By Charlene Peters

On a leisurely drive from Napa Valley to the hills of Anderson Valley along scenic highway 128, views of old oak trees, vineyards, and the Mayacamas Mountain range impress. The best way to take it all in is to roll down the window and engage the senses. Deep breaths during this ride offer fresh mountain air blended with a vague scent of salt water from the nearby Pacific Ocean. Once arrived, be ready for a visit to an area reminiscent of Napa in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a time when modest family wineries opened their tasting rooms to showcase sips extraordinaire.

Anderson Valley established its wine standing as an AVA in 1983. Before that, the region’s earliest inhabitants were the Pomo people, who settled in the verdant valley long before 1851, when William Anderson arrived in what he called a “garden of Eden.” Interesting to note is the Pomo spoke in one of seven unique languages, and the lingo of Boontling can still be heard in Boonville. Frattey is the Boontling word for wine, and frattey shams refers to the grapevine.

It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th century that the area’s agricultural cash crops of apples and lumber took a back seat to grapevines on the nearby Greenwood Ridge, also known as “Vinegar Hill.” As one of the coldest wine-growing regions in California (up to 50 degrees in a diurnal shift), the predominant varietals that thrive among Anderson Valley’s 90 vineyards include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. It’s also unique in that a sparkling wine trail runs from Foursight Wines to Handley Cellars. Absolutely bahler (Boontling for exceptional).

Greenwood Ridge // Photo by Tina Casey

WHERE TO SIP

In the funky town of Boonville, Pennyroyal Farm & Winery is where you can taste an Alsatian-style Sauvignon Blanc with a shoutout taste of crisp green apples. The farm is a sister winery to the iconic Navarro Vineyards, a working cheese farm and organic vineyard. In addition to its Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Trio white blend, sparkling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir are notable. // www.pennyroyalfarm.com

Nearby is Foursight Wines, with exquisite tastes of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This winery is operated by a husband and wife team (Kristy is fourth generation on property) who focus on lower alcohol wines fermented from native yeasts. // www.foursightwines.com

Bee Hunter Wine is a small family-run winery and a must-stop in Boonville if only to taste the Vin d’Ambre Sauvignon Blanc. Its amber color and essence of orange peel and earthiness come from maceration with the grape’s skin. This is an exciting blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, and Semillon. // www.beehunterwine.com

Bee Hunter Sauvignon Blanc Vin D’Ambre // Photo by Charlene Peters

Halfway between Boonville and Philo is Lichen Estate, where a splash of sparkling Lichen Blanc de Noir and its organic estate Pinot Noir showcases the minimalist techniques used by this vineyard team. // www.lichenestate.com

In Philo, Goldeneye, part of the Duckhorn portfolio, has changed the game with its Pinot Noir house established in 1996. This established winery is in the heart of Anderson Valley and well worth a stop to take in its sweeping vineyard, redwood views, and gorgeous landscaping. Like many tasting stops in this region, Goldeneye’s winery is dog friendly. A taste of the Gowan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir will tell its own tale of untamed fruit best described as exquisite elegance. // www.goldeneyewinery.com

A stop on the sparkling wine trail to the underdog sister company to Roederer, Scharffenberger Cellars is where you can taste an exploratory flight of five different styles of sparkling, produced in a more California style (vs. French). // www.scharffenbergercellars.com

Toulouse Vineyards & Winery is an organic and sustainable family operation that offers a wine and cheese pairing on the outside deck overlooking Handley Park and the Navarro River in Philo. A glass of their Muscat pairs well with a goat’s milk blue cheese imported from France. Their Pinot Gris pairs perfectly with in-season Dungeness crab. // www.toulousevineyards.com

Located in Philo since 2019 is Twomey Cellars, part of the Silver Oak Cellars family. The team at Twomey prides itself on its vibrant and bright Pinot Noir with an expression of the entire Anderson Valley. Grapes are sourced from its western location at Monument Tree Vineyard, Bearman Bend in the north, and Ferrington further inland to the south. // www.twomey.com

Husch produces an Alsatian-style Dry Gewürztraminer and uses the same grapes in its Late Harvest sweet wine. Husch was also the first winery to plant Pinot Noir in 1971 (the Knoll Vineyard). // www.huschvineyards.com

Another stop on the sparkling wine trail is Roederer Estate, to which most lovers of bubbles are familiar. In addition to offering French-inspired wine such as the Brut Roederer Estate with grapes harvested from among the 600 acres of family-owned vineyards since 1982, they now have an estate chef – and are also dog-friendly. Sparkling fanatics will want to save the dates of May 19-21, 2023, to attend the Pinot Noir & Bubbles Festival hosted by the Roederer Family of Wines. // www.roedererestate.com

