Wineries in Anderson Valley and Mendocino Ridge*
To locate the wineries, refer to the map in previous article.
* The Mendocino Ridge AVA is located just west of Anderson Valley. It consists of a scattering of tiny vineyards and
a few wineries on ridges above the fog line at a minimum of 1,200 feet elevation. About 75 acres are planted, primarily
to Zinfandel which has a history here dating back to the late 1800s. In recent years, a few Pinot Noir producers
have put down roots in the Mendocino Ridge AVA in the town of Elk.
Baxter Winery Phil Baxter (photo right) is a native Californian
who studied winemaking at Fresno State and began his career in
1969 with Bill Bonetti of Charles Krug Winery. He became the head
winemaker at Rutherford Hill for its first ten years and later moved to
Dry Creek Valley to head the winemaking team at Domaine Michel.
In 1989, he started his own Philippe-Lorraine label honoring his
French maternal grandparents, Philippe and Lorraine Segrais. Phil
Jr. grew up around wineries and vineyards and studied winemaking
at University California Davis. After graduating, he worked in Burgundy,
including time at Domaine de la Vougaraie. In 2003, father
and son started the Baxter label concentrating on Pinot Noir. Two vineyard Pinot Noirs are produced
from purchased grapes: Toulouse Vineyard in Anderson Valley and Oppenlander Vineyard in
Comptche, just north of Anderson Valley. The 2004 ($40) and newly released 2005 vintages ($50) are
available through retail channels and the website at www.baxterwinery.com. 28000 Greenwood Rd,
Elk. 707-877-3727. Not open to the public.
Black Kite Cellars Don and Maureen Green purchased a property in 1995 located in the coolest
part of the “deep end” of the Anderson Valley overlooking the Navarro River and only eight miles
from the Pacific Ocean. They developed a vineyard consisting of three 4-acre blocks planted to Pommard
and Dijon 114 and 115 clones. The Greens are avid ornithologists and have named their Pinot
Noirs after the beautiful black-shouldered kite (hawk) which is an endangered species in the Anderson
Valley. The hawk has distinctive penetrating red eyes which are portrayed on the gorgeous Black
Kite label. The viticulturalist is veteran Paul Ardzrooni and the winemaker is Jeff Gaffner, a talent who
has made wine for over twenty years and has his own label, Saxon-Brown. The Pinot Noir lineup for
2006 includes Kite’s Rest Pinot Noir ($38) which is a blend of all three blocks in the Kite’s Rest Vineyard,
and block-specific Stony Terrace Pinot Noir ($48), Redwoods’ Edge Pinot Noir ($48), and River
Turn Pinot Noir ($48) from the same vineyard. Total production is less than 800 cases. The wines are
sold on the website (www.blackkitecellars.com) and there is limited retail distribution. Not open to
the public. 415-923-0277. The 2005 vintage was highly lauded by the wine press and you should take
a serious look at the 2006 releases.
2006 Black Kite Kite’s Rest Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.76% alc., <500
This wine draws you in with terrific black cherry, dark chocolate and
spicy oak scents. Richly layered with dark fruits including plum with a nice sidecar
of oak. Velvety in texture, clean, and beautifully composed. This one captures
both the power and finesse of Pinot Noir. Everything you could want and
some things you didn’t know to ask for. Flat out terrific.
Breggo Cellars This is a relatively new producer who has burst on the scene in Anderson Valley.
The name, Breggo, comes from the boontling term for sheep. Douglas Ian Stewart and his wife Lucia
Benitez-Stewart came to Anderson Valley in 1996 and purchased a 203-acre sheep ranch on Highway
128 just south of the town of Philo. At one ime, the ranch was part of the sprawling Rawles Ranch, a
4,000-acre property homesteaded by the Rawles family in the 1850s. Stewart was a businessman who
had grown up in Sonoma and was convinced that cool and marginal sites produced the best wines.
Knowing that sheep and grapevines flourish in areas considered climatically and geographically undesirable,
Stewart laid down his roots. He renovated the house on the property, built a small winery
and in 2005 began to source premium grapes from high-profile Anderson Valley vineyards including
Savoy, Ferrington, Donnelly Creek, Aldersprings and Wiley. He hired a consulting winemaker, Ryan
Hodgins, from Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma. Hodgins has an interesting background. Originally from
Oregon, he is a University California Davis graduate whose mentor was Bryce Bagnall of Bryce Vineyard
in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. In 2005, he made wine in India before arriving at Hanzell.
His wife is a viticulturalist at Chehalem in Oregon. Stewart purchased the latest in gentle winemaking
technology, including the first-of-its-kind Coquard Bucket Press invented by Anderson Valley’s own
Michel Saigue. The winemaking regimen consists of a 7 to 8 day cold soak, long fermentation lasting
an average of 24 days, and aging in 50% new oak. 65% of the winery’s production is Pinot Noir. Recently,
Stewart has begun to plant a vineyrd on his property. He plans to use an innovative and largely
untried subsurface irrigation system. The winery and tasting room are at 11001 Highway 128, Boonville.
The tasting room is open from 11-5 daily. 707-895-9589. The wines may be purchased on the
website at www.breggo.com or through retail channels. The 2006 lineup of Pinot Noirs includes
an Anderson Valley appellation Pinot Noir, and vineyard-designates from Savoy, Ferrington and Donnelly
2006 Breggo Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40.
aromatic profile featuring cranberry, rhubarb, sage and alcohol. Some pleasing
elegance to the texture and structure, but the heavy-handed oak overwhelms the
darkly fruited core and spoils the experience
2006 Breggo Cellars Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $55.
.Muted aromas of
dark fruits, oak and a whiff of alcohol. Beautiful core of plump dark cherries and blackberries. Dry finish,
but not dried out. Clean and pure and immensely satisfying. The pedigree of this vineyard shows
Brutocao Cellars The Brutocao family was originally from Italy, and after immigrating to California,
married into the Bliss family of farmers. Irv Bliss bought his Anderson Valley property in the mid-
1940s, and the family began making wine in 1991. The label features the Italian Lion of St. Mark, a
symbol of family tradition and quality. Brutocao Cellars produces over twenty estate wines from its
450 acres of vineyards in the southern areas of Mendocino County. The winemaker is Fred Nickel.
