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Anderson Noir Valley Pinot Festival: After the Smoke Clears

Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley achieved validation as a premium grape-growing region in the early 1980s when Roederer Estate established extensive plantings and made stellar sparkling wines. In more recent years, the region has placed an emphasis on cultivating Pinot Noir clones appropriate for still wine. Coupled with the widespread adoption of modern winemaking and viticulture practices, Anderson Valley producers are now crafting highly regarded, world class Pinot Noirs. Many align the region’s style closely with Oregon’s Willamette Valley, leading to the offhanded title given to Anderson Valley of “Baja Oregon.”

The 2007 class of Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs can hold their own with any appellation in California, but the 2008 vintage presented a significant setback. The small number of wineries and the anti development attitude that pervades the Anderson Valley has caused a lag in recognition, but the 2008 vintage was a cruel slap in the face that further threatened the region’s reputation.

As reported by Thomas Ulrich in Wines & Vines (January 1, 2009), there were more than 800 lightning-caused fires in Mendocino County beginning the first day of summer in 2008. The timing could not have been worse, for this catastrophe was shortly after veraison, making the grape vines particularly susceptible to smoke taint. Compounding the smoke taint problem, winter frosts between February and April followed by spring and summer heat waves stressed the vines and limited yields. Drought challenged those vineyards that normally require irrigation and early rains threatened harvest as well.

Anderson Valley is classified as a Region I viticulture area in the lower or more northerly part of the valley, and Region II in the upper valley around Boonville. As a very cool winegrowing region, Anderson Valley is susceptible to spring frosts but the two weeks of daily frosts in April 2008 hit especially hard. Many veteran winegrowers said that it was the worst series of frost since the early 1970s. Pinot Noir, which is an early budding variety, is especially vulnerable to frost. Some vineyards in the Anderson Valley lost 80 percent or more of bud growth. The searing heat wave that followed in May further stressed the Pinot Noir vines which prefer gradual changes in temperature. Both frost and extreme heat kill the flowers on the young shoots that must be pollinated to develop into grapes.

As if the challenges of dealing with frost and heat were not enough, the wildfires compounded the vintage nightmares. The Australians have done the most research about the effect if smoke in vineyards, and several facts have emerge from their findings which were confirmed by the experience of vintners during the 2008 vintage in Anderson Valley. Grapevines absorb volatile phenolic compounds such as guaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol through the leaves, store the compounds in the stems and leaves, and transport the compounds to the skin of grapes (there are no smoke compounds contained within the pulp of the grape). The vulnerability of grapevines to smoke taint is highest in the period from seven days after veraison to harvest. Repeat exposure to smoke during the growing season has a cumulative effect. Smoke taint in wine creates aromas and flavors that are described as gamy, spicy, smoky, smoked meat, burnt, charred, ash, dirty, cigar box, charcoal, bacon, truffle, coffee, barbecue, campfire, medicinal, woody and burnt rubber. Increased ethanol concentrations have been observed as well. Fermentation and aging of wine can increase the concentration of smoke taint compounds in wine and longer macerations increase smoke taint. Small amounts of smoke taint are tolerable (toasted barrels often add a subtle smoke aroma and flavor to Pinot Noir), and are similar to the effects of oak aging, and present no threat to health. There appears to be no carryover effect on the grapes from vines exposed to heavy smoke from the previous year, boding well for the 2009 vintage, but growth and yields of vines decreases in the year following heavy exposure to smoke. Pinot Noir is more susceptible to smoke taint than Chardonnay or Syrah. Fining and filtration may reduce smoke taint, but taint compounds persist and the process of fining and filtration may strip wine of desirable aromatic and flavor characters. The biggest concern of winemakers is that wines may seem fine when bottled, but can develop more noticeable smoke taint features as the wine ages.

