August 21, 2008


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AVA in search of a movie
Time for Mendocino’s moment in the sun?
By Tim Protzman

California, like New Hampshire, has several landscapes.

And it also has a Route 1 that runs along the seacoast. If you blindfolded someone and put them in the middle of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region the only way they could correctly tell whether they were in Mendocino County or the Lakes Region is by the trees. Redwoods don’t grow in New Hampshire.

For many years Mendocino was known as the Hippy Napa, better known for marijuana cultivation than grape growing. Most of that’s changed. In 1983 the cool climate Anderson Valley got its designation as an American Viticultural Area, which means it can be listed on wine labels to denote the geographic location of where the grapes were grown as long as 85 percent or more of the grapes inside came from that Anderson Valley. For a long time the wines from Anderson were considered a little below Napa, The Carneros and Sonoma designations. That too has changed. Today Anderson Valley is one of the more distinctive and sought-after designations.

My interest in Anderson Valley was piqued this weekend when I opened a bottle of 2006 Migration, an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from Goldeneye. Goldeneye is part of the Duckhorn Winery and they also have a third label, Paraduxx. These wines are pricey, as you would expect from a small family-owned boutique winery, running from $29 to $100 a bottle. And I had to chuckle because of the Duckhorn name. To me it sounded made up, but sure enough it was the name of the winery owner who founded Duckhorn in 1976 in Napa. I seem to keep running into that name thing. Once I ordered environmentally safe exterior siding. It was called Hardy Plank from the Hardy Company, as in safe, sturdy, hardy and solid. But no, it was Hardie Plank as in James Hardie. Sometimes a last name just fits perfectly.

One can just imagine the 1970s in Napa, after Californian wines reached the inner circle of renown, beating the French in Paris. A valley filled with grapes and orchards, old local ranchers on generations-old family estancias. Newcomers with money and a taste for grape fleeing the wackiness of Disco Frisco. Hippies forced by crime and inflation to move from the Haight Ashbury, Mission and Castro districts, for a life as country bumpkins.

In 1978 the Duckhorns made 800 cases each of merlot and cabernet sauvignon. It must have been good because they’ve been at it ever since. In 1994 they started the Paraduxx winery to explore the use of the native zinfandel grape by blending, zin, cabernet, merlot and petite sirah.

Goldeneye came about in 1997, as the Duckhorn’s interest in pinot noir grew. While Duckhorn’s winery is only 10 miles north of the Paraduxx Winery, Goldeneye is 94 miles northeast of St. Helena. It makes for a long commute, but in the little landlocked valley it means a micro climate that’s perfect for pinot noir. Higher in elevation and plenty of cool evenings and foggy mornings. And it’s dry enough so the grapes won’t rot.

Each winery is organized around certain varietals. The Napa sites grow cabernet, zinfandel and merlot and a little sauvignon blanc. Duckhorn calls its wine Bordeaux style. Paraduxx takes its cue from the Super Tuscans and the great Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon blends of Australia. It also makes Paraduxx a little more experimental, as they fashion or try to fashion exciting new blends of grapes. Does anyone make a Barbera and zinfandel blend?

There are plenty of Anderson Valley wineries, but even some in Napa and Sonoma source their grapes from Anderson. The two most recognizable after Goldeneye are Roederer Estate and Schaffenberger Cellars. Two prime methode champenoise makers. This speaks to the quality of the Valley’s Pinot Noir crop. But because of the distance from San Francisco the Valley really isn’t a prime wine destination. Maybe someone will make a movie about the Anderson Valley and put it squarely on the map and into the hearts of wine lovers everywhere.

Here are this week’s wines I tasted.
• 2006 Migration ($30.99). It came on strong due to its youth, but settled down beautifully after 40 minutes. I did not decant it, which would have speeded the process. Plum and boysenberry with a touch of vanilla. A caramel rill running halfway through the sip. A strong finish with blueberry fruit and a firm structure, like perfectly ripe melon. The aroma was typical with a little bit of ammonia whiff almost always found in great Pinot Noirs. I will buy this wine again and found the lower price point (as opposed to the $54.99 Goldeneye Pinot Noir) very much a bargain.
• 2005 Dry Creek Vineyard Sonoma County Fume Blanc ($14.99). The label says both Sauvignon Blanc and Fume Blanc. Fume Blanc is American for Sauvignon Blanc and was invented by Robert Mondavi. The wine was nice with lemon and watercress but finished bitterly.

And the obligatory Champers:
• Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs ($17.99) One of my favorite everyday Californian sparkling wines.
• Moet & Chandon White Star ($31.99) Yummy and light with lemon, grapefruit and pear fruit in a zesty mix with just a touch of residual yeasty malt.

8/21/2008 AVA in search of a movie

8/14/2008 Return to seller?
8/7/2008 Wine at the game
7/24/2008 Reviving a star
7/17/2008 Champagne staycation
7/10/2008 Pair vintage with vintage
6/26/2008 Leftover wine
6/19/2008 Fortune favors Opus One
6/12/2008 In the year 2048
6/5/2008 Tea, the original infusion
5/29/2008 Hello old friends
5/22/2008 Ancient in the new world
5/15/2008 You are the expert
5/8/2008 The must-drink list
5/1/2008 Gaming wine futures
4/24/2008 Chronos and me
4/17/2008 Getting lucky
4/3/2008 The daquiri's of spring
3/27/2008 Germans play well with others
3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
1/24/2008 A drink to them
1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover
11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
10/11/2007 Location, location, location
10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce