Known for its beautiful natural collage of forests, meadows, vineyards, fruit trees, sheep farms, and colorful characters, Anderson Valley is one of the gems of the California wine industry. Anderson Valley is also known for its beautiful natural collage of forests, meadows, vineyards, fruit trees, sheep farms, and colorful characters, Anderson Valley is one of the gems of the California wine industry. Anderson Valley is also known for speaking in the rustic regional vernacular called “Boontling”.
Located three hours north of San Francisco at the southwestern part of Mendocino County, this narrow appellation is 15 miles long and 10 miles from the ocean. Highlighted by well-drained soils, warm days and cool nights; the microclimates in the valley are tempered by cool air currents, which blow in from the ocean by mid afternoon.
Despite these marvelous winegrowing conditions, the region is fairly young. After the first bonded winery was founded by Joe Pinoli in 1911, focus in the valley switched to saw mills and apple orchards. This occured after Prohibition. It wasn’t until 1971, when Tony Husch founded Husch Winery near Philo; that the modern push towards planting new vineyards began. Perhaps the biggest statement of legitimacy and potential of the region came when Champagne producer Louis Roederer purchased property, and founded Roederer Estate on Highway 129 across from Husch in 1982.
Today, the region is known for producing an admirable mixture of world-class sparkling wines. Wines and dessert wines were crafted by talented winemakers committed to capturing the unique flavors that only grapes which are grown in the valley, can express for each given vintage.
Whites: While there are currently about 500 acres of Chardonnay planted in the AVA, a large portion of the fruit is used by Roederer Estate, Schramsberg and Handley. These wineries specialize in the production of sparkling wines. The other 300 acres of white grapes are comprised of the German and French Alsatian varieties of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Muscat. A smaller amount is also made up of Sauvignon Blanc.
Reds: There is no doubt that Pinot Noir has become the favorite red grape variety grown in Anderson Valley.This is proven by the boom from 47 acres planted in 1982 to nearly 1,500 acres today. On a smaller scale, other red varieties grown in the valley include Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel.
White Wines: In sparkling wines, the Chardonnay fruit creates elegant flavors of crisp apple, pear, peach, and citrus. In still wines, the Chardonnay grapes tend to be more indicative of the site where the grapes are planted. Some have ripe fruit flavors, bright acidity and subtle notes of spice. While others are earthy with notes of wild mushrooms, poached pear, and baked apple pie.
For the Alsatian varieties, Gewürztraminer tends to be lively, fruity and spicy. Riesling and Muscat more delicate, elegant, and floral. Pinot Gris, more fruit-driven with notes of mineral and vibrant acidity. Pinot Blanc is richer, rounder, with an oily texture, and deeper fruit flavors. Besides being bottled as still and dessert wines; these varieties are also used to make crisp, aromatic white wine blends.
Red Wines: In general, the Pinot Noirs from Anderson Valley are more comparable to those made in Oregon’s Willamette Valley rather than the showier styles made in other popular regions in California. Instead of being big, ripe and loaded with gobs of black fruit, the flavors are often more subtle and subdued, with concentrated aromas and flavors of red fruits, wild berries, earth, mineral, and forest floor. They are wines for thinkers, collectors, and regular consumers who have fallen in love with the region over the past two decades.
The sparkling wines are terrific with oysters, appetizers, and gourmet salads. With the Alsatian varieties, try spicy Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisine; soups; mussels and clams; fennel salad; and goat cheese, particularly the Penny Royal brand made near the town of Boonville in Anderson Valley.
As an extra bonus, the close proximity to the coast also makes Anderson Valley a fish lover’s paradise. For that reason, the Pinot Noirs work extremely well with fresh halibut, sturgeon and grilled salmon. Other delicious options for pairings include roasted veggies, wild mushrooms, quinoa, duck with plum sauce, pork tenderloin, lamb, and slow roasted beef.