Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> A Visit to Anderson Valley

A Visit to Anderson Valley
By, Jim Bandy

Over the years, my palate has developed a deep appreciation for cool-climate wines. Rather than revisit the warm climate of Napa or Sonoma, we headed out for three days in California’s coolest winegrowing region, Anderson Valley. Located 110 miles northwest of San Francisco, Anderson Valley is just one mile wide and 15 miles long. Sparsely populated, it’s where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive. The Pacific is no more than 10 miles away, making cool breezes and morning fog a regular occurrence, with deep diurnal shifts at night.
Lodging options, like the population, are few in the valley. We chose the town of Mendocino as our base. Mendocino is imminently walkable, with quaint shops, cliff side-trails, and several good dining options. Additional restaurants attached to inns dot the rugged coastline just outside Mendocino. Standouts for us were Café Beaujolais, the Inn at Albion, and the Inn at Little River. Harbor House in Elk has 2 Michelin stars, which we will include in our next trip.

The drive to Anderson Valley took a short 20 minutes. Even though our arrival coincided with that of an atmospheric river which delivered rain nearly nonstop during our time, the natural beauty of the area is nothing less than spectacular.

Of our tastings, one family’s wines stood out as excellent examples of Anderson Valley. The Rouzaud family of Champagne Louis Roederer arrived here in the early 1980s, when new clones of Pinot Noir promised to handle the cool climate. Bringing their vast experience to bear, they created Roederer Estate. A favorite of Grapevine Cottage customers, they make delicious sparkling wine from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Our host, Greg Lamar, who is also a Sommelier, was kind enough to take us behind the scenes and patiently answer our long stream of questions.

Certified biodynamic, organic, and fish-friendly, you know you’re getting the very best expression their Anderson Valley sites can offer. Fresh and delicious, these are wines I will go back to again and again. Using only the Cuvée from the first press, the Brut NV spends at least two years on lees. It is bright golden in color with a citrusy nose and crisp Brut acidity. Greg shared that even this multi-vintage bottling can easily age for 5-7 years in proper conditions. To illustrate his point, we tasted the freshly opened 750ml bottle with one that had been aged 4 years. The older bottle expressed more berry notes than citrus, and the mouthfeel was more creamy than crisp. It’s difficult not to drink their Brut NV right away, but it’s great to know you can!

Beyond sparkling, the Rouzaud family also makes still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir just down the road as Domaine Anderson. Until Grapevine Cottage brought in Domaine Anderson’s Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir last year, I had never heard of them. Having become a fan of those two bottles, I was excited to learn more on this visit. At the time they purchased the property, it was an unofficial junkyard; used by neighboring farmers who needed to get rid of old equipment, etc. Bringing the property back to usable status with sustainable practices, the tasting room there is surrounded by their Dach vineyard.

Their Estate bottles combine fruit from Dach as well as other vineyards they own in Anderson Valley. As we tasted both single vineyard and Estate options, I consistently preferred the Estate vineyard bottling. The Estate Chardonnay’s bright gold color delivered a balanced profile with spices and butter on the nose and lemon curd and spice to the palate. The Estate Pinot Noir delivered more fruit than the 2018, but I think some savory notes may evolve in another year which are evident in the 2018. If you can grab some of the last remaining bottles of the 2018 at Grapevine Cottage, you’ll see what I mean. It’s a beautiful Pinot Noir, ready to enjoy right now. Roederer Estate and Domaine Anderson wines really do achieve a different profile from what other French families have in the Carneros region, a couple of valleys away. We felt they have truly captured a sense of Anderson Valley terroir. A special and beautiful place to which we look forward to returning soon.