The Brutocao “Wine Center” in Hopland is a 7.5-acre wine and food complex at the site of an original
school building dating to the 1920s. The Brutocao Schoolhouse Plaza includes a restaurant, tasting room, wedding pavilion, lawn concert area, banquet facilities and gift shop. A second tasting room on
Highway 128 in Philo is inside a charming wood barn venue with a covered outdoor patio. The Pinot
Noirs are crafted from Brutocao vineyards in Anderson Valley. The wines are available in the winery’s
two tasting rooms and online at www.brutocaocellars.com
2006 Brutocao Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
1,1770 cases, $26.
The nose is enticing
with black cherry, smoky oak and forest floor scents. A decent and easily approachable
Pinot Noir that is sensibly priced and a welcome companion at any table.
Claudia Springs Winery Bob and Claudia Klindt purchased the 20-acre property and winery
where Milla Handley crafted her first wines before later founding Handley Cellars at the former Homes
Ranch close by. Along with partner, Warren Hein, they purchased an adjacent undeveloped 20-acre
plot. Bob Klindt had been a home winemaker for several years and began producing wines under the
Claudia Springs label while still living in the San Francisco Bay area. He concentrated initially on Zinfandel
because Pinot Noir grapes were hard to come by. After moving to Anderson Valley, he made
his wines in a rudimentary and tiny winery under the hillside home on the Klindt property. His wines
were well received and consistently won medals in every vintage since the first in 1989. The Hein
family eventually sold their share in the venture. Along with other family members, the Klindts planted
8 acres of Pinot Noir on the property in 1998 (Klindt Vineyard), and released their first Pinot Noir from
the estate vineyard in 2001. The clonal selection is Pommard and Dijon 113, 115, 667 and 777. Winemaking
is traditional using native yeasts and 30% new French oak. Very small quantities of other varieties
including Zinfandal, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, and Viognier are also produced. If you get the opportunity,
visit with Bob as he has a wealth of knowledge about Anderson Valley and can wax for hours
about the many humorous tales of his winemaking career there. A tasting room (at 1810 Highway 128 at mile marker 16 next to the Rock Shop) in Philo is open primarily on weekends (11-5 Friday through
Monday in summer and Friday through Sunday in winter). The tasting room is shared with Harmonique,
whose wines are also crafted by Bob Klindt. Claudia Springs wines are sold through the tasting
room. There is a Mendocino Pinot Noir which is primarily Klindt Vineyard fruit and a Klindt Estate
Pinot Noir which is the flagship wine of Claudia Springs. The website is www.claudiasprings.com and
the phone is 707-895-3993. The 2006 Pinot Noirs have not been released.
2006 Claudia Springs Klindt Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
wine tasted briefly at the Grand Tasting. Fine texture, integrated tannins and a
lively acidity on the finish. Bob’s wines are built for the long haul - I had a 1996 vintage of this wine
at lunch at the event on Friday and it was startling fresh and tasty.
Claudia (photo right) stuck with the pouring duty, but welcoming all of the attendee's compliments.
Demuth Winery Chris and Lyn Demuth farm 8 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
in the hills just north of Boonville. The vines are 19 years old and
planted at 1,600 feet, one of the highest vineyards in the region. The clones are
Pommard and Wädenswil. Small quantities of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are
produced under the Demuth label, but most of the grapes are sold to boutique
wineries including Adrian Fog, Ant Hill Farms, Skewis, and Whitethorn. Tours
and tasting are by appointment. Chris is a very enjoyable man and if he likes
you and sees a passion for wine in your eyes, you will be treated well. A bumpy
dirt road leads to the property so plan accordingly. 16125 Deer Meadows Rd,
Boonville. The website, www.demuthwinery, contains basic information only. I believe the latest release
is the 2004 vintage. The wines are sold directly to visitors and through the website. 707-895-
Drew Jason Drew has been involved with wine as far back as 1980 when he helped his uncle plant a
vineyard in the Napa Valley. He received his winemaking education in both California and Australia
and made his first wine in 1991. With his wife, Molly, he formed his own label while he was Associate
Winemaker at Babcock Vineyards and Winery in the Ste. Rita Hills appellation. In 2003 he left to devote
his energies full-time to the Drew label, and in 2004 the couple purchased a ridge top property in
Elk, overlooking the Anderson Valley and only three miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. A winery
was built on the property and an estate vineyard is planned for the near future. Molly is actively involved
in managing the winery’s business affairs as well as assisting in winemaking, often offering her
opinions on blending decisions. Currently, grapes are sourced from Santa Barbara County
(Cargassachi-Jalama Vineyard, “Potbelly Block”), Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast (McDougall Ranch),
and the Yorkville Highlands (Weir Vineyard). The wines are quickly sold through a mailing list with
some retail and restaurant distribution. Jason is a talented and affable young winemaker who is poised
for big-time success. Tasting by appointment. The winery mailing address is PO Box 313, Elk, CA
95432, and the phone is 707-877-1771. The website is www.drewwines.com.
2006 Drew Fog-Eater Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 495 cases,
$42. This wine is made from sites heavily influenced by the coastal fog. Fog-
Eater is a boontling term used to describe a coastal dweller, someone living
out on the margin. The blend varies with each vintage. In 2006, the blend is
65% Valenti vineyard (clone 667) and 35% Monument Tree Vineyard (clones
115,667,777). Four day cold soak, 20% stem retention, gravity racked two
times, barrel aged in 35% new French oak and 65% seasoned French oak for
Attractive ruby color. Flamboyant aromatics sporting spiced cherries, watermelon, freshsawn
oak and a little barnyard. Plenty of lovable Pinot fruits, fine-grained tannins, admirable acidity, and
a velvety texture. Doesn’t have the twinkle that the 2005 vintage had, but perfectly fine in its own right.
