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Outdoor seating overlooking the vineyard at Lula Cellars
Photo by Andrew Harper

Favorite Anderson Valley Wineries

By Andrew Harper

The Harper Way | September 27, 2017

I enjoy visiting the Anderson Valley because it reminds me of what Napa Valley was like 30 years ago — simple, accessible and low-key. All the wineries are lined up along Highway 128, and because many are small operations, you often have the chance to meet the owners, who may well be tending the tasting room. The valley is about 15 miles long and joins the coast at its northern end. This gives critical access to sea air, which floods into the valley each evening, cooling the growing grapes to their considerable benefit.

The standout varietals grown here are Pinot Noirs and Alsace varietals — Gewürztraminers, Rieslings. If your passions are Cabernets and Chardonnays, this may not be the place for you. The wines are more in the European style, the Pinots being translucent in color and refined in aroma and taste.

There are some showcase properties that would fit right in in Napa, including Roederer Estate, which makes superb sparkling wine; Goldeneye, which is the Pinot Noir property in the Duckhorn portfolio; and Lazy Creek Vineyards, which is owned by Ferrari-Carano. Here, however, I focus on smaller producers, starting at the north end of the valley and proceeding south.

Lula Cellars

I enjoy visiting the Anderson Valley because it reminds me of what Napa Valley was like 30 years ago — simple, accessible and low-key. All the wineries are lined up along Highway 128, and because many are small operations, you often have the chance to meet the owners, who may well be tending the tasting room. The valley is about 15 miles long and joins the coast at its northern end. This gives critical access to sea air, which floods into the valley each evening, cooling the growing grapes to their considerable benefit.

The standout varietals grown here are Pinot Noirs and Alsace varietals — Gewürztraminers, Rieslings. If your passions are Cabernets and Chardonnays, this may not be the place for you. The wines are more in the European style, the Pinots being translucent in color and refined in aroma and taste.

There are some showcase properties that would fit right in in Napa, including Roederer Estate, which makes superb sparkling wine; Goldeneye, which is the Pinot Noir property in the Duckhorn portfolio; and Lazy Creek Vineyards, which is owned by Ferrari-Carano. Here, however, I focus on smaller producers, starting at the north end of the valley and proceeding south.

Lula Cellars

Tasting room at Lula Cellars Photo by Andrew Harper

I thoroughly enjoyed this visit, not only for the wines and the friendly greeting from the resident golden Lab, Honey, but also for the banter of tasting room manager Dan Reed, whose business card calls him “Pushy Salesman.” I found the 2014 Mendocino Pinot Noir to be most appealing, with cocoa and dark cherry on the nose and a palate of cranberry and cherry and nice earthy undertones. The big surprise for me was the 2014 Mariah Vineyard Zinfandel. I thought I had gotten over my youthful infatuation with Zins, but this lured me back with its lush berry nose and flavors of spiced-berry compote. A beautifully balanced wine that is very food friendly.

Lula Cellars
2800 Guntley Road, Philo. Tel. (707) 895-3737

Husch Vineyards

The historic tasting room at Husch Vineyards Husch Vineyards

Husch goes back to 1971, with the tasting room in a rustic pony barn that is more than 100 years old. I am partial to Gewürztraminers, as I think they pair well with Southeast Asian fare, and the Husch 2015 Dry Gewürztraminer had the spicy honeysuckle nose I look for. Among the Pinots, my favorite was the 2014, with a nose of black cherry and a hint of citrus, plus a rich berry palate. The real delight was the exceptional Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, an unctuous, irresistible sweet wine, one of the best I’ve tasted in a long time.

Husch Vineyards
4400 Highway 128, Philo. Tel. (707) 895-3216

Phillips Hill Winery

Upstairs tasting room at Phillips Hill Winery Phillips Hill Winery

Here the tasting room is in a building dating to the 1880s that was once used for apple drying. Owner Toby Hill was formerly an artist in New York, but he felt the call of his native West Coast and returned. He began making wines about 15 years ago. Among his five Pinot Noirs, I most enjoyed the 2013 Oppenlander, which had a classic nose of spice-touched red fruit, a palate of cherry and cranberry and an elegant structure.

Phillips Hill Winery
5101 Highway 128, Philo. Tel. (707) 895-2209

Toulouse Vineyards

Grapes growing in the field at Toulouse Vineyards Toulouse Vineyards

I have a soft spot for Toulouse, as it was the first vineyard I visited in the Anderson Valley. Owner Vern Boltz has been on hand every time I’ve been back, and it is always a pleasure to talk with him. On this occasion, the tasting room was new, but the welcome was the same. The 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir is a light, pretty wine, with a nose of fresh strawberry and a taste of strawberry with a touch of cranberry. I particularly liked the 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, with its nose of ripe cherry and a spicy, earthy, berry palate. This was the first wine the vineyard made during the long drought (which ended this year). The vines may have suffered, but the wine did not.

Toulouse Vineyards
8001 Highway 128, Philo. Tel. (707) 895-2828

Domaine Anderson

View of the large tasting room and vineyards at Domaine Anderson Domaine Anderson

New since our last visit to the Anderson Valley, this spot is from the same family who’s behind Roederer Estate. The tasting room is a sophisticated space very much in keeping with the flagship winery. The 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, only the second vintage, greatly impressed me. The nose is complex with dark cherry and smoke, and the palate is rich in spice. This is a wine of admirable finesse.

Domaine Anderson
9201 Highway 128, Philo. Tel (707) 895-3626

Foursight Wines

Selection of wines at Foresight Wines Foresight Wines

In the small but charming tasting room, we sampled several Pinot Noirs, but it was the 2014 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir that particularly appealed to me. An exemplary wine, it has cherry and cranberry on the nose, plus a hint of clove on the palate.

Foursight Wines
14475 Highway 128, Boonville. Tel. (707) 895-2889

Lichen Estate

Tasting room porch at Lichen Estate Lichen Estate

A glass of a Lichen Pinot Noir earlier in the trip had piqued my interest and led me here. The 2015 Moonglow Pinot Noir has a classic nose of cherry and spice, with tart plum and cherry on the palate. The 2013 Blanc de Noir is also worthy of mention. A delightful sparkler, it comes with a citrus nose and a note of toasted brioche, while flavors of grapefruit and other citruses predominate.

Lichen Estate
11001 County Road 151, Boonville. Tel. (707) 895-7949

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Andrew Harper Photo Our editors write under the Andrew Harper byline so they can travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who they are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.

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