I love Alsacian wines! The wines of Alsace have bright, lovely acidity, wonderful aromas and fantastic in your mouth. The wines happen to be primarily white which may be a turn off for some people. But, I say give them a chance especially on Thanksgiving. The region is known for Muscat Blanc, Rielsing, Pinot Blanc, Gewurtraminer and some Pinot Noir. These varietals all work very well with traditional Thanksgiving foods. The wines are generally dry but you can find some with a bit of residual sugar for people with a sweet tooth.
Last weekend, I was wine tasting in Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Anderson Valley is an appellation well worth learning about if you are not familiar. The valley is known for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewurtraminer. Excellent sparkling wine is also being made in the valley by Roederer Estate and Scharfenberger (once owned by Dr. John Scharfenberger of the chocolate fame — he has since sold it to Roederer Estate). The valley is in a cooler climate zone relative to most California grape growing locations which the warmish days and cooler nights gives you excellent temperature spreads which encourage phenolic ripeness while maintaining great acidity in the grapes. As I was tasting, it struck me in how similar many of the wines were in style, aromas and flavors as Alsacian wines.
On the wine tasting trip, I went to the following locations:
Roederer Estate – I started the day of wine tasting in a very refined way — drinking sparkling wine at Roederer Estate! I can not recommend stopping here highly enough. The people and wines are both tremendous. One of the great things is to try the same wine aged in a 750 ml vs. the same wine aged in a magnum. The wine aged in a magnum is smoother, better autolysis flavors (toast, yeast, etc). The price difference is only $5 more for the magnum (generally) but well worth the price difference. Of the wines I tried, I really enjoyed the Brut NV, Rose Brut NV and the 2000 L’ermitage (in the magnum).
Husch Vineyards – Husch Vineyards is one of the oldest active wineries in Anderson Valley. They produce a wide range of wines: Muscat Canelli, Riesling, Gewurtraminer, Carigne, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. They make a dry and a sweet Gewurtraminer — both of which are quite good. The white wines were better than the reds. The tasting room is a converted small shack into a cute and eclectic which fits in well in Mendicino County.
Navarro Vineyards — Navarro Vineyards is a must stop by when in Anderson Valley. The tasting room is very well appointed with many bars and has very nice people working in it. They were pouring 18 wines when I was there — mostly all white varietals (Riesling, Muscat Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Gewurtraminer). Navorro does produce some nice lower price point simple Pinot Noirs from Anderson Valley. The Muscat Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurtraminer and Edelzwicker (blend of Riesling, Muscat Blanc, Gewurtraminer and Pinot Gris — a traditional blend in Alsace) were all very good. We were also able to taste the 2008 Pinot Noirs and Syrahs that were bottled under a second label — Fireside — due to the smoke issues from all the fires in the Anderson Valley. The Fireside wines were actually pretty good especially at the price of $12 / bottle; these wines would be great at any BBQ.
Standish Cellars – The tasting room is located in an old apple drying building. The building is very cool and worth the time to check out. The wines are quite nice but a bit on the pricey side. The 2007 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir was very good and worth tasting. You will not be disappointed.
Toulouse Vineyards – They are in the process of building a tasting room on the vineyard site. The temporary tasting room was in the winery itself that had a wonderful homey and authentic feel to it! When I get to building a winery / tasting room, I want it have this type of feel. The wines were quite good especially their Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir! The people are wonderful and this is well worth your time to taste their wines! They also have great cheese crackers to cleanse your palate (impossible to just have one).
Scharfenberger Cellars – Even though Roerderer Estate owns Scharfenberger now, they are maintaining the Scharfenberger house style quite faithfully. The house style is made to suite the American palate (noticable residual sugar) vs. an older world palate (drier).
Jim Ball Vineyards — specializes in Pinot Noir and does a fantastic job. If you are in the area, please go in and taste, you will be very glad that you did! The vineyards were planted in 2000 with the first vintage being in 2004. The Pinot Noirs are very good especially the owners blend. The 2007 vintage is very good (as you might expect).
Londer Vineyards – they have a very nice tasting room in Booneville (eastern Anderson Valley) and have a wide range of excellent wines! The white and red wines were equally good which is rare thing at a winery. 2008 Corby Vineyard Chardonnay is very good (the Robert Young clone is very distintive and enjoyable). The three Pinot Noirs (2007 Anderson Valley, 2007 Ferrington Vineyards – Anderson Valley, and the 2007 Parabol Vineyard – Anderson Valley) that I tried were all very good and distinctive — you must try all of them.
If you are not familiar with the wines of Anderson Valley, it is well worth your time to learn more!