Elke Vineyards Proprietor and winegrower Mary Elke represents much
of what is good about Anderson Valley. She is a most charming woman, part
farmer, part wine lover, and clearly a proud spokesperson for Pinot Noir.
She began her farming career growing organic apples and making apple
juice. She still sells 50+ cases of each year. Her 60-acre Donnelly Creek
Vineyard is just east of Boonville and has supplied grapes to many notable
wineries including Mumm Napa, Roederer Estate, Radio-Coteau, Copain,
Londer, Au Bon Climat, ICI/La Bas, and Breggo. Since 1997, she has produced
a vineyard-designate Pinot Noir, Blue Diamond Donnelly Creek Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
crafted by winemaker Tom Farella. This is a sophisticated Burgundian-styled wine of great breeding.
She also releases a Mary Elke Pinot Noir ($26) which is a value-priced wine composed of Donnelly
Creek and other vineyard sources in the Anderson Valley. It is crafted in a big, fruity style popular
with many drinkers in California. A Mary Elke Chardonnay and Rosé fill out the lineup of 1,700 cases.
The wines are sold on the website at www.elkevineyards.com. Tasting is by appointment. 707-246-
2006 Elke Vineyards Blue Diamond Donnelly Creek Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 650 cases, $38.
This is a beautifully balanced wine of
great interest and charm. The nose offers concord grape, barnyard and hay
aromas. Showy dark fruits are encased in earth and mushroom flavors which are
filled out with a deft touch of oak. The wine grows in the glass, offering a blanket
of fruit but an appealing restraint that leads to softness and finesse.
Esterlina Vineyards & Winery The Esterlina estate Pinot Noir vineyard sits on a ridge commanding a
sweeping view of the Anderson Valley. This property was the site of the former Pepperwood Springs
Winery. Purchased in 2000 by the Sterling family, the estate was rechristened Esterlina (Spanish for
sterling). The Sterlings have successfully diversified their vineyard holdings and now produce several
outstanding wines from Sonoma and Mendocino counties in addition to Pinot Noir. The Sterlings own
vineyards in the Russian River Valley (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), in Alexander Valley (Cabernet
Sauvignon), and in Mendocino (Cole Ranch). Cole Ranch is the smallest AVA in the United States at
253 acres, and one of the few AVAs with one owner, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
are farmed here but the Riesling is the superstar and Esterlina’s Cole Ranch Riesling is among the finest
made in America.. Esterlina has also partnered with Everett
Ridge Winery in Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg, providing
expansion of Esterlina’s vineyard holdings and winemaking
operation. Esterlina is a tight-knit family operation under the
direction of father Murio and his sons. Murio was raised on a
ranch in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and his father was a home
winemaker. He moved to California and farmed row crops and
managed cattle ranches in Central California and Mendocino.
Eric Sterling, M.D., who somehow manages to juggle the winemaking
duties with his full-time emergency room work, has an
impressive touch with Pinot Noir. Steve handles the marketing,
Craig is the winery’s manager and legal counsel, and Chris assists in winemaking and manages the
vineyards. Esterlina wines are sold on the website at www.esterlinavineyards.com
. Tasting is by
appointment. It is worth the 2½ mile drive up a winding dirt road to the winery. The Sterlings are
warm hosts and they will treat you very well. 1200 Holmes Ranch Road, Philo. 707-895-2920.
2006 Esterlina Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 611 cases,
$45. 16 months cooperage in 40% new oak. Unracked, whole
The nose is enchanting featuring plenty of cherry and spicy
oak perfume. Silky in the mouth, with a panoply of red berry and
stone fruits and a memorable finish.
Foursight Wines This producer is a fresh face in the Anderson Valley, hatched in 2007 by
Bill and Nancy Charles, long-time winegrowers, and
daughter Kristy Charles and her fiancé Joseph
Webb. The photo, taken at the event, shows Bill on the
left and Joseph on the right, proudly pouring their Pinot.
The name signifies both the number of generations
of family that have lived and worked on one piece of
land in Anderson Valley, and the foresight to provide
a livelihood for future generations of the family.
The Charles clan arrived in the Anderson Valley
in 1943 to join the regional lumber boom. In
1950, they purchased property just east of Highway
128 in Boonville, built a sawmill, and Charles Lumber
Company was born. The Charles family still
resides on this property. Life in the Anderson Valley
back then could be challenging, to say the least.
In the 1950s, fighting was popular, and one of the local bars was appropriately named Bucket of Blood.
Because of the lumbar industry, amenities in Boonville exceeded those of today and included a movie
theater, pharmacy, and bank. Bill Charles was raised in the valley, educated at Chico State, and after
marrying Nancy Wilson, moved back to the family land in Boonville. Bill and Nancy became involved
in farming and planted Charles Vineyard in 2001. The vineyard consists of 15 acres of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon
Blanc and Semillon. The grapes have been sold to several wineries including Navarro Vineyards
and Handley Cellars in Anderson Valley, Pinot Noir specialist Papapietro Perry in the Russian
River Valley and Schramsberg in Napa Valley. After college, daughter Kristy moved back to Anderson
Valley with her fiancée, Joseph Webb. Foursight Wines was launched in 2007 with Joseph handling the
winemaking duties. Joseph received a degree in wine business from Sonoma State University and
worked during college at Sebastiani and Landmark Vineyards. Later, while he was an assistant winemaker
at Joseph Swan Vineyards, he and Kristy made home wine in their Santa Rosa apartment. The
first Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir was proudly crafted in 2004. Joseph now works at Londer Vineyards
in the Anderson Valley in addition to his duties at Foursight Wines. Kristy is the Executive Director of
the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association and largely responsible for the success of this year’s
Pinot Noir Festival. Bill Charles has designed and is building a winery and tasting room for Foursight
Wines. The lumber for the structure was grown, harvested and milled on the Charles family ranch.
