You can almost hear the squeal of them flatlander Lexus tires coming down Yorkville way, headed for Saturday’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. If last year’s event raised the bar with a sold out Grand Tasting, this year should top it with an expected attendance of 800 paid attendees. I highly recommend buying a ticket to this 16th annual shindig, as it’s one of the greatest, most laid back wine festivals in America, and easily the most bang for the buck out of any wine tasting event in the golden state.
I asked Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association Executive Director Janis MacDonald about the new changes for this year’s event. “We are using multiple caterers,” she pointed out, “including Ellery Clark from Redwood Valley with their all locally sourced foods - lamb and polenta. Piaci from Fort Bragg will be serving hand tossed pizza, Roundman from Fort Bragg will be featuring smoked fish, and Boontberry is serving international cheeses and a selection of salads. Pennyroyal Goat Cheese will be there… Essence by Chocolate, Big River Coffee and Dry soda are this year’s sponsors. Plus Bob Day and his band will provide a jazzy background groove.”
If you do want to geek out about Anderson Valley terroir and the efforts that go into these beautiful bottles of wine, there is a Pinot Noir Technical Conference at the Apple Hall on Friday May 17 from 8:30-4. Breakfast, lunch and sleeping materials will be provided again this year(!).
One of the coolest events I went to while living in the Valley – period - was the pre-Pinot festival barbecue, which was held at Husch in 2012. For $50 you really can’t beat it. This year it will be held at Scharffenberger Cellars from 5-8 PM on Friday May 17. Plenty of food, pour your own wine from a table stocked with new and library releases from all the wineries in AV, plus a chance to meet a lot of winemakers and growers in a casual down-home kind of way.
The real meat of the flank is the Saturday afternoon Grand Tasting at Goldeneye for 50 bucks. From 11 AM-3 PM you can taste wines from over 40 wineries with plenty of food to keep you standing up. It’s a walk around tasting, with many winemakers themselves pouring you their own wines. New to the tent on the Bob Nye memorial grounds are Angel Camp Vineyard, Windracer by K-J, Nelson Hill, Stewart Vineyard and the much-anticipated Witching Stick Winery by AVA contributor Anne Fashauer and legendary vintner Van Williamson. There was a blurry chaos that occurred last year when this gastronomical beast of a party let out, with an impromptu Vin Gris-athon going down on the sunny patio at Goldeneye and Navarro’s tasting room apparently turning into a West Coast Mardi Gras of sorts. Someone told me a wasted group from Sacramento was doing Muscat Blanc body shots at closing time!
Here are my “must taste” recommendations for this year’s Grand Tasting:
1) Black Kite – This near mythical winery is on fire. I’ve never actually seen their vineyards, but their table at last year’s festival was mobbed, and for good reason. Since their first releases of the 2004 vintage they have managed to push ripeness to the very brink of excess, yet balance it with just the right amount of new French oak, acid and tannin. These are special occasion wines and full throttle versions of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.
2) Waits-Mast winery – Not only are they a cool couple and big fans of your beloved newspaper, but this Bay Area duo has sharpened up their winemaking skills with two solid single-vineyard wines from the challenging 2010 harvest. Make sure to taste their young, deep, brooding, guava nectar-scented 2010 Wentzel Vineyard Pinot Noir and their Londer Vineyard 2010, which was a site that got all but pan seared by the heatspike in September of 2010.
3) MacPhail – James MacPhail continues to impress with the longevity of his older AV Pinots (see last week’s AVA story), and the stylistic flair of his single vineyard releases from 2010. He brings a lot of wines to the Pinot Festival so spend some time at his table. The Healdsburg-based man who put Toulouse Vineyard on the map has made young, future-driven wines in 2010 from Ferrington Vineyard, Vern, and the 2-acre Wightman House Vineyard. The 2010’s will be around for awhile – all fermented with wild yeast and bottled unfiltered. Because of this they are a little shy at the moment, but once decanted they begin to reveal their direction. Last year’s wine of the event for me was the MacPhail 2006 Ferrington Vineyard.
4) Goldeneye – Call me a biased bastard, but my hands and feet helped make the classic 2010 vintage wines that the mighty duck will be pouring on Saturday. Not as rich as the 2009’s, the 2010’s offer a savory elegant note to the raspberry, minty and mocha fruit and oak profile of their main blend and four single vineyard wines. Because of staffing in 2010 there was an outbreak of Vaginamycees in the cellar, but it appears to have been sterile filtered out of the finished wines. The 2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir will be unbeatable when the heat comes through.
5) Roederer Estate – Enough said?
On Sunday, the tasting rooms in the valley will be pouring older vintages, barrel samples and possibly having food pairings and/or music on hand. My pick for the day will be Baxter Winery’s official Grand Opening in Philo.
To buy tickets or obtain more information, go to http://www.avwines.com/anderson-valley-pinot-noir-festival or call 707.895.WINE.