Learning about Sustainable Wine Production in Alexander Valley
When I asked the Alexander Valley tourism office for recommendations for wineries that practice sustainable farming and had nice views, they had one answer: J Rickards. As I drove up to the winery, I knew this would be a homey winery experience--the winery has no flashy winery buildings or fancy garden. Instead, an experience devoid of pretension yet full of love for viticulture is what awaited.
The owner, Jim Rickards, is a registered nurse who still works part time in the local hospital's ICU. He also gives visitors personalized tours of the winery with lots of stories about how he started farming grapes sustainably more than 30 years ago, about the horses that once worked this land, and even about his trademark mustache. What results from his efforts to farm sustainably is a winery that has reduced its impact on the environment while improving its ability to produce nice wines in very small quantities. This is the place to go if you are interested in learning more about viticulture or sustainable farming practices and are looking for a friendly, personalized touch.
Tastings are complimentary and include a tour of the vineyards plus cheese and chocolate pairings with some wines. Wines are reasonably priced--I recommend the 2009 Zinfandel to take home. After tasting, ask how to drive to the top of the property; once there, walk up the path for views on the other side of the property.