The tasting room will be constructed from a burl wood also recycled from the family ranch. The building will
sit adjacent to a 100 year-old apple orchard on the property, close to Highway 128 in Boonville. The
Charles family are dedicated and warm people who welcome your interest and inquires. To purchase
Foursight wine, contact Kristy Charles at 707-895-2889.
2006 Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 600 cases, $46. Clones are Pommard 5, 114, 115 and 777 planted on an
ancient river bed which is well-drained and can withstand the annual rainfall of
41.6 inches in Boonville. Wild yeast primary and secondary fermentations,
aged in 33% new French oak.
A 2007 barrel sample was also tasted at the Festival and it was a
knock-out with a terrific core of cherry fruit. Stay tuned to this producer, join
the mailing list, and look for big things in the future.
Moderately light crimson color. Red fruits, savory
herbs and forest floor aromas. Red fruit-driven with cherry, cranberry and cola
flavors. Light in character, the soft tannins make for an easy drinker. The alcohol
barely peaks out.
The Duckhorn Wine Company
made a large corporate commitment to Anderson
Valley Pinot Noir beginning in 1997. They purchased
the former Obester Winery, planted 57 acres
of Pinot Noir on the property (the Confluence Estate
Vineyard), and later acquired additional Anderson
Valley vineyard property including the Floodgate
Vineyard (now called The Narrows Vineyard). They
now farm a total of 180 acres in the valley, second
only to Roederer Estate’s 580 acres. Zach Rasmussen
came from winemaking stints at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Husch to head up the Pinot Noir program
at Goldeneye. He is assisted by vineyard manager Nathan Miller, a fifth generation Californian
with a family history of farming going back to the state’s original pioneers. Goldeneye now sources
fruit from twelve different vineyards (four are owned and handfarmed
by Goldeneye - see map left) for its “house style” estate
bottling. Rasmussen gets to work with 49 different clonal and rootstock
combinations of Pinot Noir planted in 80 separate blocks.
In 2004, single vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs were added
to the Estate and Migration bottlings. Goldeneye favors a large
percentage of new French oak, ranging from 50% for Migration
Pinot Noir to 95% for Confluence Vineyard Pinot Noir. The tasting
room is adjacent to an old apple drying barn on Highway 128
and offers both indoor and outdoor seating. The hours are 11-4
daily. Fridays and Sundays at 11:00 AM there are complimentary
tours of the Confluence Vineyard including a tasting of sample
lots from each block our of barrel prior to tasting the prior vintage’s finished wine. Tuesdays and
Thursdays at noon, Goldeneye offers a semiprivate tasting of limited-production wines, paired with a
selection of cheeses ($20). The phone number is 707-895-3202 and the website is
www.goldeneyewinery.com. The latest releases are the 2005 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
($55), 2006 Migration Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($32), 2005 Goldeneye Confluence Vineyard Anderson
Valley Pinot Noir ($75), and 2005 Goldeneye Gowan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75). Magnums
are available. The wines are largely sold through a mailing list and at the winery with some retail distribution.
2004 Migration Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc. 4.440 cases, $32.
The pleasant nose opens to
cherries, savory herbs and oak with swirling. Substantial darker fruits are featured which are highlighted
by a hint of spice. The mouth feel is soft and appealing. There is plenty of oak running through, maybe a
little too much on the slightly bitter finish.
2004 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 7,258 cases, $52.
Definitely a step up in quality and complexity. Showy aromatics of cassis,
black cherry and forest floor. Demure dark fruits, particularly black raspberry,
with an earthy edge and nicely integrated oak. Creamy, smooth and clean.
Balance is spot on.
Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Based on the Mendocino Ridge (see history, page 6), this venerable
winery has been producing multiple varietals since 1980. The winery’s tasting room is a valley
landmark and can be easily spotted by the colorful flags waving in the breeze at the entrance and the
large solar panels adjacent to the winery. The panels have been supplying all of the electric power
needed for the winery since 2005. This is a special spot for a picnic. The wines are bottled with a
unique etched design on the front instead of a label. The tasting room address is 5501 Highway 128,
Philo. Only small amounts of Pinot Noir are made from the winery’s vineyard on Mendocino Ridge and
is sold on the website. The phone is 707-895-2002 and the website is www.greenwoodridge.com
Gryphon Wines Jonathan O’Bergin (pictured) has owned the 120-acre
Larklinn Ranch in Anderson Valley since 2000 and currently farms 7 acres
of Pinot Noir there. The Larklinn Vineyard is located in the “deep end” of
the valley between Philo and Navarro. The property, which is surrounded
by towering redwoods, has a century-old fruit orchard, and barns built by
John Guntley in 1912. Jonathan is a native Californian whose interest in
wine began seriously when he met Colin Fenton MW while traveling
through Champagne. He began importing California wines to England
and in 1980, his Alexander Valley Chardonnay selection won a Gold
Medal at the World Wine Fair in Bristol, England. In the 1980s he settled
in Anderson Valley and planted his first Pinot Noir in 1987 after “falling in love with Clos de la Perrier Fixin in Burgundy.” He made his first Anderson Valley Pinot Noir in 1989.
