Sometimes plans do not always work out as expected. During the horrific fires in California this year, when I was to be visiting wineries in Napa and Sonoma, my plans needed to be altered. I ended up in Anderson Valley. This beautiful area that is home to an amazing Redwood forest (Hendy Woods State Park) and Anderson Valley Brewing Company is also home to over 25 wineries.
The area runs Northwest along the Navarro River and Highway 128 from Boonville through Philo to Navarro. A distance of about 15 miles. The river flows into the Pacific Ocean about 10 miles south of Mendocino after passing through the Coastal Range. The climate is tempered by cool marine air that brings fog in overnight that burns off by the afternoon. A 40 to 50 degree diurnal temperature variation is the norm, with about a 10 degree change as you head inland from Navarro to Boonville. The elevation goes from sea level to 2500′ with vineyards planted at all altitudes. Anderson Valley is ideally suited to Pinot Noir, sparkling wines and Alsatian varietals, specifically Pinot Gris, Gewurtztraminer and Riesling.
The area is likened to the Napa and Sonoma of 30 years ago, quiet and unassuming with a Hippie vibe. This attitude lends most of the vineyards to grow organically and other growers are transitioning to organic or biodynamic farming. The owners and winemakers feel that this has given them much better and tastier fruit which is represented in the wine.
The cool climate allows for wines with lower alcohol and higher acidity. For me, these are the two most important factors for food friendly wines. Additionally, not a lot of new oak is used and many wines are not fined or filtered. It is difficult to explain, but when you desire a bottle of wine to enjoy with a meal, wines from this region will make you happy every day.
Begin your day with a sparkling wine from Roederer or Scharffenberger, move on to a light lunch, pairing a fresh salad with local apples and Pennyroyal Laychee, a fresh and mild goat’s milk cheese, and a Gewurtztraminer from Handley. For dinner, how about roasted chicken with herbed potatoes that will go delightfully with a Pinot Noir from Goldeneye or Lula Cellars.
This is the type of opportunity not be missed. I was fortunate to have had this experience when things were so terribly wrong just a relatively short distance away. Anderson Valley will definitely be a place I visit again to enjoy more of the wine, food, people, and sense of community.