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by Bill Kimberlin
June 6, 2007

     Anderson Valley is famous for beauty, Boontling, and beer. It is also famous for the Pinot Noir made from our grapes and by our wine makers. This year's 10th annual Pinot Festival was held in several locations, over three days, in and around the Valley.

      In college I lived in an old farm house on five acres in Bennett Valley, which is in Santa Rosa, and not far from the wine country of the Sonoma Valley. I used to ride my motorcycle to Glen Ellen and other nearby wine areas and marvel at their beauty. I also marveled at the wines one could buy. There was one winery where, if you brought your own wine bottle, they would discount you fifty cents.

      I did not know a lot about wine then, and I don't know a lot about it now, although I have taken some courses at U.C. Davis. It was obvious to me, even back then, that this budding California wine region was going to be important. Very important.

     In high school I had worked at Dr. Edmead's vineyard south of Philo. I may have been one of the first employees. No one at that time thought of the Valley as a wine region.


      I went to this years Pinot Festival tasting, held at Goldeneye Vineyards, courtesy of Mary Beth Chandler and Lazy Creek Vineyards. I try to keep up on Valley Wineries. The surprise was that 650 people showed up to taste. One gentleman I spoke to was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "Where are you staying"?, I enquired incredulously, "Sonoma... we come every year", he said.

     According to Thom Elkjer, who is the reigning expert writing on Anderson Valley wines, there were close to 70 "current Anderson Valley Pinot Noir programs" represented in the large tents set out in the Goldneye vineyards.

     I tasted as many of the ones I was unfamiliar with as time and sobriety allowed. Some, I had to sneak off and pour behind the tents because, to me, they were terrible. But the majority I liked in varying degrees. Two of the relative new comers that got my attention were Black Kite, which is from three small plots on a 50 acre site above the Navarro River and near Hendy Woods. I tasted what they were calling, "The Blend", and was impressed. This Pinot was on a par with Goldeneye, already, maybe better.

     The second one was Toulouse Vineyards which is off 128 about a mile north of Philo. I look forward to trying more wine from Toulouse.

     The old standbys, for me, remain Goldeneye, Husch, Lazy Creek, Rayes Hill, and Navarro as far as Pinot Noir goes, so I'm happy to add two names to my list of favorites.

     As for the crowd visiting the festival, I must say there were at least three instances of over dressed lawyer-types threatening wine makers and others with lawsuits after minor disappointments in seating or failed purchase requests. My aunt used to tell me that the hospitality business was divided into two distinct groups, those who served alcohol and those who didn't. The non drinkers are much easier to deal with.

     Other than that, the Goldeneye Vineyard site, which was once the old Johnny Peterson fruit stand and orchard, is a beautiful place. On the way out I picked up a couple walking across the vineyards and gave them a ride. Turns out they were staying at my aunts old place (now Wellspring) and had walked to the festival.

     As they got out of my car they thanked me for the ride and what they termed, "the history lesson".

     Always glad to oblige.


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