Production in the Anderson Valley AVA focuses on high quality/low yield Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling varietals. With over 20 distinct vineyards and 28 wineries open to the public, Anderson Valley boasts the highest density of wineries and vineyards of the ten Mendocino County AVA’s.
A lateral strip of land that meanders down the Navarro River, Anderson Valley stretches from Navarro to Boonville. Accessible only by Route 128 that rides straight down the middle of the appellation, it is separated into two climatic regions. Not far inland from the Pacific Ocean, it has a diverse spread of microclimates. The westernmost edge of the AVA has cool and damp summers while the eastern edge can see hot and dry days with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees fahrenheit. Diurnal temperatures can fluctuate as much as 50 degrees throughout the region, with an average daytime high of 53 degrees fahrenheit. Anderson Valley also has an extended growing season with frequent Indian summers, but its susceptibility to spring frosts making it unrealistic to cultivate with temperamental varieties.
The area’s history is rich with struggles and victories. Initially settled largely by the lumber industry and the Gold Rush of the 1850’s, Anderson Valley rode the waves of technology, war, and social upheaval well into the present. 1868 brought the first toll-road to Ukiah and by 1894, settlement by Italian immigrants brought wine-making to the lofty slopes of the valley. At 1,600 feet above sea level, Greenwood ridge’s plateaus provided the perfect microclimate for growing. By 1918, entrepreneur Charles Hagemann had created a prosperous wine business but the Prohibition would stop this industry from progressing and it would take 50 years for the industry to recover.
By the 1980’s, the region was reborn into a booming wine district. The experimentation of the 1960’s and 70’s along with it’s failures would provide invaluable lessons for those wishing to establish quality wineries here. The first successfully established winery was Husch Vineyards, who were drawn to the area by “Edmeades Folly” and historically successful artisan wine-makers. Eventually household name Kendall-Jackson Vineyards would purchase Edmeades business. Lazy Creek Vineyards, founded in 1973, is the second oldest vineyard in the AVA and has approximately 52 cultivated acres. Their Gewürztraminer vines are some of the oldest in the Valley. International provenance came in 1982 when Louis Roederer, of French Champagne fame, relocated to Anderson Valley, boosting the already burgeoning wine industry.
Yearly in late February, the AVA hosts the International Alsace Varietals Festival. In late Spring (near Memorial Day), wine lovers attend the Pinot Noir Festival which sports over 40 wineries. With a long history of struggle and rebirth, the feelings of community, cooperation, and goodwill are still very strong in this quaint and gorgeous valley.