Anderson Valley, Sonoma and Napa

Notes from our trip to California in 2017

Itinerary, Restaurants and Accommodation


We based our trip round the wineries that had wines in the famous Judgement of Paris (see the movie Bottleshock) where 6 Cabs and 6 Chardonnays were put up against top flight French equivalents in a blind tasting to commemorate the USA tri-centenary in 1976. We managed to taste at 9 of the 12; one not receiving visitors and two too far South from where we were. The other wineries that we targeted were smaller, family-owned ones.

The wineries in the Judgement of Paris line up were: 
Cabernet Sauvignon
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars - 1973
Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello – 1971 (not in the area but can taste at their Lytton Springs winery. We tasted there in 2013 - see our trip notes here)
Heitz Wine Cellars Martha's Vineyard - 1970
Clos Du Val Winery - 1972
Mayacamas Vineyards - 1971
Freemark Abbey Winery – 1969

Chateau Montelena - 1973
Spring Mountain Vineyard - 1973
Freemark Abbey Winery - 1972
Veedercrest Vineyards – 1972 (did not taste here as they are no longer open to the public; not even sure if they are still in business)
We did not taste the following because being South of San Francisco they were outside our area:
Chalone Vineyard - 1974
David Bruce Winery - 1973

The three wine areas that we tasted in were

Anderson Valley

The source of which wineries to visit were British writers so it is perhaps not surprising that almost every place we visited stressed that they sought restraint and finesse in their wines unlike ‘others in the valley’. None of the wines that we tasted were the ‘typical’ over-oaked, fruit bombs that one is led to believe is a typical Californian wine. The wines were full of fruit but not too much so, had plenty of tannins and good acid; preferences were, for the most part, a matter of personal taste. We only bought wines when there was a consensus about what we preferred.

If you read our other trip reports you will find the names of hotels and restaurants that we visited. This time, primarily because of the cost of good Californian wine, we stayed at Airbnb homes and dined at home, drinking the wines that we had bought along the way.

We report below on the wineries that we visited although in the Google Map you will see the names of other wineries that were on our list but we did not get around to visiting because of time constraints. In a few places wine tasting was free; most charged between $20 and $75 depending on the tasting that you selected. In some cases the tasting fee was waived if you bought a minimum quantity of wine. All these rules are made clear upfront.