I attended the recent Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival with some trepidation, knowing that the 2008 vintage wines were significantly affected by smoke taint. This year marked the 13th Annual Festival, held on a comfortably sunny weekend, May 14-16, 2010. The event began informally 17 years ago with winery open houses, but was formalized into a festival in 1997. The Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival has increased in popularity in conjunction with the meteoric rise in quality of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. This year’s celebration was sold out with over 650 people in attendance and 40 wineries pouring their wines. This event is sponsored by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association and is one of my favorite annual Pinot Noir festivals. I am easily seduced by the casual country fair atmosphere, the delectable local artisan foods, the warmth and passion of the local winegrowers and winemakers, the enthusiastic organizers, and the superb Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs


From an economic standpoint, the 2008 vintage was a disaster for Anderson Valley wineries. Over half of the grapes grown in the valley are Pinot Noir and this finicky grape was particularly affected by the calamities of the vintage. Anderson Valley wineries had three choices in 2008 in dealing with grapes exposed to wildfire smoke. Some chose to release no Pinot Noirs or to declassify the wine and sell it off in bulk. Producers such as Copain (bottled no 2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs), Londer (declassified 80% of production), and Littorai followed this tack (Ted Lemon chose to incorporate his Anderson Valley grapes in a rosé and in a Les Larmes cuvée that was vinified in a simple fashion to provide early drinkability and priced significantly less than the usual Littorai bottlings). Others employed various smoke taint reduction techniques such as carbon or resin filtration and reverse osmosis both of which tend to reduce the smoke taint but can strip the wine of its character. There is no current technology that can completely remove smoke taint. Producers who chose this tack included Breggo and Elke. Still others, such as Anthill Farms and LIOCO, who combined their vineyards into an Anderson Valley bottling, and Black Kite, simply crafted the wine in the usual manner, attempting to minimize skin contact, and acknowledging that the smoke influence was part of the vintage terroir. Phillips Hill flaunted this tack with its “Ring of Fire” bottling which boldly celebrated the smokiness of the Pinot Noir.

Over the course of the event, I tasted over fifteen 2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs from various producers and found them all unsatisfactory either due to smoke taint (untreated wines) or lacking in character (“stripped” is the commonly used term) due to various smoke reduction treatments. My recommendation would be to cautiously approach the 2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs and taste before you buy. The wines may appeal to those of you who find a smoky quality to your liking. Some producers have reduced prices to make the 2008 wines more enticing. Several have yet to be released. Remember, many of the 2007 Pinot Noirs are still in the marketplace and are marvelous, and the 2009 vintage had an uncomplicated growing season resulting in a stellar vintage. The winemaking is quite accomplished now in the Anderson Valley but it is the soils and climate, the terroir if you will, that is so impressive here. As Dirk van der Niepoort said recently, “While ‘good’ wines are 50% terroir and 50% winemaking, ‘great’ wines owe far more to terroir.”

Today, there are at least 25 wineries and more than 60 vineyards in the Anderson Valley. Some of the vineyard names have become household words to pinotphiles: Cerise, Demuth, Donnelly Creek, Ferrington, Hacienda Secoya, Hein Family, Klindt, Morning Dew Ranch, Savoy, Toulouse and Wiley. The major wineries include Claudia Springs Winery, Elke Vineyards, Goldeneye Winery, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek Vineyards, Londer Vineyards, Roederer Estate, Black Kite Cellars, Brutocao Cellars, Esterlina Vineyards, Foursight Wines, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Harmonique, Jim Ball Vineyards, Navarro Vineyards, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Raye’s Hill Vineyards & Winery, Scharffenberger Cellars, Standish Wine Co., Toulouse Vineyards, and Zina Hyde Cunningham. Baxter Winery, Drew Wines and Phillips Hill Estates are located above the valley floor in Elk but considered part of the Anderson Valley winery lineup (refer to map below). Over 30 major California Pinot Noir producers outside the Anderson Valley access grapes from the Anderson Valley and nearby Mendocino Ridge AVA including Anthill Farms, Arista Winery, Adrian Fog, Barnett, Benovia, Brogan Cellars, Cakebread Cellars, Chronicle Wines, Copain Wines, Couloir Wines, Dain Wines, Expression 39, Ferrai-Carano Vineyards & Winery, Fulcrum Wines, Gryphon Wines, Hartford Family Wines, Harrington, Ici/ La-Bas, La Crema Winery, LIOCO, Littorai, MacPhail Family Wines, Radio-Coteau, Rhys, Roessler Cellars, Russian River Valley Wines, Saintsbury, Skewis, Tandem, Twomey, Waits-Mast Family Cellars, Whitcraft, Wiliams-Selyem and Woodenhead. Most Anderson Valley vineyards are less than 10 acres in size, with three large growers, Roederer Estate, Goldeneye, and Navarro, controlling most of the total acreage.



