Jun 23, 2010

Tastings: Two Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs

 Sunny Days & Foggy Nights in Anderson Valley  (Courtesy: Husch Vineyards)

Last week, at a small media event sponsored by California’s Mendocino County, I sampled two excellent Pinot Noir wines from Anderson Valley wineries (Husch Vineyards and Handley Cellars).

Thanks to this region’s temperate coastal climate of warm sunny days and cool foggy nights/mornings, grapes grown here mature slowly, giving them time to develop full varietal character—and that character was certainly apparent in both wines. The Valley's planted acreage is mostly given to grapes that enjoy cool growing conditions: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gew├╝rztraminer and White Riesling. Lesser amounts of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon have also found a home here.

Husch Vineyards 2007 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($23): I was struck by this wine's deep red color and its pronounced red-fruit aroma—strawberries, cherries, raspberries (and, yes, the fruit carried through to the tongue). The wine offered a silky mouth feel, balanced acidity, and a lovely lingering aftertaste. In short: delish! I would serve this elegant wine all by itself, paired with interesting cheeses, or at the table with duck, lamb, game, or salmon.

A small, family-owned and –operated enterprise, Husch Vineyards is the oldest winery in the Anderson Valley appellation. It’s about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco at 4400 Highway 128 in Philo, and welcomes visitors daily from 10-5.

Handley Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley ($30): Extremely fruit forward aroma, much like the Husch. Lots of cherry/berry, but also a hint of something intoxicating in both aroma and taste that I couldn’t quite place—the wine is blended from 12 different Handley-owned vineyards, with each contributing something unique (the official tasting notes point to lavender and chocolate, so maybe that was it). Balanced acidity, nice crispness, long and silky finish. A wonderful wine to sip, pair with creamy cheeses, or enjoy at the table with duck, game, salmon, and perhaps a beef stew.

Or maybe I'd try one of Handley's suggested pairings, either a Blue Cheese Pistachio Torta or a Chicken Liver Terrine. Find the recipes here.

Handley Cellars is a family-owned winery making about 14,000 cases per year. Aside from Pinot Noir, the winery’s other offerings include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gew├╝rztraminer, Zinfandel, and Syrah. Handley also produces Gold Medal-winning Brut sparkling wine, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes ($38). The tasting room at 3151 Highway 128 in Philo is open from 10-6 daily from May to October (and 10-5 from November to April).

Little more than a mile separates Husch Vineyards and Handley Cellars (both are located on Highway 128 in Philo). Other wineries in the valley include Goldeneye, Roederer Estate, Navarro Vineyards, Scharffenberger Cellars, and Claudia Springs. To see a list of all wineries in the Anderson Valley, visit the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association.

To learn more about visiting Mendocino County, visit the county’s official tourism site.

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