ValleyFogBlog


2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Recap: Part 3 – The Food by valleyfog

One of the best things about the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is the food. The options at the technical conference lunch (pulled pork sandwiches), BBQ (paella) and the Grand Tasting (grilled lamb chops) were all good, but the real treats are at the winemaker dinners on Saturday night and during winery open houses on Sunday.

Drew and Greenwood Ridge wines at the Apple Farm, Philo, CA (photo by B. Mast)

After a day of being on our feet pouring, talking and serving others at the Grand Tasting, we always enjoy sitting down and getting served at a winemaker dinner.

Of the three or four different winemaker dinners scheduled for the festival, we bought our tickets early for the dinner at the Apple Farm, with Drew Wines and Greenwood Ridge Vineyards. The dinner started with appetizers and white wines in the courtyard at the Apple Farm, a relaxed haven for slow food. Here’s the menu in full from the evening:

Olive oil tart with sweet onion and thyme

First local salmon tartare

Greenwood Ridge 2008 Riesling

Drew 2010 Albarino, Wentzel Vineyard

A soup of two peas with mint

Greenwood Ridge 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Drew 2009 Pinot Noir, Morning Dew

Grilled & roasted leg of lamb in a coffee chile rub, creamy braised leeks and favas

Drew 2008 Ornbaun Syrah

Greenwood Ridge 2007 Merlot

A simple salad with Meyer lemon

Cheese plate

Drew 2002 Vogelzang Cabernet Franc

Citrus almond torte with kumquats and cream

Greenwood 2006 late harvest Riesling

The dinner was as delicious as the menu reads and both winemakers, Jason Drew from Drew and Allan Green from Greenwood Ridge, devoted a lot of time to visiting each table to talk about the wines.

It’s hard to imagine that we would have any room left for all the food at the open houses on Sunday, but we were up for the challenge. At the open houses being held at the different wineries in Anderson Valley, library releases and magnums (1.5L bottles) are poured alongside a tempting array of pinot-friendly foods. And since we don’t have a tasting room in the valley, and frankly had too few wines in our inventory to pour at anyone else’s open house, Sunday is a day for us to relax and enjoy being a wine consumer.

After a quick fuel-up of coffee and pastries, we hit the trail, starting at Mary Elke’s. We were excited to see a sparkling wine open, as that is Jennifer’s favorite way to start a day of wine-tasting. The Mary Elke Brut (NV) was a perfect pairing with the savory chicken tacos being served from a taco stand from Alicia’s Restaurant that Mary had arranged. We also sniffed, swirled and spat our way through her chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot noir selections – all incredible wines.

We motored down to the Madrones, a new complex of tasting rooms, shops and lodging in Philo and made our way through Berridge Wines, Lula and Drew. Each were pouring wines from some vineyards and AVAs that are off the beaten path – places like Comptche (where we get fruit from Oppenlander Vineyard), Mendocino Ridge and Manchester Ridge.

Have tacos, will travel, at Elke Vineyards (photo by B. Mast)

Sundays at the open houses wouldn’t be the same without a stop at the “Barn” at Londer Vineyards. We’re making pinot noir with fruit from Londer Vineyards, so it was great to stop by and say hi to Larry and Shirlee, enjoy their wines and get a warm greeting from their dogs. David Rossi of Fulcrum Wines was also pouring at the barn as he is also purchasing fruit from the Londers. We took a detour up the hill to check on the vines and it looks like they are doing well, despite the threat of frost in early April.

We wrapped up our day of wine tasting at one of our favorite open houses up at Baxter Winery. After the long, winding drive up the hill to their homestead, we were greeted with smiles and glasses of pinot noir by Phil Baxter and his wife Claire. Other friends and family were there helping out as well, serving up the always tasty lamb sliders.

Phil Baxter in Baxter's Barrel Room (Photo: J. Waits)

After tucking in to the fine lunch and trying a few of the current releases, we escaped the somewhat blustery day by heading into the barrel room to taste some of the 2009s still finishing barrel aging. Phil ages all of his pinot noirs in neutral (no new barrels) oak and therefore the wine can (and usually needs) to stay in barrel longer. This, and other winemaking techniques, were the topic of discussion as we drifted into “shop talk” towards the end of our visit. The friendly atmosphere of Baxter was typical of what we love so much about Anderson Valley and was a great way to end the weekend before our trip back to San Francisco.

For part 1 of our pinot fest recap, focusing on the technical conference, click here. For part 2 on the Grand Tasting, click here. And keep an eye out for an upcoming post on our visit to Wentzel Vineyard.

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