Stephen Bellamy, whom I met at the festival pouring Gryphon wines, is a native New Zealander who
met Jonathan in 1975 on the Island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific. Stephen eventually moved to California
and settled in the Santa Cruz Mountains where he worked at David Bruce Winery. He joined
Gryphon in 2003 to assist in winemaking and management of the winery. Winemaking is traditional
and is Burgundian inspired. The wines are sold on the website at www.gryphonwines.com. No tasting
room, but Jonathan and Stephen welcome visitors - 831-277-3849. O’Bergin is married to Marie Johnston
whose French mother bestowed on her an interest in food and wine. She offers her own line of imported
wines. Jonathan and Marie have two properties in France for rent: an apartment in Paris and a
residence in Bordeaux. They also pen a travel blog available through the website. All wines were
poured at the festival.
2004 Gryphon Larklinn Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc. $45.
heat in the tent seemed to exaggerate the alcohol in this wine. The nose featured
attractive berry jam aromas. Plenty of stuffing on the palate with moderate tannins
that still need to be shed. Showed better when tasted last year.
2005 Gryphon Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
$30. Usually this wine is 100% estate fruit but in this vintage
some Santa Lucia Highlands grapes were added in.
This was the most showy wine of the three. A
great core of fruit with ever-expanding flavors.
Handley Cellars Established in 1983, this winery is
one of the few in California in which both the owner and
winemaker are the same woman. Milla Handley (pictured
right with distinguished guest of the festival, John Haeger,
author of North American Pinot Noir) started out very modestly
with 250 cases of Chardonnay made in her home
basement in 1982. Together with now deceased husband,
Rex S. McClellan, she acquired a 59-acre estate on Highway
128 in Philo and built Handley Cellars into a renowned
winery producing 20,000 cases of several varietals
annually. Along the way, she became a role model
for aspiring female winemakers and a spokesperson for
the Anderson Valley. Her emphasis on sustainable farming influenced many other winegrowers in the
valley. Mille is the great-granddaughter of the owner of the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery in Portland, Oregon.
Raised in the San Francisco Bay area, she studied at University of California Davis, but realized
early on that winemaking suited her more than large-scale beer production. After schooling, she studied
under Richard Arrowood at Chateau St. Jean. After moving to Anderson Valley in 1978, she mentored
under wine master Jed Steele at Edmeades. Planting of her estate vineyard began in 1986 and
continued up until 1999, now encompassing 30 acres. There are 12½ acres of Pinot Noir in addition to
Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. She also farms vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley of neighboring
Sonoma County (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Syrah) and the 7½ -acre RSM Vineyard
surrounding her Anderson Valley home that was planted in 1999 and 2001 (Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris).
Her charming tasting room is filled with her family’s collection of Oxacan, Indian, and African folk art
and includes a serene sculpture garden for picnicking. The tasting room is open daily and the staff is
most friendly. Milla is assisted in the winemaking chores by Kristen Barnhisel who studied at University
California Davis and has worked at several wineries. The wines are sold through the website at www.handleycellars.com and to Cellar Club members who receive an excellent newsletter in booklet
format. Additionally, there is good distribution of Handley wines to restaurants and retail stores. The
winery is located at 3151 Highway 128, Philo. 1-800-735-3151. Gaze on these photos of the picturesque
Handley property and you will see how dreamy the Anderson Valley can be.
2004 Handley Cellars Reserve Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $52.
This is a wine of great
interest. It starts off with black fruits, savory herbs, plenty of barnyard and some oak aromas. In the
mouth it is earthy and primal with deep, dark fruit. Beautifully crafted, the wine offers a velvety texture
and reigned-in tannins. Smooth as a baby’s bottom. Pure Pinot pleasure.
2005 Handley Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 4,062 cases, $28. A
blend of multiple vineyards including Handley Estate, Ferrington, Charles, Helluva,
Corby, and Romani. Aged 9 months in 29% new French oak.
Dark cherry driven with
sandalwood, earth, and dark chocolate highlights. Quite tasty and easy to like.
2005 Handley Cellars RSM Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
100 cases, $52. The first vineyard-designate wine from Milla Handley
from her home RSM Vineyard named after her late husband. Clones are Pommard,
115 and 667.
This is a very rich and exotic Pinot Noir that defies adequate description.
Firm and medium structured with full flavors. Black cherries, game, mocha, and tea flavors
make an appearance. Built for aging and contemplation.
Harmonique In 2002, veteran Anderson Valley winemaker Bob Klindt of Claudia Springs Winery teamed
with Bruce Conzelman, a real estate developer and long-time Pinot Noir aficionado, to produce Harmonique,
a Pinot Noir blend from Anderson Valley fruit. The two vineyards chosen were the Wiley Vineyard
planted with 29 year-old vines in the westernmost reaches of the valley, and the 7 year-old Klindt Vineyard
located a mile east of Wiley. While blending the various lots, two distinct wines emerged and
were bottled separately: “Delicacé,” a feminine style, and “The Noble One,” a more opulent and
structured Pinot Noir. The Harmonique wines have won numerous medals in competitions and I have
included the 2004 vintage of both wines in my yearly All-American list. A third wine, the 2005 Harmonique
“Elegancé,” will debut later this year first to Wine Club Members and then will be available
on the web site and through selected retailers. Conzelman has acquired the Christine Woods Vineyard
located in Philo where a winery is planned, and the Rose Family Vineyard, now renamed Conzelman
Vineyard. The Harmonique wines are among my favorites from the Anderson Valley and I would
urge you to try them. The very personable Moira Conzelman handles the marketing and pours at all
events (see photo at this year’s festival) as husband Bruce has a hearing disability. Harmonique shares
a tasting room with Claudia Springs Winery (see page 18). 800-937-1889. The website is
Husch Vineyards As noted earlier in this issue, the Knoll Vineyard at Husch was the first planting
of Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley (1968). The Knoll Vineyard was planted to a Wente field selection
of Pinot Noir and the first wine from this vineyard was made in 1971. Vineyard manager Al White has
been at Husch since 1973, and current winemaker, Brad Holstine, has been on board since 2003. In the
early years of The Knoll Vineyard Pinot Noir, the juice was blended at pressing, pumped over aggressively
and subject to lees stiring. The resultant wines were tannic and aggressive and needed at least
five years to come around. During the 1980s, attention was turned to tannin management using more
barrel and bottle age. Currently, the winemaking regimen for the Knoll Vineyard Pinot Noir includes
fractional whole clusters, short cold soaks, hand punch downs, secondary fermentation in barrel, bulldog
racking, and 33% new French oak for 18 months. Husch also farms the 128-acre La Ribera Ranch
(Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay,
Chenin Blanc) in the Ukiah Valley and produces 18 different
wines. The current owners of Husch are the third generation
Oswald family (Hugo Oswald, Jr. bought Husch in 1979), Zac Robinson
and Amanda Robinson Holstine. Total production is 45,000
cases annually. Three Pinot Noirs are offered: an Anderson Valley
blend, an Anderson Valley Reserve, and the Knoll Vineyard single-
vineyard bottling. Husch’s tasting room is a small, quaint and
weathered shack that once was a chicken coop. It is open daily,
10-6. The address is 4400 Highway 128, Philo. The wines are sold
on the website at www.huschvineyards.com. 707-895-3216.
