Highlights and Top Picks of the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival

May 20-22nd was the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. It was a busy wine weekend, with overlapping events including Taste Alexander Valley. I had missed the last few years Anderson Valley Pinot Festival due to similar conflicts, and decided to prioritize the event this year. I headed first to Scharffenberger Cellars , who hosted a media tasting, then over to Goldeneye for the walk around tasting. The day prior was a series of technical seminars and tastings, I unfortunately missed, a mistake I will not repeat in 2012.

I will gush in more detail about both, but this is not to be missed event for Pinot-philes.

My Picks from the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Tasting

Kudos to Kristy Charles, President of the Anderson Valley Wine Growers Association – the morning Media tasting one was one of the best organized I have attended. I had expected a walk-around tasting, but instead it was a self pour tasting of 30 current releases.

It was very well organized – at the door I received a clipboard with a 3 page spreadsheet that listed the winery, vintage, vineyards, retail price, release date, and case production. This made note taking so much easier and efficient.  Each bottle was on the table with detailed vinification notes in front.  (And on the clipboard to take home for reference.) While I enjoy winemaker interaction and questions I really like this format. It's very productive, allows focus and your own pace.

Overall, I was highly  impressed with the tasting. Of the 30 only two were given a low score, poor impression. I am vocal that my palate and personal philosophy is focused on wines that are balanced, with good acidity and restraint. You get no points for a Pinot the color of a Bordeaux varietal, with tannins to match. If anything, I am more drawn to a wine that was left to it's own, to express that years vintage.

Pinot Noir is one of the most expressive wine varieties of terroir and vintage, and should be different each year. Anderson Valley vintners show well in this regard, and I almost feel guilty picking out favorites. (I will confess I got to the tasting late, and had to accelerate a bit through the last 1/3, so notes not as lengthy as normal. )

Some of these will be pouring at tomorrow's Taste of Mendocino event – look for them.

My Personal Top Recommendations

  • Baxter Winery 2009 Run Dog Vineyard Native yeast. 18 months neutral French oak. 10% whole cluster. 100% Pommard 5 clone. Unfined/unfiltered. Lighter red color. Earthy nose, bright red fruit, cranberry, excellent acidity, finish. 14.3% alcohol.  110 cases. $45
  • Breggo Cellars 2009 Anderson Valley Ten months in 44% new French oak. Blend of many clones. Nose of earth, spice, red fruit, Bolder and plush on the palate. 14.8% alcohol.  2183 cases. $38
  • Couloir Wines 2009 Monument Tree 30% whole cluster. Native yeast. 30% new French oak. Unfined/unfiltered. Bright nose of red fruit and spice. Strawberry, red fruit and pomegranate. Great acidity, long finish. 14.1% alcohol, 143 cases. $38
  • Elke Vineyards 2009 Donnelly Creek Vineyard 100% de-stemmed. Burgundy yeast, nati

    ve ML. Blend of five clones. Unfiltered. Burgundian nose of earth, forest floor, mushroom. Strawberry, raspberry, silky finish. 14.3% alcohol.  840 cases. $34

  • Foursight Wines 2007 All-In, Charles Vineyard Native yeast. 20% whole cluster. Blend of 777, 114, 115, Pommard 05 clones. Unfined/unfiltered. No racking, 44% neutral barrels. Gorgeous Medium red color, gorgeous nose, cherry and pomegranate, excellent acidity. 407 cases, $46
  • Harrington Wines 2009 Wiley Vineyard Partial native yeast, 10 months French oak 25% new. Blend of 90% Pommard, 10% 777 clones. Light red color, modest nose, bright cherry, great acidity. 14.1% alcohol, 261 cases, $40
  • Londer Vineyards 2009 Paraboll (Ferrington & Valley Foothills vineyards) 40% new French oak. Blend of Pommard and Roederer 23 clones. Bright red, berry and spice on the nose, red and dark fruit, good structure and acidity, pleasing finish. 14.8% alcohol, 379 cases
  • Macphail 2009 Toulouse Vineyard Partial native yeast. Native ML. 3 months lees stirring. 11 months 60% new French oak. Unfined/unfiltered. Blend of 115, 667, 777 and Wadenswil 2A clones. Light, delicate, earthy, sensuous. Lingering finish. 14.3% alcohol. 267 cases. $49

Onto The Walk Around Tasting

The day was gorgeous – sunny and modest temperature. The reception upon arrival and general disposition of the staff and attendees mirrored that – the friendly attitude was warm and genuine – a phenomenon repeated every time I visit Mendocino County it seems.

Inside was yet more Pinot Noir. Seeking a bit of a palate break, I sought out bubbles and rose' – only a few were to be had….surprising, especially for the Rose'.

A band played, people lingered and relaxed in the grass, or sat on benches nibbling on treasures from the various food stations. I was solo – no friends or partners in crime could attend, and I was due back for a BBQ by five, or else I may

have lingered all day myself. I did finally meet my Twitter friend Chenoa, who works for Zina Hyde Cunningham Winery. It's always a pleasure to finally meet virtual wine friends in person, and Chenoa was as fun and bubbly in person as she is on Twitter.

After a few hours of tasting, chatting, a few bids on the silent auction, I reluctantly tore myself away to head back to North Sonoma, vowing next year to book a place to stay early (although with my growing cadre of Mendocino friends and wineries, perhaps not needed) and stay all 3 days. On Sundays, the wineries have open houses, but alas I had a 12 hour day of vineyard prep work ahead of me, so there was no wine playtime ahead for Simple Hedonisms.

Until next year….

My affinity for this wine region continues to grow. In 2 weeks I have the honor to attend a small writers work shop with icon Paul Dolan, and then in August, have been invited to be one of the judges in the Mendocino Count wine competition. Between trips there, and coming home to my loved Sonoma county and new farm/vineyard in Russian River Valley – my life seems full, and blessed indeed.

Thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms – cheers!

Related Articles:

Monday June 13 – Another Evolution in Wine Events – The Taste of Mendocino.

Mendocino Wine Region – My Growing Love Affair & Weekend Tour; Taste of Mendocino June 13th, A Fresh Unique Format

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