Sauvignon Blanc
wine label & tasting notes

The tasting room at Hanna Winery is uncluttered with high ceilings and magnificent views. Always busy in the background is Jill Aguilera or “Jilly Bean,” the Assistant Tasting Room Manager. Her attentive and knowledgeable staff, Larry and Patrick, will make you feel at home at the tasting bar. Phew, with all these wines to pour, they have quite a job.
Owned by Elias Hanna MD, a world-renowned cardiac surgeon, Elias leaves the day-to-day operation of his two wineries to his oldest daughter, Christine.
Starting with just 12 acres in 1985, Hanna now produces award winning Sauvignon Blanc and many other wines on about 250 acres.
Wine Maker Jefferson Hinchliffe has a large selection of Varietals to work with from their many distinctive vineyards. They include: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc.
Hanna Winery has two locations. Here and one in Santa Rosa that we’ll cover in another wine trail article. Call them at 707-431-4310 or email for tours by appointment or better yet visit them on line to see all of their offerings at the Hanna Winery web site.

Hanna tasting room panorama pictureTasting room panorama
Tasting room ceiling pictureLooking up
in the tasting room

Smoked Salmon Hors d’oeuvres
3/4 pound smoked salmon
1 English cucumber
1 small tub of crème fraiche or mascarpone
1 small package of Danish rye bread
(Specialty grocers carry this. It’s not sandwich bread, although if you can’t find the other, you can cut regular rye bread into small squares)
Fresh chives, chopped fine
Mix the crème fraiche or mascarpone with chopped chives.
Slice the cucumbers very thin.
Cut the rye bread into small enough squares to manage a bite or two.
Spread the crème fraiche herb mixture onto the bread, then place a slice of cucumber on top, then a generous pinch of smoke salmon, then sprinkle with chives.
I like to serve at least four pieces per person.

Alexander Valley Vineyards 0.4 miles, # 8644 Highway 128

Before you know it, there’s Alexander Valley Vineyards on the right side of the road.

Soy Cabernet Flank Steak
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup AVV 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb flank steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Place flank steak in a shallow non-corrosive container and pour marinade over. Cover and refrigerate over night. Pre-heat a sauté pan to very hot, add oil and sear each side. Then place in 400-degree pre-heated oven for 6 minutes. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes.
Slice steak thinly across the grain of the meat. Serve with your favorite side dishes. Serves 4.
Menu ideas: make hummus and spread on crostini. Slice flank steaks thinly, roll up, place on crostini, and serve as an appetizer.
Spicy Chickpea Hummus
1 can chickpeas
Juice of 3 lemons
1/2 cup tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cumin powder
Place all ingredients in food processor and puree. Serve with pita bread cut in triangles or on crostini.
Wetzel Estate Cabernet Chocolate Ganache
1/3 cup Alexander Valley Vineyards 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cups chocolate chips.

To make ganache place cabernet and chocolate chips in small sauce pan and melt, mixing to a smooth consistency. Top each brownie with a tablespoon of ganache and then chill for 30 minutes.
Cabernet Chocolate Ganache covered
Butter Crunch Brownies
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Butter and flour a 9 x 13 baking pan. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt both chocolate and one stick butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat after melted and smooth.
In a mixing bowl cream together the other stick of butter and the sugar. Next add one egg at a time while the mixer is running until all eggs are incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and the cooled chocolate mixture then add the flour, salt and pecans. Pour batter into the baking pan and stir until smoothed.
Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and invert on to a cooling rack. When cool slide on to a cutting board and cut into 2-inch squares then place them back on the rack.
Alexander Valley Vineyards entrance sign picture
Alexander Valley Vineyards
Historic home picture
Cyrus Alexander house
Alexander Valley Winery pictureTasting room exterior
Tasting room picture
Inside the tasting room
Tasting room display picture
Cave panorama - Alexander Valley Vinyards
The Wine Cave

Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley was mostly prune orchards and pastures when, in 1962, Maggie and Harry Wetzel purchased a large portion of a homestead built by Cyrus Alexander, the valley’s nineteenth century namesake.
Learn more abut Cyrus on my Dry Creek Road and Alexander Valley page.
A large oak on the hill behind the winery shelters Cyrus’ grave and the house he built is now the private residence of the Wetzel’s.
A pleasant drive through their vineyards and past their working winery brings you to their parking lot out back.
A seasonal creek follows the road on your right all the way up to their picnic grounds behind the tasting room parking area. Fragrant rosemary surrounds you there and their wine cave is on the left.
You’ll love their spacious tasting room and display of local artist’s paintings. Don’t miss a tour of their barrel aging caves.
Hank Wetzel, oldest son of Maggie and Harry, produced Alexander Valley Vineyard’s first wine in 1975. His wife Linda set up the books and managed the winery office.
Alexander Valley Vineyards quickly established a reputation for estate grown wines with distinctive varietal character.
The Wetzel Family Estate grows eleven grape varieties, on diverse sites stretching from the banks of the Russian River up onto the hillsides.

Each grape variety is matched to a specific soil type and exposure.
Vineyard Manager Mark Houser and Winemaker Kevin Hall work as a team to maximize fruit flavor in the vineyard and to create balanced wines that capture the grapes’ varietal characteristics.

