If you’re a bubbly or Pinot Noir fan, or if you’re simply looking to get “off the beaten path,” I’d recommend a trip to the Anderson Valley. The Anderson Valley is made up of 30+ wineries all conveniently located on Highway 128, the main road that runs between the Pacific coast and inland towards Sonoma County.
For today’s visit I teamed up with a fellow wine tasting comrade, blogger and wine judge, Sue Straight (also known as the Wine Wench). From our home base in Healdsburg we headed out along the 101 to the windy stretch of Highway 128, destined for Roederer Estate, our first stop of the day. Watch out wineries!
We arrived at Roederer in about an hour, and were immediately drawn to the grand entrance and beautiful views. Even at 11am on a Monday, there were quite a few others already enjoying the sunny outdoor patio and sipping on bubbles. What a way to start the week!
With rich French parents like Champagne Louis Roederer, Roederer Estate is a well distributed traditional-method sparkling wine producer and probably the most well-known name in the Anderson Valley. Roederer offers offer an informal tasting of sparkling whites and rosés at the bar, but the best part for us was sipping on a glass of their rosé from a Magnum. It was literally so good we were thinking of how to create a dinner party so we could justify buying a bottle. The patio is perfect for a picnic or to sit back and relax with a glass of bubbly.
Our next stop was Navarro Vineyards. We got a warm welcome from the Wine Wench’s friends and tasted several local cheeses, olive oils and of course most of their extensive wine list. I loved (and purchased!) the rosé, Muscat Blanc and Syrah. But, honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of their wines. Navarro has a lovely picnic spot overlooking the vineyards, so this is a great place to bring out the picnic basket and indulge in glass – or a bottle. We left with credit cards a little worse for wear, but justified our supply of wines that could “last the summer”.
Next up, Scharffenberger Cellars! Funnily enough, Scharffenberger is managed by Maisons Marques & Domaines, which is owned by Champagne Louis Roederer. We had more sips of bubbly here, but it is a completely different experience than Roederer. Scharffenberger’s quaint tasting room is inside a white villa, which on this particular day was surrounded by stunning pink blossom trees. Full of local art, the tasting room also has a supply of still wines, and, of course Scharffenberger chocolate, made in San Francisco. The tables under the pink blossom trees made for a very romantic and photogenic picnic spot.
Finally, to top off our day, we made a stop at Goldeneye Winery – and what a stop it was.
If you’re wondering who owns Goldeneye, you’ll get a big clue when you arrive. There are 30 or so wooden ducks placed around the tasting room, which is a big clue that it is a Duckhorn winery. (Duckhorn labels include Duckhorn, Paraduxx, Migration and Decoy) At Goldeneye we got our fill of seriously good Pinot Noir. We had a taste of the Chardonnay to start, followed by a seated tasting of several styles of Pinot Noir, which can be either indoors or out.
Our tasting flight was delivered to our table on a large tray and in very classy stemless Pinot Noir glasses. To top it off the wines were and accompanied by dried fruit and almonds. What a treat. It definitely beats lining up at the tasting counter. The views of the vineyards and Redwood trees are the best we saw in the valley and the service could not have been better. It turns out that Goldeneye’s 2005 Pinot Noir was served at the Obama inaugural luncheon. Somebody at the White House has good taste! After much needed deliberation, Sue and I both had the same favorite – the 2010 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Gowan Creek Vineyard. Sublime!
This was the perfect day of new experiences, and we just hit the tip of the iceberg. I’m looking forward to my next visit!
- Go easy on your palate. Try to visit the bubbly wineries in the morning, and finish with the Pinot producers in the afternoon.
- Start at the far end of the valley from where you came from and work your way back. We came from Healdsburg so we drove as far west as possible and worked our way back towards the east. This makes for less driving for the way home after a long day of tastings.
- Buy lunch in Boonville and have your pick of wineries for a lunch time picnic. There is nothing better than enjoying lunch with spectacular vineyard views.
- Wineries such as Roederer and Scharffenberger can arrange a picnic lunch for you through the Boont Berry store and have it ready when you arrive. A picnic for two is $25.
- Avoid weekends if you can help it. The day we visited happened to be a Monday. There was less traffic and winery staff could spend more time with us.
- You don’t need reservations to visit these wineries, however many of them do offer tours and have special events. Check their websites before you head off. Reservations almost always give you an even better experience at the winery and are recommended at Goldeneye.
Best wineries to visit
- Roederer Estate, 4501 Highway 128, Philo, CA 95466, 707 895-2288. There is a small tasting fee and tours can be pre-reserved ($6).
- Scharffenberger Cellars, 8501 Highway 128, Philo, CA, 707 895-2065. Tasting fee is $3.
- Navarro Vineyards, 5601 Highway 128, Philo, CA 95466 , 707 895-3686.
- Goldeneye Winery, 9200 Highway 128, Philo, (800) 208-0438. Tastings range between $10-$30.
Where to Stay
Healdsburg and also the coastal town of Mendocino are good places to look for accommodations. In Boonville, a small town located in the middle of the valley, you’ll also find the simple, but wine country chic Boonville Hotel. In Healdsburg, there are plenty of luxe choices, but my favorites are Hotel Healdsburg, H2 Hotel, The Healdsburg Inn, Madrona Manor and ultra elegant Hotel Les Mars. In Mendocino, you can find plenty of charming accommodations such as the John Dougherty House and the grand MacCallum House Inn & Restaurant.
Where to Eat
We picked up lunch at the Boont Berry Store in Boonville and had a picnic at a winery. There are a few cafes in town where you can also order lunch or pick up a sandwich. For dinner, you’ll want to try Table 128 at the Boonville Hotel. You can also head over to their Oyster Bar on Summer Sunday afternoons mid June through mid October, for fresh shucked Tomales Bay oysters.
About the Anderson Valley
There are about 30 wineries that make up 15-mile stretch of highway through the Anderson Valley. Wineries produce a broad range of excellent wines including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sparkling wines, Gewürztraminer and White Riesling.
- 2 hours drive from San Francisco
- 1 hour drive from Healdsburg
- 40 minutes drive from Mendocino
District / Appellation: Anderson Valley, Mendocino County
Date of visit: April 7, 2014