Wine Tasting Along the Anderson Valley Wine Trail – Day 1

My wife and I took and overnight to trip to Anderson Valley last month.  It’s been several years since we’d been, but our last trip there was a real pleasure and we’ve been looking forward to returning.  

“The Anderson Valley is located in the rolling hills of the coastal region of Mendocino County…Known for our world class Pinot Noir and Alsace Varietals, we offer a great wine tasting destination.” 

There are more wineries now, but Anderson Valley, which is located in Mendocino County, is still one of the most beautiful areas to go wine tasting.  Outdoor beauty abounds with rolling hills, flourishing forests, and stunningly beautiful coastline nearby.  Anderson Valley is overlooked as a wine travel destination, and that’s a shame in my book.

There are 24 wineries in the Anderson Valley, including 2 sparkling wine houses. You’ll pass through three appellations as your travel through the valley.  Traveling west on Hwy 128 you will enter the “Yorkville Highlands”.  As you cross into Mendocino County, continuing north you enter the “Anderson Valley” appellation. The “Mendocino Ridge” appellation is on the ridge tops along both sides of highway 128 further north.

Our first stop was in Yorkville Highlands at Yorkville CellarsThe only known winery where all 8 of the Bordeaux varietals are estate grown and then offered as separate varietal wines. Yorkville recently celebrated 26 years of certified organic farming. 

Yorkville Cellars

Their white wines come from their Randall Hill Vineyard behind the tasting room. The reds from the Rennie Vineyard in front (pictured below)

Yorkville cellar view

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2011 Yorkville Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Randle Hill Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Very pale straw color with grapefruit, citrus and apple aromas. On the palate, it light-medium bodied, fresh and smooth with grapefruit, citrus and green apple flavors. Medium-finish. Barrel fermented and aged 13.5% abv (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Yorkville Cellars Sémillon Randle Hill Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Pale golden yellow color with honeyed citrus and stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry, and fresh with citrus, pear and sweet yeast flavors. 13.5% Organic grapes (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Yorkville Cellars Eleanor of Acquitane Randle Hill Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Pale straw yellow color with honeyed grapefruit and citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and smooth with grapefruit, lime and mineral flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. 100% barrel fermented in small French oak barrels. Organic grapes. 13.5% abv (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Yorkville Cellars Malbec Rennie Vineyard Yorkville Highlands - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Garnet color with dark cherry, cassis and pomegranate aromas. On the palate, its medium bodied and balanced with cherry, raspberry, and a bit of blueberry flavors. Medium finish. Organic grapes. 13.0% abv(88 pts.)
  • 2009 Yorkville Cellars Petit Verdot Rennie Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Carmine color with earthy red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and slightly tannic with cherry, plum and spice flavors. Medium finish. Organic grapes. 13.5% abv (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Yorkville Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Rennie Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Deep garnet color with cherry, herb and a hint of chocolate aromas. On the palate, it’s a lighter style Cab that’s well-balanced cherry, chocolate and a bit of spice flavors. Medium finish. 13.5% Organic grapes(89 pts.)
  • 2009 Yorkville Cellars Richard the Lion-Heart Rennie Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Deep garnet color with raspberry, tobacco, cherry, and cedarwood aromas. On the palate, it’s balanced with good acidity and cherry, barrel spice flavors. Long finish. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Carmenere, 5% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. 13.5% Organic grapes (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Yorkville Cellars Malbec Sweet Malbec Rennie Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands - Unique wine. Fire engine red color with fruity cherry, strawberry and plum aromas. On the palate, surprisingly not overly sweet – more off-dry, and a bit frizzante with fresh ripe strawberry and cherry flavors. Very nice chilled. 10.5% Paired very nicely with an almond cookie (88 pts.)

Yorkville was a great first stop.  I really enjoyed their wines, and the variety they offer.  Plus the wines offer very good value.  They had the most surprising wine of the day – the Sweet Malbec.  It left me delightfully surprised because it wasn’t cloying sweet like so many dessert wines.  We picked up a bottle of their newly released Sparkling Malbec.  Look for my review soon!  They also provided us with a helpful “Highway 128 Tasting Room Suggestions” summary. Not only did it recap the what wines to look for, and tasting room hours, most importantly it noted the Mile Marker for the wineries.   That’s important to know in Anderson Valley, otherwise it’s easy to blow by a winery!

