Anderson Valley American Viticultural Area: AVAVA

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Lula Cellars

I love a good palindrome. You know, a word or phrase that reads the same forward and backward. “Able was I ere I saw Elba” is a classic example. My new favorite? AVAVA. Technically it stands for Anderson Valley American Viticultural Area, but to me it stands for great wine paired with farm fresh food, natural beauty and a welcoming community.

Greg and I recently returned to the Anderson Valley for a long holiday weekend. This trip was even better than the last: we were invited to stay at a winery– the bucolic Lula Cellars– and attend a couple of screenings at the Cinema in the Vineyards portion of the Mendocino Film Festival.

At the risk of making you very jealous (sorry!) I’d like to offer up a few tastes of my experience:

Film: “Finding Gaston” shown at Balo Vineyards. Gaston Acurio’s cuisine put his country on the international food map– he translated French cuisine techniques into a Peruvian pastiche featuring his passion for local ingredients, his support for indigenous farmers and fishermen and his mentorship of young culinary talent. Admirable and sustainable, as well as enjoyable. Greg and I have recently returned from Lima, Peru where we were fortunate to Find Gaston’s food for ourselves.

Wine and Filmmaker Dinner: Farm-to-table family style feast hosted on the grounds of the fabulous Madrones supporting the Anderson Valley Foodshed and Farmers Market. Food picked that day paired with local world-class wines capped by the dramatic presentation of a whole (lovingly raised) suckling pig. I was lucky to be seated between Todd Darling, whose documentary “Occupy the Farm” captures an East Bay community’s fight for food equity and Jason Drew, whose high elevation winery produced the highly distinctive Syrah that accompanied our main course.

Lula Cellars: On our previous visit, winemaker Jeff Hanson said “hey, next time you’re in the area, you’re welcome to stay in my guest house.” It was an offer we couldn’t refuse. Imagine a a cozy cottage tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Boonville, a rooster alerting you to a new day rife with wine tasting possibilities, a stroll through fog laden vineyards to get your circulation going and a Honey of a dog guiding you down to Lula’s rustic-modern tasting room for a guided tour of expressive terroir-driven wines delivered by her master, culminating in my personal favorite, the 2012 Lula Cellars Costa Vineyard Pinot Noir. Priceless. (see video below)

Film: “A Year in Champagne”. Follow French family winemakers through a challenging vintage– but don’t feel too sorry for them because they have Champagne with breakfast and serve impossible to get verticals at their casual get togethers. Fortunately the film was followed by generous pours of Anderson Valley sparkling wine including Roederer Estate Hermitage from a magnum, Scharffenberger Rosé and Signal Ridge Brut.

Anderson Valley VineyardsMore wine discoveries:

2012 Maple Creek Estate Chardonnay – Ripe pear, tinge of vanilla, just enough oak. Can’t say that Chard is one of my favorite varietals, but I loved this one, so deep and elegant! Winemaker Tom Rodrigues is also an avid artist and master mushroom forager.

2014 Balo Vineyard Pinot Noir Blanc – Never had a still white wine made from Pinot Noir before (certainly had some sparkling Blanc de Noir!), the Balo is crisp, slightly herbal and a wonderfully earthy companion to salad.

2014 Meyer Family Cellars Rosé – An atypical rosé made from Syrah and made by Matt Meyer, scion of the Meyer family famous for Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. Dry, with watermelon and strawberry flavors and a touch of vanilla from barrel aging. Great with seared scallops and fennel.

2014 Saracina Sauvignon Blanc – Organically farmed, tangy and bright, this limited-production Sav Blanc from winemaker John Fetzer and his wife Patty Rock is the perfect citrusy companion to the local oysters we enjoyed at the bar of Little River Inn.

No doubt we’ll be making another trek up to the Anderson Valley sometime soon. There just wasn’t enough time to visit the tasting rooms at Baxter, Champ de Rêves, Edmeades, Handley Cellars, Phillips Hill Estates. The list goes on… “Dammit, I’m mad!”  KEN

Drew Pinot GrisMendocino Film Festival BannerLula Cellars_Honey the Winery Dog in Lula Car #2

The first and last photos were supplied by Lula Cellars who also provided our accommodations. All opinions are my own.