Napa Valley is easily the most famous wine-making region in California and probably the United States as a whole. The region’s fame and considerable fortune in the winemaking industry are renowned, but it’s not the only place in California where grapes are pressed into Decanter Awards. Just 100 miles north of Napa lies another valley where the geography and climate make magic out of mere grapes. Anderson Valley in Northern California, home to great people and even better pinot noirs, has Napa Valley vintners looking over their shoulders as the race for top wine valley in California is suddenly much closer than it appears.
Grapes are high-maintenance. Unlike weeds which spring forth from the Earth in even the harshest conditions, winemaking grapes require a bit more care and maintenance to ensure the final product meets the vino community’s lofty standards.
In Anderson Valley amidst the towering Redwoods and Douglas Firs, pinot noir grapes populate the landscape. The cooler climate, rich soil and sloping hills create the ideal environment for what is a particularly finicky red grape varietal. Too hot, too cold, not enough sunlight, too much sun, sandy soil and a laundry list of other imperfections can derail a batch of pinot noir before the grapes even leave the vine. Ideal conditions throughout the process lead to a bold wine with a complex emanation of fruit and spice. It’s a versatile wine in a food pairing sense, going just as well with a salmon dish as a pork chop and everything in between.
Pinot noir is so popular, the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association hosts an annual pinot noir festival each May where the region’s winemakers gather to taste, compare and enjoy one of the world’s most complex wines.
It’s Still a Small Town
What makes Anderson Valley vastly different than it’s southern counterpart is the small town look and feel. While Napa Valley is known for sprawling estates and garages populated with luxury cars, you’re more likely to find a plaid shirt and a tractor when you tour Anderson Valley. Little towns like Boonville and Philo are quaint in size and seem to be a million miles from anything resembling the materialism and pomp of Napa and her elites.
The next time you find yourself in need of some vino therapy, look for a bottle of pinot noir not from Argentina or France, but from Anderson Valley, California and taste for yourself what makes this region so special.