Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Next Napa Valley

       It’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. The street sign as you enter the town says it all. Philo, elevation 331, population 349! You know you’re way off the beaten trail when the elevation is nearly as relevant as the number of people, but in Anderson Valley, hidden away west of the famous wine region of Napa, you also know the population is sure to grow when this fabulous region is discovered. Completely different from upscale Napa, there aren’t any Versailles-style villas, fancy resorts, bumper-to-bumper traffic, expensive tasting fees, and five-star restaurants. The Anderson valley feels authentic, natural — the way Napa was about 50 years ago.

The climate is much different from it heat driven sister in the Napa Valley. Anderson Valley is far more temperamental, its climate shaped by cooling fogs and its land offset by towering redwoods and massive oaks. Being just 9 miles from the Pacific Ocean often leads to a rapid shift to warmer temperatures as you head inland. This is comparable to cooler spots in Sonoma where world-class Pinot Noir’s are produced. The climate used to be great for apple orchards and still is, but it’s also proved ideal for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling cool-weather whites like Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris.

 The most popular varietal in the region is Pinot Noir. Of Anderson Valley’s 2,500 acres under vine, over 1,500 are rooted to Pinot Noir. Besides producing world-class table wines, it has given the sparkling-wine industry a firm backbone. Sparkling wine heavyweight Roederer Estate is the largest winery in the area, producing 100,000 cases of sparkling wine that rate as some of USA’s finest!
 As Pinot Noir gained popularity, more vintners looked to Anderson Valley, where land prices were more affordable and a good bet for Pinot. Prices are catching up. Today at 100K per acre for prime real estate, which is still more affordable than Sonoma, big name Napa wineries are finding there way to Anderson Valley. Over the past decade, we have seen Duckhorn buy Goldeneye, Cliff Lede purchased Breggo and Savoy Vineyards, and Silver Oak with its Twomey label. 
We all know that things happen slowly in the wine arena and sometimes even more when attempting to shed light on a new region. I believe Anderson Valley will drive the next exciting era for this specific region. It will redefine both Anderson Valley and Mendocino, with new players, money, and a specific purpose, which may in turn encourage the next wine generation to pursue winegrowing greatness!

Joe  D

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