Wine Tasting in the Anderson Valley
On a recommendation from our charming B & B innkeeper, Roxanne from Auberge on the Vineyard, we mapped out our route for wine tasting in the less commercial, rustic Anderson Valley. Maple Creek Winery just outside of Yorkville, was our first tasting of the day. It was the perfect place for us to start our Anderson Valley adventure, and in some ways feels a little like kismet that we stopped there (more on this later).
Tuffy, the greeter cat led us underneath the trellis entryway into their tasting room to sample the award-winning Artevino label. Maya, our lovely and friendly pourer had us tasting and laughing within minutes.
Vintner Tom Rodrigues was off catching a wild boar (they’re very common in these parts), so we admired his beautiful artwork that adorned not only the tasting room walls, but the art nouveau labels, as well. And, we admired all of the medals and awards that the winery has accumulated.
We learned that Maple Creek only produces 3,500 cases of their wines each year, has 4 employees and is only 10 years old.
The winery’s Pinots, Zins, and Chardonnays were developed by Dr. Harold Olmo of UC Davis fame who was known as “The Godfather of Vini and Viti.” I didn’t quite know what this meant, so I asked Maya for clarification. “Vini” is short for viniculture and “Viti” is short for viticulture. After chatting about the fire of 2008 and how it added a smoky flavor to the zinfandel, the staff’s admiration for the SF Giants (hence the bobble-head collection), and the local radio program, Trading Time on KZYX, we hugged Maya good-bye. But, as the sign in the tasting room says, “Enter as Strangers, Leave As Friends” and that’s exactly how we felt about the tasting experience here, as we made our way west along Highway 128.
To say Boonville is “cute” is a gross understatement. With its cheerful, artsy stores and restaurants, in some ways it’s like the perfect fantasy town that you dream about moving to one day. Cute, little granny houses with their fireplaces billowing smoke against the blue sky, yellow and white daffodils sprouting up everywhere, and fluffy white clouds hovering over fluffy white sheep grazing on luscious green rolling hills. And, of course, the infamous Boonville Brewery.
At the Zina Hyde Cunningham tasting room, we mingled with happy fellow tasters and traded notes on the best wineries in the area. If you’ve been to the Napa Valley, where you often have to jostle for position at the tasting bar, you’ll appreciate it when I tell you that every winery we visited had plenty of room to sit, stand, roam around and be completely comfortable. One fellow taster said it best: “This place is just about to get discovered,” and I think he may be right. We may have stumbled onto Boonville, pre-boom.
Gourmet sandwich shops, friendly people who smile and say “hi” as you pass them. A coffee house where local artists display their wares. Yummy restaurants where ingredients are locally grown and organic. Rustic wineries where the tasting fees are reasonable and there’s nary a wine limo in sight. The Farmhouse Mercantile store where you can buy milk paint in a rainbow of colors to transform your thrift store or barn sale finds. You get the picture.
The Anderson Valley is literally like a breath of fresh air – and there’s plenty of that here, too. At our next tasting stop, Breggo, we admired some more beautiful art, delicious wines and the over-sized wine glass light fixture in their more minimalist tasting room.
At Goldeneye Winery, of the Duckhorn Winery family, we munched on cheese & crackers, dried cherries and almonds while sipping some truly lovely wines. We discovered that the can’t-stop-eating it cheese that they serve is Fiscalini premium aged San Joaquin Gold, just in case you were wondering.
Our pourer was so nice (why didn’t we get her name?) and as we were finishing up at Golden Eye, she called over to Esterlina Vineyards – which came highly recommended by some fellow tasters – to see if we could get in, but it was not meant to be. You should know that this winery is getting rave reviews, and reservations are recommended. Here’s a short video about Esterlina Vineyards to give you more information about this family-owned boutique winery.
Instead, we headed over to Toulouse, which is owned by a former Oakland Fire Captain, so naturally we had to check it out. Since they don’t yet even have a tasting room (it’s currently under construction), you taste their wines on tables set atop wine barrels in their production warehouse. I know this may sound strange, but it makes for a very friendly wine-tasting experience and the down-home atmosphere makes you feel like you’ve got the inside scoop on a really great wine-tasting secret.
So that you don’t think me irresponsible, as the designated driver I was not accepting a taste of every wine offered and consumed more water than wine. Most wineries in the valley close around 4 or 5 o’clock, so since the clock was ticking past 5, and a soft rain began to fall, it was the perfect time to gather ourselves together for the drive back into Boonville to eat a lovely meal at Lauren’s. We mostly decided to eat at this eponymous eatery, upon Maya’s recommendation (remember, our favorite pourer from Maple Creek), who said that their french fries are legendary. Our adorable cousin Lauren, who lives in DC, thought this eatery was a good choice, too, after posting a picture of it on Facebook.
One of the things I love about the Anderson Valley is that everyone seems to know everyone else and visitors, like us, are treated with friendliness, interest and curiosity. Something that we don’t always experience living in a larger urban area. Every customer who walked into Lauren’s seemed to look around the room and wave to someone they knew at another table. Sigh. How nice.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of Thrift Trip: Cloverdale, when I regale you with tales from our last day of thrifting and tasting in the stunning Anderson Valley…And, if you missed Part One, you can find it here.