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by Bill Kimberlin

December, 2002

Bench Overlooking Anderson Valley

          Anderson Valley has become the home of quite an impressive array of name Wineries over the past twenty years or so. This is not all that surprising when one considers that the Valley is located on Highway 128 and that the lower end of Highway 128 runs through the finest grape growing region in the United States. Starting as Hwy 29 at Napa, the road becomes Hwy 128 and goes through Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Calistoga, Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, Geyserville, Cloverdale etc. until it reaches the Anderson Valley.
          What is so special about these areas? You would have to go to the choicest vine growing regions of Europe to equal them. Even then you might not be able to equal them. That is important. It has been important in Europe for a thousand years and it is important here.
  "Our Anderson Valley wines are known for the rare quality the French call 'nerveux'..."
           Important, because from a wine standpoint, these are special areas. Special because they can grow Vitus Vinifera, the root stock from which the best of the European style wines come. You can't grow this in most places. You hear a lot about wine glut. And every year, worldwide, there is a glut of average quality grapes. Meanwhile, there is always a shortage of truly superior fruit. The truth is, there will never be enough 'ultra-premium' quality grapes being grown. This is due to the fact that there is not enough premium land to produce ultra-premium grapes to service high-end wine drinking demand. Like it or not, the Valley grows fine grapes on premium land. But there is more.

           Our Anderson Valley wines are known for the rare quality the French call "nerveux", a vibrant intensity of fruit without the jam like character and high alcohol that come with excessive ripeness in warmer regions. This is described by Rod Smith in his article, "Behind the Redwood Curtain". He explains that, because the Valley angles southeast, unlike the east-west valleys of the Central Coast, we are buffeted from the full oceanic influence by the narrow throat of dense forest in Navarro, yet we still get just enough fog to cool us. "Behind this redwood curtain, and protected by a seaward flank of high forested ridges the Valley basks in a charmed climate" which mimics one that should be ten-degrees higher in latitude, but isn't. This means we get a high level of solar intensity without intense heat.
           Somewhere along the line, because of all this, we turned a corner. We could have stayed like Covelo or become another Lakeport, but we didn't. We are becoming something else. Not that long ago we were fighting over the loggers cutting down too many of those Redwood trees. Now, we are fighting over the vineyards planting too many grapes and depleting the water supply for the whole Valley. Next it will be an invasion of wealthy outsiders come for their piece of paradise.
"...this will be a continuing trend as more and more people try and escape what I call, 'the blast zone.'"  
           It will be hard to blame these newest settlers because the Valley is one of the last unspoiled places left in California, if not the country. It is the quintessential small town community that everybody says they are looking for. Rural post offices, family run businesses, and lots of country landscapes. It's also a pretty good place to hide out. We have our share of writers, artists, famous people, and god knows who else, rumoring their way through the area.
           The Valley used to be a country place for locals and a summer encampment for resort guests and kids camps. Then the vineyards showed up. Lately, weekend and retirement homes have appeared. It seems like this will be a continuing trend as more and more people try and escape what I call, "the blast zone."
  Cow in Valley
           First they will establish a vacation home here and visit. Then they will sell their city home and move into that vacation home. This second home will now be their main residence and many will then establish a new second home in the city. I see it happening already. These new city homes are usually condos or live/work lofts that they buy -- but I know one couple that bought a boat instead of a condo. They keep it in the city for weekends, and spend their weekdays at their country place, which used to be... well, you get the idea.
           So what does all this mean for the Valley? In a word, upscale. We are going upscale, like it or not, because these new residents will want amenities. And a lot of people are not going to like our having amenities.
           I'm reminded of those aboriginal tribes someone is always studying. After they start studying them it is not too long before the tribe is wearing wristwatches. Get ready for wristwatches folks because, whether you like it or not, they are coming... real fast.


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