On June 21, 2008, we attended a Maurtison winery outdoor dinner for wine club members at one of their Rockpile Vineyards deep in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. This is an amazing area of deep hillsides and rough terrain. We took a tour of the vineyards that sit high above Lake Sonoma. The air was clear and breezy and the views terrific. Two hours later during dinner, it was a completely different story. The entire area was filled with a haze of smoke. A wave of lighting strikes had set forest fires in Mendocino County and the winds brought the smoky air to the south. The smoky air lingered there for days as far away as the San Mateo Peninsula, but in Mendocino Country and parts of Sonoma County the smoky air was there for three weeks.The 2008 vintage will begin to emerge soon with white wines. These wines should not have a problem with smoke, because in the winemaking process the juice is squeezed from the grapes and the skins discarded. In the case of red wines, the skin is in contact with the juice, and hence the greater chance for smoke taint. The 2008 reds are in barrels now and I imagine the vintners have a good idea of how these wines will taste.
If you read our last couple of blog posts, you will know that we were in the Hopland area last week for our Bocce tournament. As you might imagine we stopped in at several wineries and tasting rooms in the Hopland area including the Jeriko Estate Winery. This wine area is beautiful and has much to offer to the wine country lover. You certainly won’t find any crowds up here in southern Mendocino County, and the area has much to offer in terms of peace and solitude and most importantly some very good wines.
Danny Fetzer owns the Jeriko Estate winery. The Fetzer Family made a fortune when it sold the Fetzer label to Brown-Forman Wines, and later many of the family members went on to establish their own wineries.
Our 5th Annual WCG Bocce Tournament is over. As usual, it was a tremendous success judged by the amount of fun we had. Yes, there was a winning team. Hmmm, who would that be? Oh yes, the “Crushers.”Second place went to “Two-Buck Chuckers,”and third place to the “Terrible Tannins.” As one of the players on the “Library Reserves” emphatically put it, “there are no losers here.”
We are on our way to Hopland, CA, to play Bocce, enjoy good food and wine, and most of all have fun with our friends. Bocce ball is a very easy game to play and requires very little physical skill and effort to play at the beginning level. A great athlete can be easily humbled in Bocce by a non-athlete playing in their first game. That is what makes this game so fun and exciting to play among a group of friends. Bocce courts are in many recreation centers and parks. But the best place to play Bocce is at a winery. More and more wineries are adding Bocce courts to their grounds and encouraging visitors to play at least a round or two in between sips of wine.
This is the last of the wineries that we visited on this trip to the Anderson Valley. Esterlina winery is open only by appointment and is about two miles up a dirt road from Highway 128. The views are spectacular from the deck of the Esterlina tasting room.
In our estimation, Handley Cellars ties Navarro Vineyards for the best overall winery in the Anderson Valley. Navarro gets all the press and their tasting room is usually jammed with visitors. Don’t get us wrong Navarro is one of our favorite wineries, but Handley is equal without all the hype.
As we head west toward Boonville on Highway 128 from Cloverdale, the first wine region we reach is Yorkville Highlands. There are three wineries of note along Highway 128 in this region and the first one we come to is Yorkville Cellars. Yorkville Cellars is a small family-owned winery practicing organic farming. They make nine different wines and produce a total of 1000 cases per year.
Here we are in the famed Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. This is the land of Pinot Noir and Alsatian varietal wines. On this trip we are exploring the wineries in this area that are found along Highway 128 West, the beautiful Highway that leads from Highway 101 to the Pacific Ocean.
There are actually two distinct wine regions along this stretch of Highway 128. Besides the Anderson Valley there is the Yorkville wine region. The Yorkville, just west of Highway 101, takes a backseat to the more famous Anderson Valley, but nonetheless there are wineries in Yorkville making terrific wines from this wine region.