Wine label and tasting notes
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
wine label & tasting notes

Varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Viognier and Sangiovese.
The Alexander Valley Vineyards tasting room is open 10–5 daily.
Winery tours are by appointment only and can be arranged by calling 800-888-7209 or by email at

For more about this great winery, its history and, of course their many fine wines, visit the Alexander Valley Vineyards web site.

Johnson’s Alexander Valley Wines 0.3 miles, #8333 Highway 128

Don’t blink, because its only 0.3 miles on the left to Johnson’s Alexander Valley Wines.

Grape vine picture
Grape laden vines next to the parking lot
Tasting room entrance picture
Outside the tasting room
Johnson's Alexander Valley sign
Sign and entrance to
Johnson’s Alexander Valley Wines
Old tractor picture
Ancient tractor
Tasting room picture
Wine tasting room
Pipe organ picture
Pipe organ

An old road — yes it’s rough, so be careful — takes you through vineyards to a left hand turn into their parking lot. An interesting old tractor and farm equipment on the way in establishes the atmosphere for this working family winery. Lots of shaded picnic tables make this a good place for a quiet family lunch.
Inside the rustic, high ceilinged tasting room you’ll be surprised to find a fantastic automated organ with all the bells and whistles.
Founded in 1974 and owned and operated by third-generation daughter Ellen Johnson, who’s also the winemaker, it’s become a favorite spot for organ enthusiasts and wine lovers alike.
Johnson's Alexander Valley Wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, White Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Johannisberg Riesling, and a luscious Late Harvest Zinfandel.
Contact Johnson's Alexander Valley Wines at 707-433-2319, 800-888-5532 or by email at:
Their web site is under construction so keep watching your favorite search engine. Also note they will soon release their 2000 Chardonnay.

Wine label picture
Johnson’s Alexander Valley Wines
label and tasting notes
Rice & Artichoke Salad
2 pkg chicken flavored rice mix
4 Green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
12 pimento-stuffed olives, sliced
2-6 oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts
3/4 tsp. Curry Powder
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Cook rice as directed, omitting butter. Cool in a large bowl. Add onions, green peppers and olives.
Drain artichoke hearts, reserving marinade and halve artichokes. Combine marinade with curry and mayonnaise.
Add artichokes to rice salad and toss with dressing.

White Oak Vineyards & Winery 0.9 miles, #7505 Highway 128

A short ride up Highway 128 brings you to White Oak Vineyards & Winery on your right.

White Oak entrance and sign picture
White Oak
entrance and sign
White Oak Winery panorama picture
Fountain and Winery
Wine tasting room picture
White Oake wine tasting
Tasting room fireplace picture
Tasting room fireplace
Up stairs view picture
Up-stairs view
White Oak wine lable picture
White Oak wine lable
and tasting notes

A delightful drive through the 70-year-old Zinfandel vineyard brings you to their grand fountain, beautiful gardens and courtyard, with amazing collection of metal sculptures. The impressive Tuscan-style winery offers a spacious tasting room and elegant picnic facility.
This is a beautiful place.

In 1981, Bill Myers founded White Oak Vineyards & Winery after an interesting career as a building contractor and commercial Salmon fisherman. He grew the business from a tiny Healdsburg tasting room and production facility into the beautiful winery you see today.
In 1998, Steve Ryan joined Bill as wine maker and took on the daunting task of overseeing all the wines they produce.
White Oak Vineyards & Winery makes wine from three of California's most important grape-growing AVAs: Napa Valley, Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley.
Their Napa Valley Vineyards produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. Their Russian River Valley vineyards produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musqué.
The estate vineyards in the Alexander Valley are producing a very coveted "Old Vine" Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Let them know you’re coming with a call to 707-433-8429 or by email at:

Oriental Tuna Tartare on Wasabi Toasts
1 1/2 T chopped cilantro
2 T minced shallots
1 T White Oak Vineyards & Winery 2001 Russian River Chardonnay
1/2 tsp. Lemon juice
2 tsp. Soy sauce
2 tsp. Vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. Sesame oil
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Fresh ground pepper
1 LB Ahi tuna steak
Combine shallots, cilantro, lemon juice, soy, vegetable oil, and sesame oil in a bowl.
Finely chop tuna, (do not use a cuisinart). Add tuna to the ingredients above, toss to combine, season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate about 1/2 hour.
Wasabi Toast Ingredients:
1 Baguette
1/2 c Peanut oil
1 Clove garlic
1 tsp. Minced pickled ginger
1 T Soy sauce
1/4 tsp. Wasabi powder
Combine oil, garlic, pickled ginger and wasabi in bowl. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Slice baguette into thin slices and brush both sides with wasabi mixture. Toast under the broiler, let cool to room temperature.
Top wasabi toasts with Tuna Tartare and serve with White Oak Chardonnay. Cheers!

To learn more about them and their great wines, visit the White Oak Vineyards & Winery web site.

Continue on to Part 2 for the conclusion of the Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley Wine Trail which covers the following wineries:
Sausal Vineyard & Winery
Robert Young Estate Winery
Stryker Sonoma Winery
Murphy-Goode Estate Winery
deLorimier Winery
Meeker Vineyards

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Website and all photos copyright © 20012015 Lee W. Nelson