Before the Grand Tasting held on the grounds of the Goldeneye Estate, a private tasting was held for members of the press at the newly opened winery adjacent Gowan Creek Vineyard. I tasted all 33 wines submitted by the wineries, several of which were from the 2006 and 2007 vintages which I have reviewed previously. For contact or wine purchase information for each of the wineries, visit the Winery Directory on my website at www.princeofpinot.com or the Anderson Valley Winegrowers website at www.avwines.com



2007 Baxter Winery Toulouse Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.67, 250 cases, $45. Released in the fall of 2009. This vineyard is located near Philo and was planted in 1998. Clones 115, 667 and 2A. Aged in neutral oak. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely outfitted nose featuring scents or red fruits including strawberries and cherries, rose petals and a hint of spice. Tasty core of delicately spiced redder fruits with a touch of underlying wet leaves and underbrush. Light in weight with bright acidity that lifts the vibrancy of the fruit. Very good.

2008 Black Kite Stony Terrace Block Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.60, 148 cases, $52. Released in the spring of 2010. Aged 11 months in oak. Winemaker Jeff Gaffner. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, smoke and ash. Very pretty black raspberry and cherry fruit overshadowed by ash. Discreetly rich with fine grain tannins and a hint of heat on the finish. Some may find this wine to their liking if they prefer heavily toasted oak. Decent but hard to tout at this price.

Note: I tasted the two other Pinot Noir releases from Black Kite at the Festival Grand Tasting, ‘Kite’s Rest’ and ‘Redwood Edge Block’ (there was no Rivers Turn Block bottling in 2008 because this part of the vineyard was lost to frost in 2008) and re-tasted the Kite’s Rest and Stony Terrace Block at home in my usual fashion. In each case, the wines were found to have a prominent and unpleasant ash character. These wines are for purists looking for wines reflecting the challenges of the vintage. Black Kite produced outstanding Pinot Noirs in the 2006 and 2007 vintages, and the 2009 vintage is reputably spectacular, so pinotphiles should not be dissuaded by the smoke tainted 2008 vintage in pursuing future vintages. Winemaker Jeff Gaffney told me that the Black Kite wines in 2008 may have acquired their character more as the result of the frost impacting the grapes than the smoke affects on the grapes.

2008 Black Kite Kite’s Rest Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 883 cases, $42. A blend of Redwood’s Edge and Stony Terrace vineyard blocks from the estate 12-acre vineyard in Anderson Valley’s deep end. Clonal mix is Dijon 114, 115 and Pommard. · Noticeable cigar ash aromas overshadow the fruit. Heavy sweet smoke flavor obscures the ripe fruit core. Could not get past a sip or two. Unsatisfactory.

2008 Black Kite Stony Terrace Block Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.60, 148 cases, $52. Released in the spring of 2010. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Dark fruited aromas and flavors with a grilled, charred wood and smoke character. Nicely composed with a rich dark berry and cherry core that sadly can’t find proper expression. Decent.

