Anderson Valley, California
We started our tour in Anderson Valley using Elk, which is on the coast just south of Mendocino, as our base. This valley is viewed as a cool climate region because of the fog and cool breezes rolling in from the Pacific. They specialise in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Drive through Redwood forest at North end of Anderson Valley
Husch Vineyards & Winery4400 CA-128, Philo, CA 95466 +1 707-895-3216
Open 10 to 5 - Look for their Pinot
A small family-owned operation that use a ‘fish friendly’ approach to viticulture. Their tasting room is in a quaint old redwood building. Their Pinot Noir is what to look out for. They make wines from Anderson Valley and other parts of Mendocino county. The ’16 dry Gewurztraminer had serious acid and a typical nose but not the Alsace flavours ($15). The ’15 Vine One Chardonnay was unoaked and still tight ($18). They produce half bottles of Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay but did not have any to taste. The ’14 Pinot Noir was full of tart cherries, very good entry level wine ($25). The ’13 Valley Foothills Reserve Pinot had a typical Burgundian nose and the oak was evident having spent 16 months in 50% new French oak ($38). The ’13 Knoll Pinot Noir’s vineyard is on the banks of the Navarro river and was flooded that year. It had great fruit and was quite rich ($40). The ’15 Old Vines Zinfandel came from the warmer parts of Mendocino and was full of fruit ($25). The ’13 Cab also came from warmer parts and had great fruit but more reserved oak ($23). The last wine we tasted was an unusual blend of Petit Syrah, Zinfandel and Carignane from the warm parts. The ’15 Old Vines Heritage had a complex nose and was quite peppery but full of fruit ($30). The Pinot Noir and Cabernet came in half bottles. We bought the Knoll Pinot Noir 2013 and a half bottle of Pinot Noir ‘13 ($13.25).
Navarro Vineyards & Winery5601 CA-128, Philo, CA 95466 +1 800-537-9463
Open 8 to 6, weekends 10 to 5
Navarro make a Riesling which is quite unusual for the area. They had 15 wines that you could taste. The ’15 Riesling was full of flavour and whilst no replica of Alsace was very good in its own right ($19.50). Both their Chardonnays were available in half bottles of wine. The ’15 from Mendocino was full of vanilla and citrus ($11.50 for a half bottle) but the ’15 from Anderson Valley was more rounded and complex and we preferred it ($15 for a half bottle of wine). We also tried the ’15 dry Gewurztraminer which was quite typical and very good. Also available in half bottles ($13). We then tried their ’14 Pinot that was also available in half bottles of wine. This had tart cherries and a reasonable body ($17.50). We bought a full bottle of the ’15 Gewurztraminer Estate Bottled ($22) and half bottles of the ’15 Chardonnay Premiere Reserve and ’14 Pinot Noir Methode a l’Ancienne.
At this rate we thought that there would be no problem putting together a great selection of Californian half bottles of wine but, as we were soon to find out, half bottles of wine are no more easy to find than anywhere else.
Roederer Estate+1 707-895-2288
Roederer cellar door
Roederer tasting room
One can’t be in the area and not see how the Californian outpost of the great Champagne house is doing. Their rationale for being there is apparently the climate (very cool with the fog rolling regularly up the Navarro River valley) and not much to do with the soil. They only grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Brut (60% chardonnay) had a great nose and applely flavours but we think that the dosage of 12gm per litre vs the typical 8gm in Champagne made the wine a touch too sweet ($23). It was available in half bottles. The Brut Rosé which was 55% Pinot Noir had a great soft pink colour and was more fruity that the Brut ($30). The ’09 L’Ermitage (52% Chardonnay) was obviously older and had more brioche flavours and nose and with only 10gm dosage was more to our taste ($48). They also bottle the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as still wine. The ’15 Chardonnay had a great oak nose but was sweetish with no lemon flavours. The ’14 Pinot Noir was medium bodied, had a great nose and soft sweetish cherries. Unusually for the area they charged for the tasting, $10, so we didn’t feel obliged to buy anything.
View across Goldeneye vineyards to Redwood forest on the hill
Goldeneye Winery9200 CA-128, Philo, CA 95466 +1 707-895-3202 Open 10.30 t 4.30 - Look for their Pinot
A tasting room with a great view of Redwood forests on the far side of their vineyards. A sit-down tasting with a clearly thought out theme to express their brand. Clearly a sophisticated operation that also made great wine. In the Pinot Noir rosé ’16 Vin Gris one could certainly taste the pinot and it was very refreshing ($32). The’14 Migration (Russian River) pinot was very fruity and not typical ($38). The ’14 Anderson Valley Pinot was more what one would expect, tart cherries lightish ($56). We then tasted 3 ’14 single vineyard Pinots; the Confluence whose micro climate is influenced by schist stones that retain the suns heat, sweet cherries; Gowan gets a lot of fog and is therefor cold, tasty cherries with soft tannins; The Narrows which is surrounded by redwood forests, similar to Gowan but with more tannins (all $84). We bought the ’16 AV Vin Gris and the ’14 Gowan Pinot Noir. They also sold a thermos flask that held 750ml which we thought was rather a good idea so we bought one.
We then moved South to the Alexander Valley Sonoma AVA where we stayed in the mountains just outside Calistoga.