From: Richard Nalley Subject: Anderson Valley, California

Why have so many elite Napa and Sonoma Pinot Noir producers—Williams Selyem, Copain and Adrian Fog, to name just a few—begun buying grapes from the vineyards of Mendocino, California's obscure Anderson Valley? In fact, interest from outsiders has inspired growers to plant Pinot at a furious rate. In just the past 10 years, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir acreage has more than tripled: from 350 acres to about 1,200.

To be sure, this valley of towering redwoods is still scenic and slow-paced. But the movement among winemakers has been practically frenetic as more and more realize that the Anderson Valley may be one of the best places in California to grow Pinot Noir.

Anderson History The first recognition of Anderson Valley's potential came from France, when Champagne Louis Roederer debuted its Roederer Estate sparkling wine in 1988. A blend of Anderson Valley Pinot and Chardonnay, the Estate is still one of California's most refined and consistent sparklers. Other outsiders making a serious investment in Anderson Valley include Napa's Duckhorn Wine Company, which founded Goldeneye Winery in the heart of the valley in 1996. Goldeneye's first Pinot Noir, the 2000, showed what the area was capable of, and ever since that time, the 16-mile-long valley has been prospected like a gold mine, with its best vineyards—Ferrington, Savoy, Hein—earning recognition on more and more high-end labels.

Anderson Style It is probably too early to talk about an "Anderson Valley style" of Pinot, although the wines range from the lusciously rich Goldeneye Pinots to more medium-bodied, fruit-focused examples such as those from producers like Hartford Court and Littorai. But what's got Pinot insiders particularly excited is that these and other top Anderson Valley Pinots have a liveliness and natural acidity that recall fine young Burgundies. Not that many of these wines will be confused with Burgundy—most are too fleshy and ripe—but they are certainly proving to be special in their own right.

Travel Tips

Getting There
Anderson Valley is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of San Francisco.

Wineries To Visit
Many of Anderson Valley's best Pinots are bottled elsewhere, and some Valley wineries are not open to the public. Two that have tasting rooms are Goldeneye and Roederer Estate. (Try Roederer's sparkling wines and tasting-room-only still Pinots.) DETAILS Goldeneye Winery: 9200 Hwy. 128, Philo; 800-208-0438. Roederer Estate: 4501 Hwy. 128, Philo; 707-895-2288.

The Boonville Hotel restaurant is a favorite of the valley's winemakers. The Albion River Inn has the best local wine list. DETAILS Boonville Hotel: 14050 Hwy. 128, Boonville; 707-895-2210. Albion River Inn: 3790 N. U.S. Hwy. 1, Albion; 800-479-7944.