By Mary Webb
Anderson Valley Pinot Noir festival is a yearly event, allowing the regional wineries an opportunity to show case their wines along with a delicious accompaniment of food. Located about three hours west of the Sacramento airport, the festival has been a mainstay in May for about 14 years, with ever-increasing popularity.
The Anderson valley appellation is comprised of Booneville, Philo and Navarro. Handfuls of wineries and glasses full of Pinot are overflowing on this Pinot Festival weekend.
An opportunity exists for wine enthusiasts to rub elbows with other wine aficionados and wine makers in various ticketed events. One such event was the annual BBQ, hosted this year by Navarro Winery at the northern end of the valley. Participants are encouraged to bring a bottle of Pinot or two to share with the collective group.
The Pinot choices ran the gamut with spicy, chewy and fruit-forward selections. It was splendid to see scores of Pinot bottles lined up on a large picnic table. We helped ourselves to the flavorsome buffet and found a spot near the live music and bonfire. In a relaxed atmosphere, and a few glasses of wine, guests felt comfortable to get their “groove” on with the music.
As the sun made its way down, and before the evening cooled, it was great fun to watch the Southdown baby doll sheep get some exercise out near the vineyard before bed. Navarro uses baby doll sheep to maintain the vineyard. With their short legs of 24″ the baby doll sheep’s compact stature affords them easy access to trim the vines along the bottom trellis of the grape vines, keeping the valuable fruits intact.
Pinot Noir is a flavorful addition to the unique scenery and approachable winery operators of the valley. What makes Anderson Valley so unique is that the Pinot variety adapts well in the region, producing a fruit that is full in the mouth as well as the aroma bouquet. Known as an exceptional red grape, though difficult to grow, the Pinot Noir parent vine may produce offspring that bear fruit nothing like the parent’s in the size and shape of the berry or cluster. Due to this, the grapes are delightfully unexpected and will frequently have different aromas, along the scope of black-cherry coupled with cinnamon or mint.
A longer “hang time” on the vine means that the fruit is kept on the vine longer to produce more sugar; this is sometimes done with Pinot, allowing the fruit to dehydrate a bit. The longer hang time produces a delightful hint of raisin or currant in the bouquet. There are about 46 recognized clones of the Pinot Noir varietal.
Other events which took place in Anderson Valley were Technical conferences, for those more sophisticated in the wine making processes. Viticultural consultants and science experts spoke from UC Davis, one of the premier educational colleges for wine enology and viticulture, to discuss topics from yeast selection to vine nutrition.
Wine maker dinners are also popular among guests as they are able to share in discussions with the winemakers themselves. Be sure to make your reservations early for these dinners as they sell out very quick!
Along the picturesque views of vineyards and hills, we stopped to visit some of the following participant wineries along our trek. Foods ranging from open face sandwiches to Bruschetta were offered to keep us well fed throughout our Pinot adventure. We were able to pick up a few bottles of wine for purchase at the festival, while some wines are only available at the winery locations themselves.
- Baxter Winery
- Breggo Cellars
- Brutocao Cellars
- Claudia Springs and Harmonique
- Elke Vineyards
- Foursight Wines
- Fulcrum Wines
- Greenwood Ridge Vineyards
- Handley Cellars
- Husch Vineyards
- Jim Ball Vineyards
- Lazy Creek Vineyards
- Londer Vineyards
- Lula Cellars
- Maple Creek Winery
- Navarro Vineyards
- Phillips Hill Estates
- Philo Ridge Vineyards
- Roederer Estate
- Scharffenberger Cellars
- Toulouse Vineyards
A great Pinot Noir creates a lasting impression on the palate and in the memory. Our experience at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir festival of 2011 created a lasting impression of warmth and fun along with a palatable memory of a splendid time!