In Search of Bubbly in Anderson Valley
A love of California sparkling wine has inspired a visit to Anderson Valley, one of Northern California’s smaller wine regions. This bucolic setting is home to 20 wineries in Mendocino County. As I drive along winding roads through arid terracotta-colored hillsides, it is a delight to descend into the valley with vineyards, orchards and farms. The cooler air and breezes from the nearby coast are a relief.
Scharffenberger Cellars is my first stop. The outdoor terrace is shaded by orange umbrellas and citrus trees. Tastings can be enjoyed outdoors or in the sunny tasting room. Scharffenberger Cellars just oozes charm. I begin with the Blanc de Blanc, made from Chardonnay grapes, so effervescent. Next is the Brut – a familiar taste, since it is more widely available, made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
But it is the Brut Rose that captures my heart with its elegant pale-pink color and delicious taste. They also provide a taste of the Extra Dry, which really is the least dry of all of the options. The Brut Rose is my favorite and I leave with a bottle.
Another favorite sparkling wine producer is also nearby – Roederer Estate. Their property is located up a steep driveway overlooking the valley. Spectacular views can be enjoyed on the terrace while sipping their sparkling wines. They also offer a Picnic for Two that includes tasty savory and sweet snacks to complement their wine.
Roederer is the California arm of French Champagne house Louis Roederer. They know a lot about making exceptional sparkling wine. I begin my tasting with the Brut, a favorite of mine. We move to the Brut Rose, another favorite which reminds me of my recent New Year’s Eve celebration.
Next is the L’Ermitage, what can I say? It is the nectar of the gods, though not sweet, just elegant and smooth. I am transported as I sip this glass of heaven. They also make still wines, but I only have eyes for their sparkling wine.
When I stop at Handley Cellars for a tasting, I am delighted to see that they are pouring a 2003 Brut. It is crisp and delicious. They have a beautiful covered patio, a wonderful place to savor my glass of bubbly. Handley Cellars also makes a selection of whites and reds that are remarkable.
When I visited the Standish Wine Co. located in an apple orchard, I was surprised to find a Blanc de Noir, a relatively new offering for them. I love the taste, crisp and satisfying. They also have other whites and reds that are delicious. Picnic tables are located in a redwood grove, all the better to savor their wine with a snack.
What distinguishes Anderson Valley is the relaxed vibe, friendliness of the locals, and intimate tasting experience. It couldn’t be any more beautiful with vineyards and orchards throughout the valley. It is a place where wine is approachable, not pretentious, simply a way of life.
Stay: Boonville Hotel is a historic property offering 15 rooms with a rustic elegance. Each room has its own unique charm, but the use of materials, textures and color is wholly modern. The grounds are welcoming, with seating under a shaded arbor and on the expansive lawn. Landscaping is beautiful and fragrant with a profusion of honeysuckle.
Dine: Boonville Hotel serves a a family-style prix-fixe four-course dinner that is exceptional. The menu changes constantly to incorporate fresh seasonal ingredients. They offer a selection of local wine.
Lauren’s is a favorite of locals. They serve satisfying meals using farm-fresh ingredients. Enjoy beer and wine from the area’s wineries and brewing company. You feel like family here. At the bar I met one of the local grape-growers and his wife.
Libby’s has home-cooked Mexican fare in a casual environment. You can enjoy local wine or bring your own for a corkage fee.
Mosswood Market Cafe and Bakery is one of the few places in the valley with WiFi. Their pastries are amazing, especially the flaky empanadas. They also have a selection of salads and sandwiches.
Lemon’s Market is conveniently located in Philo and is a great place to assemble a picnic to enjoy at one of the many wineries.
Details: Anderson Valley is a threehour drive from San Francisco. The last hour is along very windy roads. Visit the Anderson Valley website for help in planning your visit.