Medlock Ames is an organic and sustainable winery nestled upon Bell Mountain in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley. Sheltered from the fog of the nearby Pacific Ocean, the valley is one of Northern California's warmest wine regions. But gentle coastal breezes do find their way in. And those breezes, along with cool air from the Russian River, give the valley low nighttime temperatures and an extended growing season. Medlock Ames has a holistic approach to winemaking that not only considers land use but also community. That's where a reclaimed biker bar and the use of both wild and farm animals such miniature cows come in to play. From microclimates to miniature cows, Medlock Ames accomplishes its biggest goal: creating wine with a complete sense of place.
The winery, which was started in 1998, was founded by lifelong friends Christopher Medlock and Ames Morison. They scouted hundreds of vineyards throughout California before happening upon the estate at Bell Mountain. The estate, which is closed to the public, is without the obligatory villa you'll find at most wineries. Totaling over 400 acres, the hillside property is rustic, oak-covered and punctuated by a modern gravity-flow production facility.
Gravity flow is a very gentle method of winemaking where wine is moved by gravity from fermentation to barreling. The lack of mechanics (and agitation) helps preserve the wine's more delicate notes. This process also reduces energy consumption. For example, the wine's final destination--the cellar--is underground where aging can take place without the need for artificial climate control. The gravity flow facility is also home to a 84 kWh solar system which provides 100% of its electricity needs.
Owls and bats and miniature cows, oh my!
Other visitors from the preserve include wild pigs, deer, bobcats and mountain lions. Conventionally, high fences would be built to keep out such intruders. Unfortunately, that can also trap them, which can be a danger to the vines, its workers and the animals themselves. So the winery has built corridors throughout the property that allows the animals to traverse the vineyard without bringing about the dangerous side effects.
Unwanted weeds are tended to by sheep and miniature cows, which are not as tiny as they might sound (I immediately wanted one). The animal-powered weed whackers not only reduce tractor usage but they also provide natural fertilizer. A lot of natural fertilizer!
But the uniqueness of the Bell Mountain ranch extends way beyond the grapes.
Even native and wild yeasts are used during fermentation, giving the wine an extended sense of place. And if you want to taste this wine--which you do--then you will have to head to the recently opened tasting room located a few miles from Bell Mountain.
Turning a century-old biker bar to into tasting room
Chiogga Beets with Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette and Toasted Hazelnuts
Tempeh, Broccoli, and Red Bell Pepper Stir Fry
More Recipes from the Green Wine Guide
Winter Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables and a Balsamic Reduction
Risotto with a Portabella Duxelle
Indian-Spiced Tomato Soup
Maple-Lemon Crème Brulée With Amaretti Cookie
Seared Brussels Sprouts with a Smoked Gouda Sauce and Freshly Grated Horseradish
Homemade Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Blue Cheese and Thyme
Chèvre-Stuffed Dates with Pomegranate Molasses and Chili Oil
More from the Green Wine Guide
Kaz Vineyard & Winery: Serious Organic Wine for the Not-So-Serious
Medlock Ames: An Organic Vineyard with Mini Cows and a Century-Old Biker Bar
Jacuzzi Wines and Cline Cellars: "Beyond Organic" Winemaking