Tag-Archive for ◊ Anderson Valley ◊

26 Nov 2010 Anderson Valley — Alsace of America?

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!

09 Apr 2009 Taste of Mendocino – April 7th, 2009

The Taste of Mendocino was put on by the Associate of Mendocino County Grapegrowers at the Golden Gate Club at The Presidio in San Francisco.  The wine producers of Mendocino represented all of the 11 approved and pending AVAs in the larger North Coast appellation.  The sub-AVAs are: Anderson Valley (Sept 1983), Cole Ranch (May 1983), Covelo (March 2006), Dos Rios (Nov. 2005), McDowell Valley (Feb. 1987), Mendocino (July 1984), Mendocino Ridge (Dec. 1997), Potter Valley (Nov. 1983), Redwood Valley (Feb 1997), Sanel Valley (pending), Ukiah Valley (pending), and Yorkville Highlands (June 1998).  I noticed that the wines coming out of Potter Valley and Redwood Valley are showing quite a bit of complexity and layered aromas and flavors — keep an eye out for wines coming out of these sub-AVAs.

The event had 65 wineries presenting their wines from the trade and medias consideration.  I was only able to taste a few of the wines at the event.  Overall, the quality of the wines were quite good and fairly consistent.  The value for money factor is very good for the Mendocino wines in general — keep an eye out for them!

I was able to taste the following wines:

A Donkey and Goat Winery:  2008 Grenache Rose – McDowell Valley ($10.64 / 168 cases); It was a very nice light bodies and balanced Grenache Rose.  2007 Syrah – Broken Leg Vineyard ($24.61 / 245 cases); It was big, meaty syrah that was quite pleasant.  2006 Syrah – Perli Vineyard ($37 / 48 cases); this was a serious syrah and worth giving a try.  It was fun to catch up with Tracey Brandt as she and her husband starting making wine at Crushpad just slightly before I did.  We had met several times at the old Crushpad location on Bryant. 

Anthill Farms Winery:  The distributor for Anthill Farms was pouring at the event.  The Anthill Farms wines are very impressive.  The wines are some of the best examples of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir you will find.  The folks at Anthill Farms are making some impressive wines — seek out this wine to try it and share with good friends!

Bink Wines: The winemaker, Deborah Schatzlein, was pouring the wine at the table — always nice to meet the winemaker!  I tried just the 2005 Pinot Noir – Weir Vineyard ($40 / 300 cases) which was very enjoyable!  It has improved in the bottle since the WBC last year where they were pouring it at the live blogging event.

Brutocao Cellars: I tried several of the wines being poured and enjoyed all of them.  I can strongly recommend the 2006 Pinot Noir – Estate ($26 / 1770 cases) [It did very well in the 7th Annual Pinot Noir Summit blind-tasting -- more details to come in the near future.] and the 2005 Coro – Estate (50% zinfandel, 20% sangiovese, 15% barbera, 15% syrah).  Coro is blended wine that can only be produced in the Mendocino area and must have at least 40% zinfandel and a maximum of 70% in the blend, 2nd Tier Varietals: Percentage of any ONE not to exceed Zinfandel as majority component and max of 5% out of vintage. Syrah, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Sangiovese, Grenache, Dolcetto, Charbono, Barbera, Primitivo; Free Play: Up to 10% of total blend from any single or combination of vinifera source. – See this link for the entire Coro protocol.  The Coro was the best of the 5 that I tried at the event!

Chance Creek Winery: I tried all the wines and preferred the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc – SB ($21 / 200 cases) it reminded me of a well-down Bordeaux Blanc; 2005 Sangiovese ($17 / 990 cases) was a nice combination off Dark fruit, cedar, earth will a nice overall balance.

Chiarito Vineyard: I enjoyed the 2006 Nero D’Avola ($50 / 60 cases) quite a bit — a good example of Nero D’ Avola, it is on par with some of the best wines I have tasted out of Sicily [Nose: medium intensity -- perfume, red fruit; palate: juicy, red fruit (cherry and raspberry), with licorice; The 2005 Zinfandel was a nice example of Mendocino zinfandel but not the best [Appearance: opaque ruby/purple; Nose: medium intensity -- perfrume, slight medicinal quality, dried red fruit; Palate: medium, soft tannins, flavors of ripe cherry, cranberry and red currants with medium+ acidity].

