Number 15 - August 2006Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's quarterly newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website, www.BlueHeronTours.com, to learn more about our custom tours and vacations.
The fastest way to get from San Francisco to the charming coastal village of Mendocino is to head north on US 101, west on CA 128, and then north on CA 1. You can speed through and do the entire trip in about three hours. A far more pleasant journey; however, is to meander and spend some time enjoying the wines and sights of the Anderson Valley along Route 128. Winetasting in the Anderson Valley is far different than tasting in the Napa Valley. Wineries are small, tasting rooms less crowded, and the experience more intimate.
After a curvy, steep climb, 128 will descend into the Yorkville Highlands wine region. This region is home to about six wineries, with three being open for tasting: Maple Creek Winery, Meyer Family Cellars, and Yorkville Cellars. Maple Creek and Yorkville produce a number of different wines, while Meyer Family specializes in Port. Of the three, I have only had a chance to visit Yorkville Cellars. Yorkville only uses organic grapes in the production of its wines. The wines, though, are not organic as sulfites are added during the winemaking process. Yorkville produces single varietal wines from the five main Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. Try them and you will begin to learn the components of a Bordeaux Blend.
Continuing west on Route 128, you will arrive at the town of Boonville. This village has a few restaurants where you can stop for lunch, as well as lodging if you prefer to spend the night inland instead of on the coast. You can also taste some excellent beer at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. The Anderson Valley Chamber of Commerce's website has a good listing of restaurants and lodging.
Next you will pass through the even smaller village of Philo. When you leave Philo, you are in the Anderson Valley. This region is a great place for cooler weather varietals such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. Navarro Vineyards was among the first wineries in the Anderson Valley, starting production in 1974. I enjoy nearly all of their wines, but particularly like their Gewürztraminer and Riesling, as well as their late harvest versions of these two varietals. The late harvest wines, when available, are a real treat if you like sweet dessert wines. On a recent visit, we tasted a late harvest Muscat that has yet to be released. You can be sure we will be ordering some as soon as it becomes available. Navarro's tasting room is staffed with friendly and knowledgeable staff. There are plenty of picnic tables, so pick up supplies before you get to winery and enjoy a lunch in the sunshine.
We recently had a great time tasting wine at Esterlina Vineyards. Tasting is by appointment and the winery is definitely off the beaten track, being two miles off of CA 128, up a dusty, dirt road. You'll be rewarded when you get to the top of the hill with a panoramic view of the valley. Sitting on Esterlina's deck enjoying the view and their wine was a great way to spend an hour. Esterlina's friendly tasting room staff guided us through over a half-dozen tasty wines. We particularly enjoyed their Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and Off-Dry Riesling. To make a winetasting appointment, call (707) 895-2920.
Another fun place to visit that is also down a dusty, dirt road is Lazy Creek Vineyards. They are best known for their Pinot Noir, but were sold out when we visited. Their Gewurtz, though, was top notch. Tasting is by appointment. Call (707) 895-3623 to schedule a visit.
Two more nice tasting rooms in the Anderson Valley are at Husch Vineyards and Handley Cellars. Husch is open from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. in the winter and until 6:00 p.m. in the summer. I particularly enjoy their Sauvignon Blanc. If you enjoy folk art from around the world, then be sure to stop at Handley Cellars where there are rugs, sculptures, and other works of art for sale. The tasting room is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. from May through October and until 5:00 p.m. during the remainder of the year.
If you fancy sparkling wine, there are two places that produce quality bubbly - Scharffenberger Cellars (formerly Pacific Echo) and Roederer Estate. Both tasting rooms are open daily from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Winetasting in the Yorkville Highlands and Anderson Valley is a fun way to spend a day. I recommend bringing picnic supplies so you can lunch at one of the wineries. Also, you may want to stay on the Mendocino Coast, rather than in the Valley, as there is a bigger selection of lodging and restaurants, the weather is cooler, and there are more visitor amenities. Regardless, do include this part of wine country on one of your Northern California vacations. If you would like Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel to help you plan a vacation that includes a visit to the Anderson Valley and the Mendocino Coast, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.
My blog, "Rick's Wine Country Journal," contains postings about many wineries in Northern California Wine Country. You are sure to find information that will make you want to discover some new wines and wineries. The blog is updated frequently, so check back often.
This summer marks Blue Heron's third anniversary. Each year the business has grown to levels only dreamed of when I first thought about opening a private tour business in 2002. Thanks to you and my many guests for giving me the privilege of telling you about and showing you the many wonderful sights in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California.
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See you on the road,
TCP 16309-S, CST: 2068516-40