Our next stop was Breggo Cellars.  I was introduced to Breggo in a round about way.  We were doing some tasting in Napa a couple of years ago at Cliff Lede Vineyards.  While we were tasting through their wines (fabulous Cabs!), we were offered a taste of Breggo Cellars Syrah – It was fantastic!

It turned out the Cliff Lede owns Breggo Cellars. After much success with Bordeaux varietals at his eponymous winery, he became interested in Pinot Noir and Alsatian varieties.  He established Breggo Cellars to pursue his interest.

Breggo

The Breggo tasting room is beautifully rustic, though a bit on the small side given how fabulous the wines are.  We were there on a relatively slow day and the tasting room was full. I bet things get cozy during high season!  I bet that when the tasting spill outside onto their beautiful patio (pictured below)

breggo view

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Riesling Anderson Valley - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Medium golden-yellow color with aromatic, peach, pear, mineral and honey aromas. On the palate, it medium-bodied with vibrant acidity, and dryish with peach, citrus, and mineral flavors. Long finish. 12.8% abv. (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Gewürztraminer Ferrington Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light pale yellow color with intensely aromatic exotic aromas of lychee, stone fruits, lemon peel, and spices. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with stone-fruit, citrus, and spice flavors. Surprisingly vibrant acidity. Long finish. 13.2% abv. (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Breggo Cellars Pinot Gris - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley  Pale lemon-green color with peach, mineral and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with great acidity. It shows flavors of peach, apricot, and citrus with a medium-long finish. 14.2% Interesting fermentation process. According to Breggo…”A blend of lots fermented in a 200 gallon concrete egg, 900 gallon French oval, small neutral French oak barrels and stainless steel tank. No malolactic fermentation was permitted.“ (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Chardonnay Savoy Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley  Light lemon-gold color with creamy lemon, pear, and buttered honey aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, with a great mouthfeel, and balance. It shows pear, citrus, and honey flavors. Medium-long finish. 14.2 % abv.   According to Breggo…”Aged 18 months sur lie in 60 gallon French oak barrels – 53% new (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Ruby color with earth, cherry, and pomegranate aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, supple, and well-balanced with cherry, plum, spice and a hint of brown sugar flavors. Long finish. 14.1 % Aged thirteen months in 60 gallon French oak barrels – 48% new (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir Donnelly Creek - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Ruby color with cherry, and lavender aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and plush with black cherry, cranberry, and plum flavors. Long finish. 14.3 % (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Medium garnet color with aromatic cherry, dried herb, and a hint of mint aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and silky smooth with round cherry, plum, and baking spice flavors. Long finish.  (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Syrah Alder Springs - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Garnet color with complex earthy, fig, cherry liqueur, and anise aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with well-integrated tannins and blueberry, plum, cacao, and spice flavors. Long finish. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Zinfandel Dupratt Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Dark garnet color with exotic blackberry, dark chocolate, and spice aromas. On the palate, it medium-full-bodied with surprisingly good acidity. It shows flavors of blackberry, raspberry, plum, and spice flavors. Long finish. 15.8% abv, but drinks more like 14-14.5% (90 pts.)

Breggo should be at the top of your list when you plan a trip to Anderson Valley in my book!

Our final stop of the day was Roederer Estate, one of two sparkling wine houses in Anderson Valley (the other being Scharffenberger – also owned by Roederer).  We love sparkling wine, so we always leap at the opportunity to do some tasting of bubbly!

Roederer Estate It was our first time at Roederer.  It is an absolutely beautiful estate with an equally beautiful tasting room!  It’s a must stop if you enjoy bubbly!

gigi roederer

My tasting notes follow:

  • N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light golden straw color with plentiful, persistent stream of tiny bubbles, and sweet yeast, fresh cut green apples aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with soft texture, zippy acidity, between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla flavors and a shortish finish. 60% Chardonnay/40% Pinot Noir (89 pts.)
  • 2003 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale straw yellow color with bread crust, baked apple, and hazelnut aromas. On the palate, it shows a delicate mousse with baked apple , hazelnut, and hints of burnt sugar and mineral flavors. Long finish. 12.1% alcohol.  Blend of  52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir, 4% aged reserve wine (vintage ’99)” (92 pts.)
  • 2002 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Pale straw yellow color with buttered toast, apple, hazelnut, and a bit of citrus aromas. On the palate, it has a delicate creamy mousse with baked apple, hazelnut, citrus, and mineral flavors. Medium+ finish. Tasted from 1.5L bottle (91 pts.)
  • N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley - Light salmon color with brioche, red fruit aromas. On the palate it’s medium bodied with a creamy mousse, and strawberry, raspberry, and apple flavors. Medium finish. (89 pts.)