2008 Breggo Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.64, 476 cases, $55. A blend of Martini 15, Dijon 115 and 667, Pommard and Calera selection. Aged 15 months in 65% new French oak. Winemaker Ryan Hodgins. · Smoky aromas initially which tend to dissipate revealing scents of cherry cola, dark berries and rose petals. Medium-bodied core of earth-kissed black cherry fruit which lacks the layered nuances so typical of this vineyard. One of the better smoke-tainted 2008s from Breggo, but I preferred the Donnelly Creek Vineyard bottling which was tasted casually at the event. Good.

2007 Cakebread Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.68, 1,500 cases, $37. Released in the fall of 2009. Aged 15 months in 40% new French oak. Winemaker Julianne Laks. · Moderately deep color. Rich and penetrating aromas of dark red cherries and berries. Flavors of boysenberry and plum drive the fruit profile which is rich and mouth coating. Less oak influence than in 2006 for the better. Dry and staunch tannins enrobe the fruit and may soften with time, but this will always be a big-boned and tannic wine. Good.

2007 Chronicle Wines Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 556 cases, $55. Released in the spring 2010. Clones Wädenswil and Pommard. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak. Winemaker Ted Lemon. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Lovely perfume of red and black fruits and rose petals. Delicious and classy in every way with soft, ripe tannins, an appealing earthy bent to the dark fruit and a lengthy fruit-blessed finish. A polished wine of great charm.

2007 Claudia Springs Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.59, 372 cases, $28. To be released in the winter of 2010. Klindt Vineyard is at the extreme western end of the Anderson Valley. Planted in 1998 in heavy clay loam over fractured rock and consisting of 8.5 acres of Pinot Noir and 2 acres of Pinot Gris. 35% Pommard clones 4 and 5, 20% each Dijon clone 115 and 113, and small amounts of 667 and 777. Aged in 25% new French oak barrels. Winemaker Bob Klindt. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very charming cherry blossom fruit perfume with brown spice. Bright and juicy cherry bombast with gossamer tannins and admirable persistence on the finish. An impressively crafted and seductive wine, possessing a perfect balance of ripe fruit, vital acidity and refined tannins. Unbelievable quality at this price point. The best Pinot Noir I have every sampled from this top end Anderson Valley producer.

2007 Couloir Monument Tree Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.52% alc., pH 3.65, 200 cases, $44. Released in the summer 2009. Planted in 1999 to Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777 by Duckhorn Vineyards, this vineyard was later bought by Chuck McBride who hired Paul Ardzrooni to manage the vineyard. Situated at the deep end of the Anderson Valley. Winemaker Jon Grant. · Moderately deep color and slightly cloudy (unfiltered). Nicely composed perfume of dark red berries, black cherries and spice box. Rich, plush and very satisfying with an impressive mid palate attack of ripe fruit leading to a finishing note of peppery spice and uplifting citrus vibrancy. A hedonistic fruit-driven style that will find fans. Very good.

2008 Drew Valenti Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.63, 362 cases, $36. Released in the spring 2010. This vineyard is located at the top of Greenwood Ridge, 6 miles from the Pacific ocean and 1,300 feet above sea level. This is a challenging site with harsh conditions. 100% clone 667. 40% stems, 5% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 11 months in 30% new and 70% seasoned French oak barrels. Debut single-vineyard bottling. Winemaker Jason Drew. · I really like the nose on this wine which sports black cherry jam, redwood and exotic Asian spices. Earthy and slightly smoky in the mouth with savory black cherry and black raspberry fruit in the background. Restrained but evident tannins need time to resolve and the wine as a whole needs another year in the bottle to show what it has. Very good now but will get better.

2007 Elke Vineyards Donnelly Creek Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.90, 740 cases, $34. Released in the spring 2009. This vineyard is located just outside the town of Boonville and is planted to five clones of Pinot Noir. Aged 11 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · This wine has aged nicely in the bottle since tasted last year. Lovely oak-kissed berry fruit with a hint of barnyard. Savory dark red berry fruits are featured with a silky texture and a grip of tannin on the pleasing finish. Very good.

