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Greg Henry's Travels I'm a hungry traveler. This is where I share my journey. You'll see I have a particular interest in eating once I arrive.

The Wines of Anderson Valley, CA

USA | Monday, 2 March 2015 | Views [685]

Anderson Valley Wine Country in California

Anderson Valley Wine Country in California

Northern California’s Anderson Valley is a wine lover’s paradise. It’s more remote and less traveled than Napa and Sonoma, but still just 2 hours from San Francisco. The best introduction to the area is a slow-paced drive from one end of the valley to the other.

Being off the beaten path is a good thing in the Anderson Valley. These days I find myself in an always-on, gotta have it now, whatever’s closest, anxious mindset. Not so in the Anderson Valley. Though only two hours north of the high tech, high brow San Francisco scene, and a lovely 9-hour coastal drive from the megalopolis that we call Los Angeles, the Valley’s laid back natural beauty is a world apart. Serenity aside, it’s also a great place for wine.

The area’s wide diurnal range in temperature, which can span 40-50 degrees in a single day, plus the variation in elevation (sea level up to 2,500 feet) combine to produce a bevy of micro-climates. Add in the coastal fog and variety of soil types and you’ve got yourself a recipe for many distinctive expressions of place, or terroir. Generally speaking, these conditions are very well suited to both the finicky and revered Pinot Noir grape as well as Alsatian varietals such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

And bubbly. French Champagne house Roederer Estate placed a bet on the Anderson Valley for their New World outpost back in the early 1990’s. Makes sense, as two of the three grapes used for Champagne production, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, thrive here (I didn’t come across any Pinot Meunier). We had a particularly delightful and informative session of, er, sparkling conversation with Scarlet at the Signal Ridge tasting room located on the grounds of The Madrones. As Scarlet poured the current release of their 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir blend brut she explained that the grapes came from a vineyard with the highest elevation in all of Napa, Sonoma and the Anderson Valley. Small grapes, big concentrated flavors: a luxurious bouquet of fresh citrus and apple with a bright clean finish. Different from a toasty French Champagne, elegant in its own way.

Navarro Vineyards has been crafting popular, very well-priced Pinots and Alsatian varietals (dry, sweet, and even non-alcoholic versions) for decades. Like much of the Anderson Valley, the stunning setting is enhanced by the warm and welcoming staff (as well as a couple of llamas). After savoring a pair of Pinots, I was treated to a taste of their 2013 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer and an older Late Harvest Riesling: both were lush, honeyed yet surprisingly crisp and refreshing. Noble rot indeed.

That said, Pinot Noir truly is the king of the Anderson Valley wine. From the five distinctive offerings at Goldeneye Winery (Anderson Valley wine with a Duckhorn pedigree) to the outstanding 2006 Baxter we had with dinner on our last night, each sip sang a song of cherries (some tart or sour, some ripe and red, some fortified like Luxardos), herbs and love.

In the Anderson Valley the term Wine Country is both a physical reality and a emotional state of mind. The Wine County here is a quiet place to spend your day surrounded by beauty, and perhaps visit a winery or two. Of course, with good wine comes good food. The combination of the two is exactly what I was looking for.

Tags: wine

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