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Aug 19, 2007 01:54 PM

Just got back...Anderson Valley tasting/buying

So, my SO and I just came back from a lovely vacation in the village of Mendocino, CA, just adjacent to Anderson Valley. I met her there after dropping our youngest off to his freshman year of college at Humboldt State U, up in Arcata. Lots to celebrate!! We spent one day tasting and buying. Anderson Valley is known for Pinot Noir and cool weather white varietals like Gerwertstamminer. Here's what we came back with:

1. Husch Vineyards - This is one of the older outfits in the valley, with moderately priced offerings. Their tasting is free. The girl gave us the wine list, with descriptions, and as we tasted, the first conclusion that my SO came to is that she's only interested in the highest end wines! I was chuckling as we bought one bottle of their reserve '05 Pinot Noir, and a very nice bottle of '05 Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine.

2. Breggo Cellars - One of the newest wineries in the valley, they buy all their grapes from within the AVA, and have just got their first plantings in. They charge $5 for a tasting and apply 100% of that to your purchase. We came away with 2 bottles of '06 Sauvignon Blanc. SO didn't think she liked any white wine outside of Champagne until she tasted this. Very lovely. I thought the SV was more elegant than the Chardonnay, which was also good. I recommend this outfit very highly.

3. Goldeneye - Since SO wanted only the best wines available, I told her this was the place for her! Indeed. Their tasting is the most expensive we saw, $5 for their regular wines, and $10 for an "enhanced" tasting that included their highest end offerings. They don't apply this to your purchase, either. We went for the $10 tasting. What we learned is that we should have shared one, instead of buying 2. Neither one of us was drinking the whole amounts at any of the places, since we were driving our own car. Of the 2 premium wines they have, the '04 Narrows Pinot Noir, and and '04 Confluence PN, we chose the Narrows. It comes from the coolest end of the valley, and the wine was deep, plush, and complex. It was absolutely gorgeous. We bought 2 bottles.

4. Roederer - This is sparking wine, composed of Pinot and Chardonnay. Last Christmas, SO's brother gave us a bottle of '96 Dom Perignon, which was divine. In tasting their '00 L'Ermitage, we were reminded of last year's Dom. So, we bought one each of: '97, '99, and '00 L'Ermitages. We weren't able to taste the '97 and '99, but took the plunge anyway. In reading the post about that lucky devil with the '78 Dom, I'm tempted to buy a lot more and put it away for a good long while! We also bought their '05 Pinot Noir still red wine, which I loved.

We are amateur wine lovers. This is the first time we've taken a wine country outing together, and we had a great time. On the way home to Southern Cal, I passed through Paso Robles and Santa Barbara, but I spent all my cash up in Mendocino. Guess we'll have to start saving again and take another trip!!

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  1. You missed Navarro???

    It's been over a decade since Husch impressed me with anything, but Breggo and Goldeneye are both excellent, and Roederer continues to produce the best (IMHO) sparkling wine in California on a commercial scale.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your trip -- next time try the Santa Cruz Mountains and/or the wineries in and around the Bay . . .


    11 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Who makes great sparkling wine on a non-commercial scale?

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Equinox makes the best sparkling wine in California, period, IMHO -- but production is only about 300 cases per lot.

        1. re: zin1953

          Where would you guys put Schramsberg in this 'debate'? I love Roederer, but Schramsberg is no slouch in this arena.

          1. re: Midlife

            Price aside, Schramsberg's one of the best California sparkling wine producers, but they're priced too high to compete with Champagne.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I'd love some great Champagne recs under the $25 price I've seen on Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs in my area of SoCal.

              1. re: Midlife

                That would be a question for the LA board. Around here, D&M usually has some good values:


                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Why is it for the LA Board?? I'm not asking for specific retailers, just for the names of some great <$25 bubblies.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    Because the under-$25 Champagnes at D&M aren't necessarily going to be available or under $25 elsewhere.