Note: I tasted the 2008 Mary Elke Donnelly Creek Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($26) casually at the event. Mary told me the wine was treated with reverse osmosis to remove smoke taint. The process seemed quite successful for this wine was very pleasant with an easy drinking dose of cherry and cranberry flavors. Not an epiphany, but a well-priced daily drinker.

2007 Esterlina Vineyards Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.56, 611 cases, $45. Released in spring 2009. Aged 15 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · This beauty keeps opening and opening in the glass revealing a nuanced perfume of ripe strawberries, black raspberries, spice box and the faintest oak. Very tasty berry jam core veering to the red spectrum that drifts away on the finish with a whisper of persistent pheromone-inspired perfume. This wine could launch a very intimate evening among amorous adults.

2007 Expression 39 Annahala Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 400 cases, $48. Released in the fall 2009. This vineyard is located halfway between the towns of Boonville and Philo. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing aromas of black cherries, plums and Moroccan spices. Ripely flavored plums and black currents with a hint of raisin and anise. Mediumbodied with supple tannins and a dry finish. Good.



2007 Foursight Wines Clone 5 Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 97 cases, $49. Aged in 50% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish-purple robe. Really great perfume of fresh cherry pie and baking spices which intensifies with swirling. Juicy core of plentiful cherry and raspberry fruit and a smoothly textured platform. The finish is outrageously persistent. The whole package and plenty of swagga to boot.

2007 Goldeneye Winery Gowan Creek Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.66, 990, $55. Released March 2010. Planted to 8 clones of Pinot Noir tailored to specific sites and soils in the vineyard which is located on Highway 128 in the heart of the Anderson Valley. Aged 16 months in 97% new and 3% second vintage French oak barrels. · Deeply colored in the glass. Restrained aromas of dark cherries, berries and toasted oak lead to a plethora of fresh berry fruit offered in a hedonistic style that saturates the palate. A very tasty sipping wine that leaves a lasting impression of fruit on the lengthy finish. The high percentage of new oak is nicely integrated. Goldeneye Pinot Noirs are intended to make a statement and this one definitely accomplishes the goal. Very good.



2007 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.69, 875 cases, $30. Released in the winter 2009. Aged 8 months in French oak barrels. Very cool etched bottle. · Brimming with black cherry essence in the aromas and flavors with a hint of mocha and savory herbs. The fruit really clings to the palate through the vibrant finish. Mild but well-structured tannins give the wine a presence. Year in and year out, one of the best values in Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, or any North American Pinot Noir for that matter. Highly recommended.

2007 Handley Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.55, 4,029 cases, $30. Released in the fall 2009. Multiple vineyard sources (35% Estate Martini clone) throughout the Anderson Valley with 10% Potter Valley fruit. Aged 10 months in 30% new French oak barrels. · Subdued but pleasing scent of ripe berry jam. Silky textured core of black cherry and berry fruit with a hint of savory herbs. A lively grip of acidity on the finish makes you yearn for another sip. Good, and a solid value.

2006 Harmonique Elegancé Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.55, 675 cases, $53. Released in the spring 2010. 7 clones from four vineyards in the Anderson Valley. Aged 17 months in 50% new and 50% seasoned French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color. Delicate aromas of cherries and rose petals. The name personifies this wine of finesse offering demure and lacy cherry and strawberry flavors with a nice touch of spice and vanilla. The tannins are supple and a bright tug of acidity lifts the finish. Very good.

2007 Husch Estate Reserve Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 498 cases, $35. Released in the spring 2010. Best lots in the cellar given special handling and extended aging. 25% whole cluster. Aged 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Very reserved nose which fails to respond to coaxing. Medium-bodied core of cherry cola and mocha flavors with a loamy underpinning. Tight and unyielding with little charm now. Good, but could receive more accolades with another couple of years in the cellar.