2006 Husch Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 5,598 cases,
$23. Aged 10 months in 25% new French oak.
This wine gives you a lot of bang
for the buck. Always crafted in an elegant, easily approachable style, it has
mouthwatering acidity. Red cherry and raspberry flavors are front and center with
a sidecar of spice and Dr. Pepper.
Jim Ball Vineyards Chicago attorney Jim Ball has thought about escaping the rat race ever since
he visited Northern California 27 years ago. On a subsequent trip to the Anderson Valley he had his
Pinot Noir epiphany. Blessed with plenty of financial resources and seriously dedicated to crafting
world-class Pinot Noir, he has began Jim Ball Vineyards. Ball has teamed with noted winemaker, Greg
La Follette, who has years of experience vinifying cool-climate Pinot Noir in California. Ball is currently
building a 10,000 case state-of-the-art winery on property he purchased in 2005 across the
street from the Goldeneye tasting room on Highway 128. The winery was designed by noted architect Howard Backen
of Backen & Gillem and will be simple in design and respectful of the region. La Follette will also craft
his own Tandem label wines at the winery. In addition to the winery, Ball has begun to plant 15 acres of
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the land. This vineyard will be called FourDog Ranch. A second vineyard site
in Anderson Valley was acquired previously in 2000. Located at a high elevation and rather remote,
this vineyard, named Middleridge Ranch, was planted in 2002 (10 acres) and 2006 (16 acres). Eight
different heritage clones on three different rootstocks are thriving in the Goldridge soil there. Ball has
brought in biodynamic viticulturalist, Ginney Lambrix (she spoke at the Technical Conference - page
11), who has left De Loach, to supervise vineyard development. La Follete was the winemaker at De
Loach and he will turn over the reigns to Brian Maloney and assume an advisory role there. The inaugural Pinot Noir from the Middleridge Ranch was introduced at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Festival. Other wines will follow as the vineyards mature. I am certain that the talent and commitment
here is a strong predictor for success, and I believe it would show prudent foresight to sign up for the
mailing list now. The website is www.jimballvineyards.com and phone 707-480-0371.
2006 Jim Ball Vineyards “Signature” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
actually startled me by its charm. An impressive inaugural effort that showed
great breeding. Gregarious red fruit and spice that delivered plenty of perfume
and flavor, yet was light on its feet. The whole Pinot package.
Lazy Creek Vineyards The history of this winery was profiled on page 6. This winery is currently
owned by Josh and Beth Chandler and David Noorthoek, M.D.. Chandler has a varied background
including winegrower, trained chef, and landscape architect. The Chandlers have added to
the original 19 acres of vineyards they obtained when they purchased the property in 1999, and now
farm 20 estate acres. The original Pinot Noir plantings consist of multiple heritage and suitcase selections.
Winemaking is unique in that post-fermentation a portion of the Pinot Noir is put into large oak
casks. The tasting room at 4741 highway 128 in Philo is open by appointment. The small production is
sold primarily at the winery. Lazy Creek has a well-deserved reputation for Gewürztraminer as well.
The current Pinot Noirs offered for sale on the website are the NV Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($21),
the 2004 Estate R.P.B. Pinot Noir ($98), and 2006 Estate Old Vine Pinot Noir ($39.50). The estate wines
are bottled in heavy glass with the Lazy Creek logo embossed in glass on the neck. The website is
www.lazycreekvineyards.com and phone is 707-885-3623
Londer Vineyards Larry and Shirlee Londer left a comfortable life in Albuquerque, New Mexico
(he was an ophthalmologist who directed a large multi-doctor practice and she ran the optical shop) to
farm grapes and make wine in the Anderson Valley. In 1999, the Londers teamed with a few investorfriends
to purchase a bucolic farm property in Philo. Larry wanted to name the venture Anderson
Valley Vineyards, but the name was already taken by a winery in Albuquerque of all places, and they
wouldn’t relinquish it. The Londers planted a small estate Pinot Noir vineyard and sourced grapes
from several vineyards in Anderson Valley and Sonoma County. Larry has a rye sense of humor and
likes to detail the struggles that running a small boutique winery entails (“We work eight days a week
and still don’t have enough time!”), but you sense that he is loving every minute of it. Winemaker
Greg La Follette got them started, but a protégé of Greg’s, Richard Davis (Halleck, Alcina Cellars, Calstar,
and La Czar) has taken over and doing a fine job. The Londer estate is stunning with a vineyard
encircled by fruit orchards and towering redwoods. A winery is on the property and the Londers talk
about opening a tasting room. For now, they receive visitors by appointment in their home or a guest
cottage on the property. Shirlee (pictured below at the recent Festival) keeps the operation running
smoothly. The wines are sold through a mailing list with some retail distribution. Londer wines have
received numerous medals and are highly praised in the wine press. The wines are not bashful and
feature copious fruit. The website is www.londervineyards.com and the phone is 707-895-3900.
