The rural mystique of Anderson Valley awaits you.
Anderson Valley is tucked within the rolling hills of Mendocino County, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, between the towns of Boonville and Navarro. Steep forested mountains surround the bucolic 15-mile-long valley, where vineyards are interspersed with old farmsteads, apple orchards and sheep ranches. The Navarro River flows through the district, including the 845-acre Hendy Woods State Park, featuring old- and second-growth redwood forests where visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch with a bottle of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir or Gewurztraminer. The scenic beauty of towering redwoods, rolling hillsides, grazing sheep, old barns and flowing ribbons of vines gives this serene valley its unique hard-hewn rural character. As opposed to the other more traveled North Coast appellations, Anderson Valley is reminiscent of what California looked like 100 years ago.
Early Native American inhabitants of Anderson Valley were the Pomo Indians. The first white settler was Walter Anderson, an adventurer from San Francisco who settled in the valley in 1851. He staked a claim and built a cabin near what is now Boonville. Subsistence farming later expanded into timber harvesting and livestock ranching. By the 1960s, the sheep, timber and fruit sectors of the economy were in decline, and the first commercial wine grapes were planted. Due to the valley’s distinct topography, climate and soils, in conjunction with a wine boom in the 1980s, Anderson Valley was established as an official appellation in 1983. Today, the area is home to 18 wineries and more than 2,300 acres of vineyards. It is also home to an original American slang called Bootling, which was spoken between 1880 and 1920. Featuring abbreviated words and expressions, Bootling is part of the history and folklore of the valley. A café in Boonville is still called “Horn of Zeese,” which translates to “A Cup of Coffee” in the local lingo.
The rustic charm and down-to-earth sensibility of Anderson Valley can be enjoyed through guided, personalized visits to the wineries, farms, restaurants and inns sprinkling the countryside. Unpretentious family-owned operations sit side by side with modern, French-owned sparkling wine cellars. The smallest winery in the valley is accessed along a drive through woodlands and rail fences, where the resident rooster and dog greet visitors. Tasting rooms vary from a picnic table in the backyard to a sophisticated salon in a sleek, redwood facility. The Organic Apple Farm features 80 varieties of heirloom apples, juice, cider, chutneys and jams. Gowan’s Oak Tree, a roadside produce stand along a bend in the road near Philo, offers peaches, pears, strawberries, nuts and vegetables. Quiet, hard-to-find inns connect the serenity of nature with luxurious amenities. Restaurants range from new world cuisine in a fashionable hotel to a civilized saloon, serving traditional pub food, local beers and wine.
Anderson Valley was isolated for a long time because of its remote location, and locals were wary of outsiders. Old-timers still reflect a rugged earthy character, and even newcomers tend to adopt this independent style. The early wineries were mainly established in the 1970s and ‘80s by urban dropouts who had made their money elsewhere and were looking to escape corporate life in this idyllic rural setting. By 1990, two large French Champagne houses established wineries and owned about half the vineyards, planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for sparkling wines. In 1994, there were 300 acres of Pinot Noir. Today there are more than 1,100 acres, almost half the total planted acreage.
With this change in the vineyards, there has also been a change in the people. Many elite Napa Valley and Sonoma County Pinot Noir producers have invested in Anderson Valley. Well-financed newcomers are developing vineyards with new clones from France, enhancing the varietal mix and the character of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Longtime growers are also introducing and adopting more sophisticated farming techniques. Pinot Noir is redefining the appellation and the people.
Anderson Valley has the coolest climate of any winegrowing region in California. It is recognized for its Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and sparkling wines. The long cool growing season ripens grapes slowly, developing intense varietal flavors and characters. The majority of the vineyards and wineries are located “down valley,” between Philo and the hamlet of Navarro. This westernmost area is located closest to the Mendocino coast and is called the “Deep End” by locals. Also the coolest microclimate in the appellation, it is where Pinot Noir vines co-exist with towering coastal Redwoods, known as “Monarchs of the Mist.”