Copain Wines: The wines from Copain were very good (as expected).  I had an interesting discussion about how the syrahs were produced — trying to get some pointers for my syrah!  I was told that the syrahs all had at least 15% whole clusters in the fermentation, the cap management protocol is very interesting (stopping of grapes via feet and only up to two times a day if that many — slow fermentation with minimal cap management).  I wonder how they manage to get such serious extraction and dark colors in their wines!.  The 2007 Syrah – Baker Vineyard ($35 / 205 cases) was very good with some serious aging potential. 

Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard: I was hoping to say hello to Casey and find out how things are going at the vineyard this year — I love the syrah and petite sirah grown by Casey!  However, he was not able to attend the event which was unfortunate.

Frey Vineyards: The wines were a bit on the simple side but enjoyable quaffing wines.  The 2005 Syrah – Biodynamic ($20 / 1260 cases) was enjoyable and would be great with BBQ.

Graziano Family of Wines: Greg Graziano the winemaker was pouring at the event.  It was really enjoyable discussing the wines and grape growing in Mendocino.  Many of the wineries get at least of their grapes from the Graziano family.  I enjoyed the  2005 Barbera – Enotria ($17 / 900 cases), 2005 Coro ($37.50 / 466 cases) and a fantastic late-harvest Chenin blanc ($17 for 375ml).  The Chenin Blanc could have been out of the Loire in a good year; I highly recommend seeking this out!

Handley Cellars: Both of the Pinot Noirs are worth trying — 2006 Pinot Noir – Anderson Valley ($30 / 4062 cases) and 2006 Pinot Noir – Mendocino County ($25 / 1516 cases).

Lazy Creek Vineyards: They are a most stop when you are visiting the Anderson Valley.  They make really good Pinot Noir.  The 2006 Pinot Noir – Anderson Valley ($39 / 730 cases) is worth seeking out!

Lolonis Winery: I have really enjoyed their wine for the last 7 to 8 years.  They are a very consistent producer of reasonably priced wines.  The 2005 Petite Sirah- Orpheus ($38 / 1000 cases) is very good, very dark color, blue and black fruit will a balanced acidity that will allow this wine to age for at least 10 years.  If you like Petite Sirah, go get a bottle or two of this!  The 2002 Petros – Redwood Valley ($50 / 800 cases) was drinking very well but should not be held more than another 2 or 3 years.

McNnab Ridge Winery: I really enjoyed the 2006 Zinfandel – Cononiah Vineyard, Potter Valley ($22 / 200 cases).  It was like a combination of very good Mendocino Zinfandel and Anderson Valley Pinot Noir — silky tannins, lovely perfume, floral elements with spicy, red fruit backbone.  The 2005 Coro ($37 / 172 cases) as well.

Naughty Boy Vineyards: The 2006 Pinot Noir ($24.90 / 642 cases) was made by Greg Graziano.  The Pinot Noir had violets, cherry (red and black) on the nose; palate had cherry, kirsch, floral with a medium body, overall very balanced in intensity, acidity and alcohol with complexity in the aroma and flavor profile.

Neese Vineyards: I tried both the 2002 and 2003 Zinfandels ($14.99 and $13.40 respectively).  The zinfandels were very different but were clearly from Mendocino — light to medium body, lots of red fruit, hint of cedar and some mild spice.  The wines were not great but for the price point not a bad value.

Parducci Wine Cellars: The 2005 Coro ($35 / 395 cases) was quite enjoyable but did not have the balance and complexity of most of the other Coros.  The wine may just need to have more time in the bottle for the blend to settle down.

Roederer Estate: The sparkling wines of Roederer are almost always a very good value for the money especially being produced in the US vs. Champagnes.  The 2002 l’Ermitage ($45 / 8300 cases) was wonderful; light pear, apple with good yeast, toast and crisp acidity.  It would be easy to sit down in the warm sun with a good friend and finish off a bottle of this before you knew it!

Saracina Vineyards: I tried the 2007 Atrea — “The Choir” ($20 / 836 cases) but was not impressed.  The blend of 76% Roussanne and 24% Viognier should have been much more aromatic and the palate weight was too heavy due to the large amount of Viognier in the blend.  I prefer a lighter style of white Rhone Blend (see Lionheart Wines 2007 The Angel’s Share, Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley). 

Terra Savia: I had a good talk with Jim Milone, the winemaker, regarding how a small winery / label can be successful.  He has been in the wine business for 30 years.  He advice was start small and slowly build up the brand and keep your prices down so you can ride out the three year cycles of what is in vogue and what is not in vogue.  His 2005 Petit Verdot – Reserve ($15 / 450 cases) was a nice, solid example of Petit Verdot — red fruit, a bit of floral, warm spices o’plenty; for the price it is a great way to get introduced to Petit Verdot which is normally very expensive due to the limited amounts that are grown in California.