Ashley Palm from Brashley Vineyards pours Pinot Noir at the Grand Tasting
Ashley Palm from Brashley Vineyards pours Pinot Noir at the Grand Tasting

Stunning beauty, exceptional cool-climate wines

Anderson Valley, an extraordinary wine region, is one of California’s hidden gems.

One hour north of Sonoma County, Anderson Valley’s distance from large cities and major highways helps assure its isolation. But it’s worth the trek to experience the welcoming attitude of local vintners, uncrowded wine-tasting experiences, stunning beauty, a moderate climate, and exceptional cool-climate wines like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 

⤹ Roseville: June 20- 23! ⤸

⤹ Roseville: June 20- 23! ⤸

⤹ Roseville: June 20- 23! ⤸

⤹Roseville: June 20- 23! ⤸

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival

May is a time of joy and celebration in Anderson Valley. The lush hills are alive with the bleating of sheep, and the sweet scents of Spring fill the air. It’s the perfect time to join in the festivities and honor the beloved Pinot grape as Anderson Valley vintners host their annual Pinot Noir Festival over the third weekend of May. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the festival, a testament to the enduring love for this finicky, cool-climate grape in Anderson Valley. The festival is a vibrant tribute to the grape that put Anderson Valley on the wine map, a history that dates to its historic first planting in 1971.

Couple standing in Anderson Valley at Pinot Noir Festival
Couple enjoying sparkling wine at the VIP Bubble Lounge

At this year’s Pinot Noir Festival, over 50 wineries showcased their finest Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, offering a diverse and rich tasting experience. The weekend was packed with three days of local food, educational sessions, and fun-filled activities, making it a comprehensive and enjoyable event for wine connoisseurs, winemakers, viticulturalists, and casual consumers. From wine tastings to food pairings, the festival catered to all interests and provided a unique opportunity to immerse in the world of Anderson Valley wines.

Delve Into Pinot Noir at the Technical Conference

Friday is a day of enlightenment at the festival, featuring a technical conference that delves deep into the nuances of Pinot Noir from higher-elevation ridge vineyards. Local winegrowers generously shared their conservation efforts to preserve soil quality in their vineyards, providing valuable insights into sustainable viticulture. The conference also included a food and wine pairing session led by esteemed chef Lars Kronmark from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and local food consultant Dory Kwan. This session was a fascinating demonstration of how food and wine from the same terroir integrate and complement each other, a lesson in gastronomy and enology.

Sunset Barbeque at Lula Cellars

The Friday sunset barbeque at Lula Cellars mixed visitors with locals and Anderson Valley winemakers. Everyone was encouraged to bring a bottle of wine, not necessarily an Anderson Valley wine, but one you wanted to share. We contributed a bottle of white Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley as a nod to another well-known Pinot-producing region.

Grand Tasting and VIP Bubble Lounge

Saturday was undoubtedly the festival’s highlight and featured two events: The VIP Bubble Lounge and the Grand Tasting. The VIP Bubble Lounge in the Scharffenberger Estate Conference Center showcased sparkling Pinot from three estates: Scharffenberger Cellars, Roederer Estate, and Louis Roederer. Guests munched on caviar, charcuterie, and sushi designed to pair perfectly with the sparkling wine.

Bubble Lounge at Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival

The Grand Tasting, set among the Scharffenberger vineyards, offered the opportunity to sample Pinot Noir from 51 wineries. Local wineries included notables such as Brashley Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lula Cellars, Maggy Hawk Wine, Navarro Vineyards, Meyer Family Cellars, and many more. Even wineries in Napa and Sonoma, which source their grapes from Anderson Valley, attended the event to showcase the delightful wine they produce from this vibrant AVA.