2004 Londer Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $30.
Made by Greg La Follette.
Aromas of crushed plums and buttered toast.
A big and bold wine with a healthy tannic spine. Plenty of dark Pinot fruits
which stand up to the alcohol.. Needs a steak.
2005 Londer Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $33.
Made by Greg La Follette.
Black fruits, toast and minerality on the nose.
Oak-infused black fruits on the palate. Tannins are toned down compared
to the 2004 vintage creating a soft and appealing mouth feel.
2005 Londer Vineyrds Paraboll Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $54. “Para” is an art classification
for a deep cherry-red color. “Boll” translates as “great” in boontling. Sourced from Ferrington
and Valley Foothills Vineyards. A reserve blend.
Complex and bright aromatic profile featuring
black cherry, ripe strawberry, sage, vanilla and a little funk. A boat-load of herbal-toned dark fruits that
are balanced and on keel. Some green tannins persist.
2005 Londer Vineyards Estate Grown Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $50.
and cherry fruit with a little barnyard on the entry. Big core of plush dark fruits with a delicious lingering
aromatic berry finish. Smoky, spicy, exotic and very tasty. This one is captivating and forces you
to take another sip.
Prince, Winemaker Richard Davis, Proprietor Larry Londer
Navarro Vineyards Navarro’s historical place in the Anderson Valley was profiled on page 7.
Navarro began planting grapes in the Anderson Valley in 1974. Almost twenty-five years later, the
children of founders Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn, Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett, are now actively
involved in the winery as well. Sarah received a Masters degree in enology and viticulture from University
California Davis, and has applied her research on the phenolics of Mendocino Pinot Noir to
Navarro’s already stellar lineup of Pinot Noirs. She is assisting winemaker Jim Klein, who has been at
Navarro for over fifteen years. Aaron designed Navarro’s first website in 1996, and his internet savvy
adds to Navarro’s impressive marketing history. Navarro now produces 40,000 cases of wine annually,
10,000 cases of which are Pinot Noir. The winery farms nine vineyard sites and blends multiple lots of
Pinot Noir prior to bottling each vintage. There are three Pinot Noirs produced: a Mendocino appellation
blend, a Méthode a l’Ancienne Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and a Deep End Anderson Valley Pinot
Noir. The wines are sold primarily to a loyal customer mailing list and online at
www.navarrowine.com. Some of the limited release wines are only made available to wine club members.
The tasting room and winery are at 5601 Highway 128, in Philo. The tasting room is open daily
10-6:00 and the grounds are perfect for picnicking. Tours are offered daily at 10:30 AM. There is a full lineup including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and
Gewürztraminer. Pictured below is Jim Klein talking Pinot with Burt Williams at the Festival.
2006 Navarro Mendocino Pinot Noir
An entry level Pinot Noir which is
perfectly fine for what it is. Pleasant with lightly spiced red fruits and sparkling
2006 Navarro Methode L’Ancienne Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
is the flagship Pinot Noir which is widely available. Year in and year out it is
consistently fine and this vintage is no exception. Perfumed with cherries,
roses and tea, and both cherries and herbs leap out on the palate. Oak is
deftly integrated. Beautifully crafted and harmonious, a terrific Pinot and one
of the best tasted this Festival weekend. A steal at this price.
2006 Navarro Deep End Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Primarily pre-sold to wine club members.
This one has the most backbone and structure and will reward patience. All the good stuff is there and
worth joining the wine club to get your hands on some.
Phillips Hill Estates This winery has a very interesting background and is best read on the website
with a glass of Pinot in hand. Briefly, owner and winemaker Toby Hill grew up in San Francisco
and had a successful career in the art business in New York. Like so many who become attracted to a
less harried lifestyle, he returned to California and found his piece of heaven in the hills overlooking
Anderson Valley. He built a house and an adjacent art studio, but when some unfinished Pinot Noir
became available, the studio was transformed into a winery and that year (2002) Hill released his first
Pinot Noir. He now sources grapes from the Oppenlander Vineyard on Shandel Ranch in Comptche’s
Surprise Valley (just north of Anderson Valley), and the Toulouse Vineyard in Anderson Valley. Interestingly,
William Shandel planted fifteen different varietals in 1984 trying to determine which would
perform best in his cool climate site close to the ocean. It wasn’t long before he decided on Pinot Noir
and now supplies grapes to several producers as well as releasing his own Shandel Pinot Noir. Shandel now farms 18 acres of Pinot Noir, clones 114, 115, 667, Martini and Pommard, all self-rooted,
planted in 1998-1999. Hill Estates wines are sold on the website at www.phillipshillestates.com. The
winery is located at 25690 Philo Greenwood Road in Philo. Tasting by appointment. 707-877-1151.
The labels are quite attractive, reflecting Hill’s artistic background. John Pope assists Hill in the winemaking
duties. I was so taken by the wines when tasted briefly at the Festival, I ordered some as soon
as I returned home so I could spend some time thoroughly enjoying them.
2006 Phillips Hill Estates Oppenlander Vineyard Comptche Mendocino County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 550 cases, $42. Aged 11 months in 40% new
Startling good from start to finish. Aromas of Bing cherry, grass
and wet earth entice, followed by delicious bright cherry and berry flavors
with an exotic bent that grows in the mouth. Silky, clean and perfectly composed
with striking length. A very, very seductive Pinot.
2006 Phillips Hill Estates Toulouse Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 150 cases, $40. Hill calls this vineyard a “nursery for angels.”
Clones 115, 667 and 2A. Aged 11 months in 35% new French oak.
The nose offers sexy cherry and cranberry scents with a whiff of alcohol peaking
out. Richly layered core of black cherries, blackberries and cola that carry
through to a finish that lasts an eternity. Soft and smooth in texture, but with
finishing tannins that need to be shed. A bit backward now, but will reward
another year in the bottle. Excellent.
