California’s Anderson Valley stretches from the Mendocino Coast down 128 to Boonville. It encompasses multiple towns and wineries from the Mendocino coast, Navarro, Philo and Boonville. The area is known for its cooler-climate grape varietals such as Pinot Noir for reds and Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gewürtztraminer for whites.
Anderson Valley promotes multiple wine events such as such as its Pinot Noir Festival or White Wine Weekend. We have participated in some of these and its Barrel Weekend. But we also enjoy stopping here either on our way to Mendocino or just as a destination (it is 2 ½ hours from San Francisco).
Why? First, we like a lot of the wineries. Second, Anderson Valley offers a more relaxing and intimate wine tasting experience than some of the more tourist-heavy wine regions. The winemakers are often the ones pouring in the tasting room and they are more than happy to answer questions about their wines. Still, it is always wise to check to see if reservations are required in advance.
Here are some of our favorite places to stop from north to south on route 128.
Lulu Cellars focuses on Pinot Noirs. We enjoy its Alexander Valley Pinot Noir and especially the Peterson Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Handley Cellars (Philo)
Handley is known for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and is certified organic. Its 2019 RSM Estate Pinot Noir has nice dark fruit. The 2017 Kazmet Vineyard Zinfandel is fruity but not jammy. They have some nice reasonably priced Pinot Noirs: the Mendocino County and Estate Vineyard Reserve Estate wines and the RSM Vineyard and Helluva Vineyard. We have previously we enjoyed its 2017 unoaked Water Tower and 2016 Burgundian-style Estate Chardonnays, the 2016 Helluva and RSM Vineyard Pinot Noirs and the 2014 Late Harvest Riesling dessert wine.
Roederer Estates (Philo)
We usually stop at this sparkling wine producer to stock up on L’Hermitage bubbly for New Year’s Eve. We have also enjoyed its multi-vintage Brut.
Husch Vineyards (Philo)
Husch is one of the oldest wineries in Anderson Valley, producing wines since 1971. They offer a wide range of varietals, including Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. We have always favored its dessert wines and our 2023 stop was no exception when we enjoyed the 2021 Late Harvest Gewurztamner dessert wine. Other favorites include the Knoll Pinot Noir and Grand Oz (Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes of two estates) and Old Vine Heritage (blend of Petit Syrah, Zinfandel and Carignan)
The Silver Oak family started Twomey to expand beyond Cabernet Sauvignon. This is one of their 3 locations (the others being Calistoga and Healdsburg). Their Anderson Valley wine is Pinot Noir.
The tastings take place in an rustic, former apple-dryer barn from the 1880s. We enjoyed its Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir.
They specialize in late harvest Riesling and Pinot Noir. We especially enjoyed its 2021 Island in the Clouds Pinot Noir, the 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2021 Zinfandel.
Unlike many wineries today, Navarro does not require reservations. They focus on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer. We have enjoyed multiple versions of their wines over the years.
Witching Stick focuses on small-batch hand-crafted wines. They produce multiple Pinot Noirs, but also bottle Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other varietals. We particularly enjoyed its Fashauer Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Golden Eye is part of the Duckhorn group and is known for its Pinot Noir. We. The 2019 Gowen Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir was interesting, but its 2019 “The Narrows Vineyard” Pinot Noir‘s dark fruit and complexity won us over. We also enjoyed its Sparkling Brut Rose
They produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We especially enjoyed its estate Pinot Noir.
Half of Lichen Estate’s production is sparkling wine. We enjoyed the Grand Cuvee (the only sparkler that had not yet sold out) but especially two of its Pinot Noirs, a 2021 White Pinot Noir and the 2020 Estate Pinot Noir.
Bee Hunter purchases Mendocino County fruit to make small batches of various wines. The wines change frequently based on current vintages and the grapes they find. It is always an interesting place to stop. We have enjoyed various wines here: Angel Camp and the Wiley Vineyards, and the Late Harvest Greenwood Riesling, Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, Oppenlander Vineyard and Docker Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir
Foursight focuses on Pinot Noir, and other varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc. We especially enjoyed its Charles Estate Pinot Noir
Previous partners in Silver Oak partners own this winery. While known primarily for their Syrah (we especially enjoyed the High Ground Reserve). and Syrah Port, they also have some very credible Cabernet Sauvignons such as the very drinkable Fluffy Billows and a more age-worthy 2012 Spitfire. We also enjoyed its Port.