As is often the case when one goes tasting at sparkling wine houses, there are also still wines to be tasted.  And that’s the case at Roederer.

All in all we had a magnificent first day of wine tasting (and eating) in the Anderson Valley! My winery of the day?Breggo Cellars!

The last time we visited  a few years ago was also during Winter.  After this time we told ourselves we have to go back in the Spring or Summer when the weather is warmer!

Look for my Day 2 recap of our Anderson Valley wine tasting adventure next week!

 

T.G.I.F. Bubbly; 2003 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut

This week’s sparkler is produced by Roederer Estate, owned by Louis Roederer Champagne, which is renowned for producing the luxury Champagne Cristal. Besides various holdings in France, the Roederer group also includes Scharffenberger Cellars, another sparkling wine house in Anderson Valley.

The California operation is located in Anderson Valley, north of the Napa Valley.  While Anderson Valley may not have the cachet of Napa, or Sonoma, I’ve found the tasting rooms to be more intimate, the locals are more friendly.  It’s picturesque and beautiful wine region.

The Anderson Valley is cooled by the nearby Pacific Ocean, and the seemingly omnipresent bank of fog.  The region is home to a wealth of cool climate grapes especially Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Alsatian varieties like Riesling,Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Since Pinot Noir,and Chardonnay thrive there, the region produces some impressive sparkling wines.

My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Anderson Valley last week. We dropped in at Roederer Estate.  What a beautiful property.  Ironically, our last visit was during winter a few years ago.  We tasted some great wine, and told ourselves we’ve got to get back to the areas during another season! We’ve got our eye on the 16th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, or maybe during Harvest.

2003 Roederer Estate  L'Ermitage Brut

2003 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut

My tasting notes follow:

Pale straw yellow color with bread crust, baked apple, and hazelnut aromas. Persistent bed of tiny bubbles. On the palate, it shows a delicate mousse with baked apple , hazelnut, and hints of burnt sugar and mineral flavors. Long finish. 12.1% alcohol – 92pts

Rating: Highly Recommended – Fantastic bottle of California bubbly.  This is world-class bottle of bubbly I would love to see blind tasted against Champagne!  And it’s a relative value too when compared to top of the line offerings from a few of it’s Napa, and Sonoma competitors. 

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). I think this one works well as work both as an aperitif (Kettle-style potato chips, and seasoned popcorn are coming to mind), or main courses like sushi, sashimi, shellfish, lobster mac and cheese, or roast chicken. Even pair with a light dessert like shortbread cookies, or fresh fruit!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 12.1% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > CaliforniaNorth Coast> Anderson Valley
  • Varietal(s): 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir, 4% aged reserve wine (vintage ’99)”
  • Cooperage: Aged 5.5 years in French oak cask + at least 6 month in bottle
  • Dosage: Brut
  • Retail: $47
  • Cases produced: 5,251
  • Drink: Now – 2015
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine purchased for review

Related posts you might enjoy:

Top 10 Sparkling Wines Under $20 Redux

Since February, I’ve been enjoying sparkling wines from around the world on a weekly basis, and blogging about it in my “T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like… series.  One of the things I’ve learned, is that there are plenty of sparklers that offer great bang for the buck.  I’ve found some very good to excellent sparklers for less than $20, including, to my surprise a few Rosé sparklers, which are among the food friendliest of wines.  My top 10 list follows:
  1. NV Taltarni Brut Tache -  (Australia)  Lovely pale salmon color with floral, stone fruit (peaches/apricots), and fresh-baked scone aromas. On the palate, approaching medium-bodied, with a creamy mousse with watermelon, red berry, and a bit of hazelnut flavors. Dry with a light fruitiness, good acidity, and a clean medium long finish.
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose - (California) Delicate pink color with strawberry and bread dough aromas.  On the palate, moderately creamy mousse, good acidity, focused, fruity, yet dry, and lively, with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish.
  3. 2008 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, and yeast, green apple aromas. On the palate, a wonderful creamy mousse uncommon at this price point, dry, and approaching medium-bodied with apple, and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish
  4. NV Graham Beck Brut Rose - (South Africa) Watermelon pink color with a hint of silver with aromas of yeast, and raspberries.  On the palate, a creamy mousse, fruity, yet dry, with crisp acidity and raspberries, cherries flavors, with a slight mineral overtone, and a hint of citrus on the back palate.  Short-medium finish. Great QPR!
  5. NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs - (New Mexico)  Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles with brioche and apple aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse, balanced with pear, sweet baking spice, vanilla, and nuanced citrus flavors. Short finish .
  6. 2008 Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Crémant de Limoux - (France) Light straw color with brioche, Fuji apple, and floral aromas.  On the palate, crisp with zippy acidity, a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet green apple, pear, and toast flavors.  Medium finish.
  7. NV Jean Louis Denois Brut Tradition - (France)  Light straw color with bread dough, and apples aromas.  On the palate creamy, dry, and crisp, with good acidity with pear, apple, hazelnuts flavors along with a touch of minerals. Medium finish. Very good QPR.
  8. NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva - (Spain) Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles with bread dough and lemon-lime citrus aromas.  On the palate, light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse with green apple, and tart citrus flavors. Short finish. This one is “everyday” sparkler for me.  It’s a great value at $9/bottle!
  9. Mionetto Brut Prosecco Treviso -  (Italy) Very light – the color of clarified butter, with sweet bread,wet stone and citrus aromas. On the palate, closer to off-dry than dry for me, fairly well-balanced, with sweet lemon-lime, fuji apple, and slight vanilla flavors.  It grew on me more and more with each sip. Medium finish.
  10. 2008 Korbel Natural - (California) Pale golden-yellow color with yeast ,red fruit, and apple aromas.  On the palate light bodied, crisp, between dry and off-dry.  Straight-forward with cherry, apple, minerals, and a touch of honey flavors.  Short-medium finish.
Click here to find these wines.

In addition to the sparklers noted above, there are a handful of sparklers I heartily recommend that didn’t make the list because they retail for more than $20.  However, because they are widely distributed, they frequently go on sale. When they do – grab a bottle and see for yourself!

(Listed in order of preference)

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Roederer Estate Brut

This week’s sparkler is produced by Roederer Estate, owned by Louis Roederer Champagne, which is renowned for producing the luxury Champagne Cristal.  The California operation is located in Anderson Valley, north of the Napa Valley.  My last visit to Anderson Valley was a few years ago.  I really enjoyed it.  It doesn’t have cachet of Napa, or Sonoma, but the tasting rooms are much more intimate, the locals are friendly, it truly beautiful, and there are some great wines, especially Pinot Noir, Chards, and Alsatian varietals.  I highly recommend a visit.  I’ll be sure to stop in a Roederer my next trip up. Besides various holdings in France, the Roederer group also includes Scharffenberger Cellars, another sparkling wine house in Anderson Valley.

This sparkler was the first produced by Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley in 1988.  All their sparklers are made from Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir sourced from their 580 acre estate vineyards.   Additionally, each cuvée includes some portion of reserve wines which are selected from the best wines each year and aged in French oak casks.   Since the top of the line “L’ Ermitage vintage sparkling wines contain about 4% of these reserve wine, I think it’s a safe assumption this non-vintage cuvee contains less.

NV Roederer Estate Brut

NV Roederer Estate Brut

Region: California>Napa Valley

Variety – 60% Chardonnay, and 40% Pinot Noir

Dosage – 1.2% residual sugar

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Aged a minimum of 2 years on lees

Alcohol by volume: 12%

Cost: $18 (on sale) Retail: $25

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light golden straw color with plentiful persistent stream of tiny bubbles

Aromas: Sweet yeast, fresh-cut green apples

Body:  Medium-bodied with soft texture, and zippy acidity

Taste: Between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  This one would be a very nice aperitif, and also pair with nicely with wide variety of foods.  Pair with Sole Meunier, Fish and Chips, or Sushi/Sashimi. This would make a good sparkler for your Thanksgiving table too!

This is a very good sparkling wine, especially for a non-vintage.  It has a bit of complexity, is very enjoyable, and it’s widely available.  I’ll buy again whenever I find it only sale, which is frequently. I’m looking forward to trying the Rosé!  (89 pts).

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” – Unknown