Philo Ridge Vineyards Fred Buonanno and Heather McKelvey
searched for four years before finding their dream property high on a ridge
in the Anderson Valley. After answering an ad in the newspaper, they fell in
love with the 40+ acres and purchased the land in 1999. Far up in the hills on
a 5.33 mile dirt road, the existing vineyard had been planted in 1976 to
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot by the original owner, Vernon Rose of the
now defunct Christine Woods Winery. Since the couple had no farming experience,
they hired vineyardist Norman Koble to supervise the planting of
Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris on the property. Their first vintage was 2001.
Hovering around 1,000 case of multiple red and white varietals, they plan to
eventually feature primarily Pinot Noir. Tasting is by appointment on weekends.
Wines may be obtained by phoning 707-489-2303 or contacting the
owners through the website at www.philoridge.com.
Raye’s Hill Vineyard and Winery Raye and Dan Sokolow are Chicago refugees who moved to
Anderson Valley and planted their estate vineyard in 1997. They currently craft 1,000 cases of wine,
primarily Pinot Noir, from their estate vineyard and several other vineyards in the valley. The wines
are available on the website at www.rayeshill.com. 3400 Chardonnay Lane in Philo. 707-895-3439. I
did not get to taste the wines. Currently available:
Roederer Estate Since 1981, Roederer Estate has been developing its own vineyards and crafting
fine sparkling wines. Jean-Claude Rouzaud, Chairman of Champagne Louis Roederer and grandson of
Madam Camille Olry Roederer, chose the 58 acre Anderson Valley vineyard and winery site. Roederer
Estate now farms over 580 acres of Pinot Noir (primarily sparkling clones 32 and 33, Pommard,
and Dijon 667 and 777) and Chardonnay. All wines are made from estate grapes. The winery’s Anderson
Valley Estate Brut (65,000 cases, $23) debuted in 1988, and in 1993 was joined by the first vintage
sparkler, L’Ermitage (5,548 cases, $45). An Estate Brut Rosé (3,000 cases, $27) and vintage dated L’Ermitage
Rosé 650 cases of 750 ml ($56) and 110 cases of 1.5 L, are also produced. The winemaking
team is all French headed by Arnaud Weyrich. Roederer (Maisons Marques & Domaines) also owns
nearby Schraffenberger Cellars (formerly Pacific Echo and originally Schraffenberger). Roederer
Estate has quietly been making a still Pinot Noir since 1992, which is only sold through the tasting
room. The barn-inspired tasting room is open daily from 11-5:00 PM at 4501 Highway 128 in Philo.
The website is www.roedererestate.com. 707-895-2288. The sparkling wines are widely distributed.
Scharffenberger Cellars Originally founded in 1981 by John Scharffenberger (who also subsequently
started the Scharffenberger chocolate company now sold to Hershey), the sparkling wine producer
was sold in 1998 and renamed Pacific Echo. It was acquired by Maisons Marques & Domaines
(Roederer) in 2004 and the original name restored. Tex Sawyer has been winemaker here since 1989.
A still Pinot Noir is produced and sold in the tasting room. The winery’s flagship wine is the NV
Scharffenberger Brut (25,000 cases, $19). The tasting room is at 8501 Highway 128 in Philo and is open
daily from 11-5. The website is www.scharffenbergercellars.com. 707-895-2957.
Standish Wine Company The winery’s historical perspective is discussed on page 17. The
charming tasting room at 5101 Highway 128 in Philo is open daily starting at 10:30. 707-895-9213. The
website is non-functional. I did not get a chance to taste the 2005 Standish Wine Company Day
Ranch Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. 14.9% alc., 350 cases, $40. Vinified by winemaker
Josh Chandler of nearby Lazy Creek Cellars.
Toulouse Vineyards & Winery Vern and Mazine Boltz are urban refugees from the San Francisco
Bay area where Vern was an Oakland Fire Department Captain and home builder, and Maxine
was a flight attendant and real estate professional. They purchased 160 acres near Philo in 1997 and
planted a 17-acre vineyard to Pinot Noir (clones 2A, 115, 667 and 777). The vineyard was named Toulouse
after a huge goose weighing in at up to 35 pounds that thrives in the tranquility of the vineyard.
The vineyard has supplied grapes for several other producers such as Pacific Echo, MacPhail, Baxter, J. Jacaman, and Phillips Hill Estates. The Boltzs started their own Toulouse label wines which are sold
through the website at www.toulousevineyards.com. Tasting is by appointment, but if the gate is open
it is worth checking to see if the Boltzs will receive you. The winery is nothing fancy and rather rustic,
but that is not the point. You will be treated very well here by the affable and personable hosts. 8001
Highway 128 in Philo. 707-895-2828.
2006 Toulouse Estate Anderson Valley Rosé
This is a terrific wine and
the best rosé I tasted over the weekend. There is plenty of berry fruit with a
touch of orange peel. The brisk acidity leads to a refreshing finish.
Zina Hyde Cunningham The Cunningham family history in Mendocino County dates back to
1865 when Zina Hyde bought property in Ukiah and crafted excellent wines. Bill Cunningham, Zina’s
great grandson, encouraged by cousin Steve Ledson, owner of Ledson Winery & Vineyards in Kenwood,
started Zina Hyde Cunningham in 2004 in Boonville. Unfortunately the pourer at the Festival
was just helping out and didn’t know much about the winery and wines. The quaint Zina Hyde Cunningham
Winery and General Store is located in downtown Boonville at 14077 Highway 128 across
from the Boonville Hotel. It is open daily from 10-5. 707-895-9462. The website is
www.zinawinery.com. Multiple varietals are available from Redwood Valley, Lake County, and the
Russian River Valley. The wines are sold through a mailing list and at the tasting room.