Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Anderson Valley Mendocino: A Unique Wine Region

Mendocino’s Anderson Valley has experienced growing interest in the last few years, but is still unknown to many wine lovers. This unique AVA begins part way up highway 128 off Interstate 101 in northern California. The first part of the journey snakes through the Yorkville Highlands, but at the town of Boonville becomes the Anderson Valley grape growing region. Glimpses of the Navarro River can be seen off to the left while heading northwest. The river provides a significant influence on the valley, and the coastal winds that follow its twisting path also affect the growing season.

The major grapes grown here reflect the terroir, with Pinot Noir being the most popular red wine grape. Many white wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer are well represented. Other red wine grapes such as Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are typically sourced from the Hopland area where the longer growing season permits these grapes to mature properly. Two major sparkling wine producers are also located here; Roederer Estate and Scharffenberger Cellars.

Continuing on the highway beyond the wineries a dense and dark Redwood forest staggers enough trees in the driver’s path to make the road an endless series of sharp turns. Emerging from the woods, green meadows border the river replaced by a stony bank at the mouth of the Navarro River. High coastal cliffs bracket the mouth like silent sentinels.

Going north on highway 1 brings one to the town of Mendocino, where time slips back to the 19th century. The style of many of the homes, restaurants, and hotels give Mendocino the feel of a New England coastal town. Dining in town offers good food paired with many Mendocino wines including those of Anderson Valley.

I focus on three wineries in Anderson Valley, each unique in its offerings, with very different winemaking philosophies, but each providing good value for the wine dollar. Handley Cellars is one of the oldest wineries in this region, as is Navarro Vineyards, and Brutocao Cellars. Each offered a very special treat to the palate and all are highly recommended. Each winery is posted in a separate article.

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