Local restaurants Elk Cove Inn, Sacred Rock Inn, Roundman’s Smokehouse and Butcher Shop, Little River Inn, Noyo Harbor Inn, Tsar Nicolai Caviar, Piaci Pub and Pizzeria, and Boont Berry Farm fed the crowd with a variety of foods, including individual charcuterie plates, smoked meats, smoked seafood, roasted Brussels sprouts, and billionaire bacon BLTs. Elk Cove Inn served duck empanadas that were a big hit with the crowd. Tsar Caviar served caviar nachos with crème fraiche, caviar, and chives sprinkled on truffle potato chips. And Sacred Rock Inn served its popular squid ink pasta with uni carbonara. If you couldn’t find something fun and delicious at this event, you weren’t trying very hard.

Winery Open Houses

But the fun didn’t end there. Sunday featured open houses at nearly every Anderson Valley winery, some with food and wine pairings. Meyer Family served a smoked rib feast. Foursight Wines offered a French food experience crafted by Mendocino’s Chef Kim Badenhop. Baxter Winery served lamb sliders cooked over a barrel stave live fire. We headed to Brashley for “loaded fries” topped with smoked pulled pork, pickled red onions, cheesy white sauce, and fine herbs prepared by Brashley’s chef, Sean McTiernan.

Rosé in a wine glass at Brashley open house
Tasting a rosé at Brashley open house

At Disco Ranch in Boonville, three wineries, Lussier, Waits-Mast, and Read Holland, offered an opportunity to mingle with winemakers and explore this fabulous market and deli.

Many of the open houses included music and cellar tours. Regardless of which wineries you visited, there was no shortage of fun!

It’s Not Too Early to Plan for Next Year

So, if you missed this year’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, it’s not too early to plan for next year. But then again, why wait? Summer is perfect for getting out of the hot Roseville weather and heading to Anderson Valley.

In conclusion, the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is a celebration of exceptional cool-climate wines, local culinary delights, and the warm hospitality of the vintners. As the festival marked its 25th anniversary, it’s evident that the enduring love for Pinot Noir continues to keep Anderson Valley on the wine map. The open houses on Sunday provided a perfect ending, showcasing the diverse offerings and culinary creations that make Anderson Valley a must-visit destination for wine and food lovers. Whether it’s the elegant Pinot Noir, the vibrant festival atmosphere, or the delectable local cuisine, Anderson Valley shines as a hidden gem in California’s wine country.

If You Go:

Where to Eat

The restaurant inside the Boonville Hotel is run by Michelin-star chef Perry Hoffman. Using his talent and locally sourced ingredients, Hoffman dazzles locals and visitors with his gourmet dinners.

Disco Ranch, a specialty market and wine bar in Boonville, offers small bites, sliders, and cheese and charcuterie boards. Try a board of smoked salmon, Boursin, and cucumbers prepared fresh from the deli while hanging out with local winemakers who stop by for a glass of wine.

Where to Stay

Hotels within the heart of Anderson Valley are limited and fill up ahead of the Pinot Noir Festival. It’s not too early to book now for next year.

If you want to stay in the heart of Anderson Valley, try the Boonville Hotel in “downtown” Boonville. This historic hotel, built in 1862, oozes with charm. It features 17 unique rooms and a continental breakfast.

Guests looking to enjoy the Pinot Noir Festival and the stunning Mendocino Coast will want to book a room at the Brewery Gulch Inn. It’s only a 30-minute drive from the inn to the deep end of Anderson Valley, and well worth it.

Mendocino Coast view from Brewery Gulch Inn
View from the patio Brewery Gulch Inn

The inn features eleven spacious rooms with gas fireplaces. All except the Meadowview Suite offer ocean views. In our room, the Raven, rich leather chairs were situated in front of the fireplace and alongside the balcony so we could enjoy the warmth of the fire and the ocean views simultaneously.

Chefs Steve and Tara provide a gourmet breakfast in the morning and a bento-style “Mendo box” with a wine hour in the evening. Our Saturday night box included a hearty pasta with a Bolognese sauce, a fresh green salad, and a rich and delicious brownie, providing a hearty dinner.

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