A Primer on Anderson Valley (Part 1)

Half of our 2008 pinot noir production will come from California's Anderson Valley.  Never heard of Anderson Valley?  Don't worry, neither had we until a couple of years ago. Anderson Valley is located in Mendocino County, 100 miles north of San Francisco.  The valley is about 15 miles long and follows the path of the Navarro River to the Pacific Ocean.  From a grape-growing perspective, Anderson Valley is about as cold of a climate as you can get.  However the river running through the valley tempers the climate at the valley floor and creates ideal growing conditions for premium cold-weather grapes, notably pinot noir and chardonnay.  Anderson Valley has a long and colorful history chalk full of gold prospectors, prohibition era shenanigans, and failed wine making exploits.  But when Louis Roederer decided to stake its sparkling wine facility there in 1982, Anderson Valley was thrust into the wine making spotlight.  For an extensive history of Anderson Valley you can click here.

While you may not think you are familiar with Anderson Valley, many of the wine producers you do know have been sourcing grapes here for some time:  Cakebread, Duckhorn, Leal, Husch, and others.  The best known home-grown producers actually make sparkling wines - Roederer Estate and Scharffenberger Cellars.  Both take advantage of the near perfect growing conditions for chardonnay and pinot noir to craft their "California Champagne".

If you're looking to try some Anderson Valley pinots to whet your appetite for Bruliam's upcoming offering, we have a couple of recommendations.  Our favorite is Londer.  Their Anderson Valley pinot noir is an excellent every-day pinot, and their Paraboll pinot noir is quite exceptional.  Another favorite is Elke which produces two great pinots as well as a rose of pinot noir which even I enjoyed greatly.  Probably the biggest name in the valley is Goldeneye, which is owned and operated by Duckhorn.  Personally, I found their pinots to be strangely over-oaked (almost distractingly so), but I also know that these wines are quite popular.

For 2008, we're sourcing our grapes from the Annahala Vineyard in Anderson Valley.  Annahala is a 60-acre site located about mid-way between the two main towns in Anderson Valley, Philo and Boonville.  The vineyard is managed by Premier Pacific Vineyards, one of the largest and most well respected vineyard managers in the business.  To see a marketing piece on the vineyard from PPV, click here.

Our wine making plan for our 2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir employs a Burgundian approach - natural yeast, minimal oak, minimal intervention, and hopefully whole cluster fermentation.  We'll strive for a light, elegant, silky pinot with a nose of brighter red fruits and solid earthiness.

Coming up:  Part 2, Kerith's take on Anderson Valley.