Monday, September 30, 2013

Changes in the Anderson Valley

After nearly a year and a half without visiting, we returned to the Anderson Valley this weekend and found many changes.  A few wineries were no more - Standish, Londer, and Jim Ball.  The owners of Claudia Springs have retired, and the tasting room will close by the end of the year.  Lula, Harmonique, and Phillips Hill have new tasting rooms. We found a number of new tasting rooms including Balo; Baxter; Signal Ridge, Knez, and Bink in The Madrones; and Edmeades/Champs de Reves from Jackson Family Wines.

The Madrones is a complex on the east side of Philo that houses four tasting rooms, a bed and breakfast, a nice garden/housewares store called Sun and Cricket, and a new restaurant - Stone and Embers.  We heard that Stone and Embers had good pizza and tried to lunch there; only to find it closed for a special event.  Signal Ridge is the newest tasting room in the Valley.  Currently they have rose and sparkling wine available for tasting but will release a Zinfandel and Pinot Noir in the spring. Bink has been in The Madrones for a while, but we missed it on our last visit.  The winery features Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet.  Staff at both Bink and Signal Hill were most welcoming.  We did not have enough sobriety left to visit Knez Winery and Drew Family Cellars but were told that both feature Pinot Noir.

Baxter has a small tasting room across from the grocery store in Philo.  Here we met Claire Baxter, one of the owners and wife of winemaker, Phillip Baxter.  Claire walked us through Baxter's single vineyard Pinot Noirs as well as its Syrah and Chardonnay,  Baxter gets its Pinot Noir grapes from a variety vineyards, which results in varying styles of Pinot, from very light to fairly full bodied.

We stopped in at the tasting room at Balo only to find the door open but no one present and a sign saying they had sold out of all of their wines but one.

The Valley is also seeing improvements in the dining scene.  Lauren's has been open for a while but was always closed when we tried to visit.  This time we found the restaurant open and enjoyed a couple of very good sandwiches that used many local ingredients.  Everything looked delicious, so we'll have to return.  We returned to the Boonville General Store, which continues to offer tasty lunches and breakfasts.  We heard good things about Aquarelle Cafe and Wine Bar in Boonville and Coq Au Vin, a very new French restaurant in Philo.  Both are only open for dinner.  Since we were staying on the coast, returning in the evening wasn't a convenient option.

If you are a Pinot Noir fan and want to taste some good wine in friendly tasting rooms, the Anderson Valley is just the place for you.  Combine your visit to wine country with a stay along the spectacular Mendocino coast for a great getaway.  If you would like to take a private tour of this area, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or