Note: At home, I tasted two other Husch Pinot Noirs from the 2007 vintage which are reviewed below.

2007 Husch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $23. · Enticing aromas of black cherries, fig, Provencal herbs and oak. A cherry bombast of moderate weight. Slightly creamy and easy to drink with fine grain tannins and a refreshing acid tang on the short finish. Consistently one of the best under $20 Pinot Noirs produced in California (full retail is $23, but it is often discounted in the retail market to $16.50-18.00). Good.

2007 Husch Nash Mill Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 12 cases, $40. This is a 4-acre vineyard in the hills above Husch. · Very subdued black cherry and dark berry aromas with a hint of toasted oak and mint. Very tasty and exotic featuring impressive mid palate richness. Deliciously vivid dark berry and red plum fruits are set off nicely by judicious use of oak and silky tannins. The flavors currently trump the aromas. Very good.

2007 Jim Ball Vineyards “Signature” Label Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.65, 690 cases, $45. Aged 9 months on the lees with monthly stirring in 33% new French oak barrels. · This bottle did not show as well as others I have sampled. Aromas of oak-infused black cherries carry over on the palate. Light, dilute and a little green. Decent.

2007 Lazy Creek Vineyards Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.45, 880 cases, $38. Released in the fall 2009. Partial whole cluster fermentation. Aged 16 months in 30% new and 70% seasoned French oak barrels. · Medium dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Subdued aromas of black cherries, raspberries and underbrush. Rich, thick and sweet with sappy plum and boysenberry fruit. Good.

2007 LIOCO Klindt Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.80, 265 cases, $45. Released in the winter 2009. Clones 115, 667, 777 and Pommard co-fermented, partial whole cluster fermentation, aged 12 months in 1, 2 and 3-year-old French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Very appealing scent of gregariously spiced black cherries. Richly fruited but discreet, spotlighting black raspberry fruit. Very tasty, soft in the mouth with impeccable balance and a lively, lingering finish. The fruit really shows a vivid purity in this wine.

2007 Londer Vineyards Estate Grown Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.95% alc., pH 3.74, 615 cases, $48. Released in the spring 2010. From a 16-acre vineyard planted in clay loam soil in 2001 to five clones of Pinot Noir including Swan, Pommard, 115, 777 and 2A. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels. · Aromas of black cherries with a minty green note. A fruit-driven wine of moderate richness leaving a little warmth in its wake. A bit closed now and should reward a few years of cellaring. Decent.

2008 Navarro Vineyards Deep End Blend Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.74, 1,125 cases, $49. To be released in the summer 2010. Clones 115, 667 and 777. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Ripely fruited with prominent ash notes on the nose and palate. There is a core of pretty cherry and berry fruit lurking in the background but it can’t compete with the smoke taint. Reflects the vintage. Decent.



2008 Phillips Hill Estates Ring of Fire Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 150 cases, $38. Released in the spring of 2010. Sourced from Corby and Toulouse vineyards. Clones 115, 667, 777, 2A and Pommard. Aged 11 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Egg white fined and unfiltered. · Light in color and fruit intensity with a smoky personality. Notes of cherries, forest floor and cigar ash. A barely serviceable wine. Unsatisfactory.

Note: I also tasted the 2008 Phillips Hill Estates Beeson Tree Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir at the event, and this wine was noticeably infused with a smoke and ash character.

2006 Philo Ridge Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 410 cases, $19. Released February 2010. Sourced from Ferrington Vineyard. Aged 22 months in 50% new French oak barrels and bottle aged for 9 months. · Moderately intense reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is very floral with notes of forest floor and mint. An elegantly styled wine that is nicely flavored with cherries and spice. A value-play that tastes much better than it smells. Good.

2006 Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.87, 397 cases, $23. Released May 2007. Estate grapes. Clones 114, 115, 667, 777, Pommard and small amounts of other. 100% de-stemmed. Light filtration. Aged 10 months in 19% new French oak barrels. · Medium garnet color in the glass. A delicate wine with charming notes of red cherries and spice wrapped in gossamer tannins and possessing a lively finish. A daily drinker. Good.

