Anderson Valley, located less than 100 miles north of San Francisco, is an area blessed by a temperate cool coastal climate. Classified in viticultural terms as a Region I growing area, this designates it as the coolest climate in which grapes may be commercially grown with any success. The combination of warm sunny days and cool foggy nights and mornings allow the grapes from this region to mature slowly and to develop to the height of their varietal character. This technical classification, however, only scratches the surface of the Anderson Valley’s diversity for grape growing. Averaging 40 inches of rainfall per year, the valley is a series of unique meso-climates buffered from the ocean by coastal mountains, and from the interior inland heat by mountains and a moderating Pacific influence. From a “maritime” climate where grape culture is virtually impossible to a climate of moderately warm days and cool foggy nights, the valley runs the gamut of climates ideally suited for the culture of cool season varietals. Surrounding the valley environs also exist meso-climates where warmer conditions prevail and other varieties with the proper care may be coaxed to maturity.
In some years early fall rains markedly affect the vintage. These rains often interrupt harvest and if the conditions are right the Botrytis organism or “Noble Rot” takes hold. Under the right conditions, the fruit turns to sweet raisins which are used for the production of late harvest dessert wines. The Anderson Valley has produced some excellent late harvest Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, and Chardonnays in favorable years.
The planted acreage in the Anderson Valley consists primarily of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and White Riesling. Small acreages of other varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel also exist but most of the valley’s vineyards are comprised of these four.
Beginning in the mid-1800s and continuing to the present day, Anderson Valley’s wine industry has enjoyed a quiet, gradual evolution. Originating with the small plantings of European immigrants, it has today become an appellation of its own, producing wines of distinctive character. In 1983 the Anderson Valley became officially recognized as an appellation. Today many small wineries and vineyards dot the Anderson Valley landscape. The future holds great promise for Anderson Valley and the wines produced there. These wines will definitely be something to look forward to.