Our first visit to Anderson Valley was in the late 1970s. I had to pull the car over. The Navigator was car sick. The squealing tires should have been my clue. I drove the speed limit through Boonville, Philo and Navarro and then realized we were in one of the most beautiful wine regions in California. We stopped, did some tasting and discovered bone dry Alsace style wines. Our hosts were friendly and helpful with tons of information and most notably, no glitzy pinkie-waving crowds or snootiness. We loved it and still do.
There were just a few tasting rooms at the time. Husch, Edmeades and Navarro come to mind but that was almost 40 years ago. Today, there are 28 tasting rooms and more that 60 bonded wineries taking advantage of Anderson Valley fruit. The region was validated in 1982 when the French Champagne House, Roederer, realizing the quality of fruit grown there, bought land and built a winery. The Anderson Valley AVA was founded in 1983 and now boasts 2,500 acres planted, with 14 varietals grown, primarily pinot and chardonnay. Another boost for the region was the Goldeneye Winery opening in 1996 by the Duckhorn Wine Company of Napa Valley. In 1997 a Pinot Noir Festival was held by the Winegrowers Association and this year marks its 20th year.
If you’re a pinot-phile, put this festival on your list. It’s a three-day event, starting Friday with an all-day technical seminar with breakfast and lunch included. Don’t let the word “technical” scare you, we tasted and discussed 20-year-old Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs and barrel tasted the 2016s. Friday evening was a casual barbecue with live music and special wines brought by Anderson Valley winemakers. Saturday was the Grand Tasting held in a huge tent at the Goldeneye Winery. We tasted pinot noir, pinot noir blanc, blanc de noir and pinot noir rose’s from 60 producers along with gourmet foods, live music and a silent auction. If you’re up for it, there are optional dinners in the evening. On Sunday, most local wineries host open houses with seminars, special tastings, tours etc.
Checking over my notes, these wines stood out: three 2014 Anderson Valley Pinots were Lichen Estate, Handley Cellars and Pennyroyal Farm, two 2014 vineyard designated pinots were Goldeneye ‘Gowan Creek’ and Walt ‘The Corners’ and two 2015 pinots were Navarro Vineyards Deep End Blend and Foresight Wines Charles Vineyard Clone 05. Bravo! Excellent wines and a fantastic festival. The 21st annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival will be May 18-20, 2018. Be there, its Pinot Perfect. Cheers!
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