2005 Roessler Cellars Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.64, 250 cases, $45. Released in the fall 2007. · This bottle is mildly oxidized showing an orange cast to the rim in the glass. Aromas of faded fruit and oak lead to similar flavors. An uninteresting and defective bottle. Unsatisfactory.

2007 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 1,150 cases, $44.95. Released in the spring 2009. Cerise Vineyard is 37 acres on a 200-acre site just north of the town of Boonville. Clones 115, 667, 777 and Pommard. Aged 10 months in 24% new, 27% 1 and 2-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Charming aromas of black cherries, red and black berries and cocoa. Rich and fruity and very smoothly textured. An upfront pleasing style that wants for more complexity which will certainly come with more time in the bottle. Good.

2005 Scharffenberger Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.76, 133 cases, $23. Released in the spring of 2008. Sourced from Perkins-Clark and Redwood Grove vineyards. Clones 114, 115, 667 (55%), Pommard and 13 and 32. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 10 months in 18% new French oak barrels. Light filtration. · Alluring aromas of black cherries and sandalwood. A lighter style that is at its drinking peak showing flavorful notes of black cherries and raspberries with subtle and stylish spice in the background. An excellent value. Good.

2007 Skewis Reserve Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.52, 150 cases, $50. To be released in the fall 2010. Final release from the formerly named Floodgate Vineyard. Located at the far western end of the Anderson Valley exposing it to a strong maritime influence with frequent summer fog and wind. The soil is poor leading to low vine vigor. Winemaker Hank Skewis. · The classiest wine in this tasting with impressive long-term potential. Fruits are multi faceted with savory berries, black cherries and plum the most prominent. Notes of loamy earth and dark mocha add interest. The wine has a velvety smooth mouth feel with a well-proportioned tannic backbone for aging. A lithe and dancing Pinot.

2006 Standish Wine Co. Mayflower Day Ranch Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.61% alc., pH 3.65, 47 cases, $70. Released in the winter 2008. Aged 11 months in 90% new French oak. Unfined and filtered. · The wine has an orange tinge to the rim in the glass. Heavily oaked, rich and densely fruited, almost jammy. Very Caliesque in style. Decent.

2008 Toulouse Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.89, 550 cases, $50. · Moderately light in color. The nose is savory with notes of cherries, oak and a whiff of alcohol. Oak-kissed dilute fruit with a hint of root beer. No smoke notes but seems stripped. Decent.

2006 Woodenhead Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.46, 358 cases, $60. Released in the fall 2008. 26-year-old vines. Pommard 5 and Romanee-Conti 37 clones. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately deep reddishpurple color in the glass. Polished cherry and stylish spice aromas. Delicious essence of fresh plums and black cherries with an underpinning of oak-driven root beer flavor with a potpourri of savory herbs. Impressive body and richness with nicely balanced tannins. Very good.

There have been a number of tasting room openings in the Anderson Valley in the last two years. The following tasting rooms are now open (check website for hours): Breggo Cellars, Brutocoa Cellars, Claudia Springs Winery & Harmonique, Demuth Winery, Foursight Wines, Goldeneye Winery, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Jim Ball Vineyards, Lazy Creek Vineyards, Londer Vineyards, Navarro Vineyards, Phillips Hill Estates, Roederer Estate, Scharffenberger Cellars, Standish Wine Co., Toulouse Vineyards and Zina Hyde Cunningham. All the tasting rooms are dotted along Highway 128 and within a 20 minute drive of each other. Elke Vineyards, Esterlina Vineyards, Philo Ridge Vineyards, and Raye’s Hill Vineyards & Winery are open by appointment. If you plan to visit, check my Travel Directory at www.princeofpinot.com for lodging recommendations.

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