            2. re: Midlife

              Schramberg hit the skids in the 1970s and 1980s, but has once again returned to top form. But I still prefer Roederer when it comes to a major producer, and Equinox, when it comes to a "micro-producer."

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            I like Gruet from New Mexico. It's amazingly well-priced, also. Unfortunately, my local SoCal wine store hasn't been able to get it in awhile.

            1. re: vickib

              Gruet is the best bargain around, IMHO -- not as good as Roederer, but a great value! I often enjoy Gruet.

        2. Has anyone suggested Lazy Creek or Arte Vino/Maple Creek? Wow, great trip you had!

          1. Next time you may want to stop in Paso Robles. Interesting place with the climate a bit different from cool Mendocino so wines are different too. You may want to stop there for tasting in Summerwood winery - easy access from 101. This stop once had 'religious' influence on my wine education. ;)

            2 Replies
            1. re: olasek

              I liked tasting in both places, and agree that both offer quite different styles of wines, but they are FAR apart from each other (6-7 hours apart by car?)

              1. re: anewton

                Their respective locations work perfectly for me though, because I live in SoCal, and Paso Robles is on the way to Mendocino for me! My trip actually started out getting to NoCal via the 5 through the valley, because I was taking my son to college in Humboldt, and we needed to get him and his stuff up there ASAP. After leaving him to the joys of higher ed, I spent my first week as an empty nester in Mendocino on vacation. Then, coming back home on the much more picturesque, 101, I unfortunately had spent all my $ in Anderson Valley before hitting Paso Robles. Another reason to make another trip, with more money!

            2. Reposting from the CA board with some additional tasting notes:

              Visited a bunch of new-to-me wineries this past weekend.

              Foursight: fantastic, very restrained and elegant style, loved everything except the most expensive Pinot Noirs were a shade too oaky for me. Supplants Navarro for me as the #1 winery in the valley. Drank a $38 2009 "Zero" last night, liked it better than the Knez though at that price I think I can do better with Burgundy.

              Baxter: excellent, pricey. Natural yeast, neutral oak. Drank a $38 Chardonnay last night, the flavors weren't as complex as the very Burgundian nose suggested.

              Knez: very good PN, preferred the $27 Anderson Valley to the two vineyard-designated ones. A relatively good value as California PN goes.

              Lula: very good PN, 100% neutral oak. Got a bottle, we'll see if it's really worth $42. I wasn't as impressed by the rosé or Gewürztraminer.

              Philips Hill: restrained, elegant PN. Drank a bottle of their $30 Chardonnay last night, similar style, tasty but too expensive for what it is.

              I'll likely make annual visits to the above. Probably won't return to the following unless I hear they've changed their styles:

              Esterlina: liked the Rieslings, reds didn't do it for me

              Toulouse: $24 dry Muscat was pretty good though not as good as Navarro's, which costs less (if you can snag any before it sells out). Other whites flabby, average PNs except for the smoked 2008s.

              Philo Ridge: pretty good Chardonnay, rest average, some decent values in older wines 50% off for close-out

              Balo: looked like a fun place for a party wit bocce courts and a pizza oven. The one wine they had was OK / average PN, not worth $40.

              Elke: interesting and very unusual white PN, wasn't big on the rest of the wines, really nice people

              3 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Thanks for all that info. I saw the other post the day AFTER I was asked for AV recs by a customer. Bad timing.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Balo has a lovely Pinot rose' if you can get your mitts on some. (Usually sells out quickly)

                  1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                    Balo was sold out of three of their four wines.

                2. THREAD DRIFT:

                  Vicki, we just did the same thing with our oldest -- dropping her off at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, and doing our best to eat and drink our way from Seattle back to Berkeley! If you ever get back this way, drop me a line and we'll share a bottle or two . . . and don't forget there are lots of "urban" wineries in the Oakland-Berkeley area, as well as some great producers across the Bay in the Santa Cruz Mountains.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: zin1953

                    Jason, did you happen to post about your wining and dining experiences on the PNW board?



                    1. re: PolarBear

                      Not yet . . . just got back last night.