Roederer Estate tasting // Photo courtesy of AV Wines

One of the pioneer wineries in the valley is Handley Cellars, located 18 miles from the seacoast and where tastings are hosted in its breath-taking courtyard overlooking the surrounding vineyards. This winery offers a spectrum of wine from sparkling to Alsatian varietals (the 2020 Gewürztraminer is a must-taste) to Pinot Noir from their estate vineyard. The family collected the tasting room’s art collection during the last century, and worth a viewing. // www.handleycellars.com

Lula Cellars is located at the “Deep End” of Anderson Valley, closest to the coast. Its cooler climate sets the stage for a fantastic and balanced Gewürztraminer. // www.lulacellars.com

 

WHERE TO EAT

Arrive early for breakfast empanadas at Mosswood Market Café & Bakery, a woman-owned family operation offering incredible pastries and lunch. Be sure to grab an empanada before they sell out, typically by 9am. // www.mosswoodmarketcafe.com

At the Boonville Hotel, Chef Perry Hoffman, grandson to Sally Schmitt (Founder & Chef of The French Laundry) serves prix fixe dinners in the courtyard during the warmer months. // www.boonvillehotel.com

Schmitt’s daughter, Karen Bates, offers cooking classes and sold-out monthly dinners at Philo Apple Farm. There’s also lodging available here. // www.philoapplefarm.com

Closest to the coast in Navarro, The Bewildered Pig offers a monthly seasonal dinner series that sells out within a few hours. On the weekend, it’s the place to go for lunches and to pick up some goodies at its specialty market. //
www.bewilderedpig.com

Keep it casual at The Company Kitchen in Philo for exceptional Mexican food made by local legend Chef Libby, located at 8651 Highway 28.

For tapas paired with local and international wines, Boonville’s Laurens at The Buckhorn is the place to stop. //
www.laurensgoodfood.com

 

WHERE TO STAY

Lichen Estate produces up to five sparkling wines along with still wines like Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, but this property also offers a place for guests to stay in its dog-friendly vineyard house or airstream. // www.lichenestate.com

In Philo, the “homestyle lodging” at Indian Creek Inn is a cluster of five single-story hubs, each offering its own shared common room with a full kitchen, dining, and relaxation spaces. Guests have their own private room, en suite bath, and separate exterior entrance. Booking for a group of guests is more like a private vacation rental but without the expense. // www.indiancreekinn.biz

A modern roadhouse in Boonville is where the Boonville Hotel offers 17 rooms designed with simplicity in mind. // www.boonvillehotel.com

The Madrones, located in Philo on a Mediterranean compound, was once a rural homestead and TV repair shop. Designer and lifestyle entrepreneur Jim Roberts spent 20 years creating the property as it stands today. There are two wine tasting rooms representing small lot wineries in Anderson Valley and an herbal apothecary and curiosity shop. // www.themadrones.com

Little River Inn is just outside the Victorian town of Mendocino, perched on a bluff with an unparalleled view of the Pacific Ocean. At sunset, the sky becomes the color of “oxidized citrus,” and its magic becalms the soul. Down below, waves crash against the cliff that attributes to its mesmerizing sound. // www.littleriverinn.com

 

TO DO

The Harvest Tidrick Celebration, a Friday evening harvest Boucherie pig roast with local wines, beer, ciders, and more to kick off a weekend of harvest-inspired wine tastings and tours. // www.cellarpass.com/events/harvest-tidrick-celebration-9136

White Wine Festival wine and food pairings highlighting the region’s white wine, sparkling, and rosé. // www.avwines.com/white-wine-weekend

Pinot Noir Festival features multiple days of Pinot Noir from more than 50 producers. // www.avwines.com/pinot-noir-festival

For more information 707-895-WINE // www.avwines.com

 

MORE TO TASTE

Explore tastings from these newer producers making a name for themselves in Anderson Valley:

Weatherborne Wines

Taste coastal wines from around California with winemaker Cris Carter in the historic redwood mill in downtown Philo.  // www.weatherborne.com

Brashley Vineyards

Taste with owner Ashley Palm who offers art, chef pairings, and a beautifully renovated tasting  room and outdoor patio area. // www.brashleyvineyards.com

 

** Remember to stop in Yorkville on the way in or out of Anderson Valley.**

Yorkville Cellars & Seawolf Wines

Both are owner-operated and offer tasting experiences with sweeping views and memorable wines ranging from Zinfandel  to Bordeaux varieties. // www.yorkvillecellars.comwww.seawolfwines.com