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Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival - Tops the list again

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Somehow the amazing Anderson Valley Winegrowers produced another fabulous Pinot Noir Festival. Sure, they have beautiful environs with rolling hills, lush vineyards and rapturous grapes, but that can't account for the consistently well organized, imaginatively produced and scrupulously executed event called the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. Guess that leaves the growers, winemakers and other AVA members that meticulously plan and execute this collaborative, fun and educational event.There are many reasons why the Anderson Valley Pinot event leaps to the top of the list. This article focuses on the authors top five (5) consistent qualities or characteristics that make the AV Pinot Fest standout in a pleasantly crowded field of wonderful Pinot Noir Festivals in Northern California. Read on!1. The Valley is located just over 100 miles northwest of San Francisco beginning about 15 miles west of Highway 101 (3rd Cloverdale exit) and running east to west for about 19 miles. It straddles scenic Highway 128 from the Yorkville Highlands AVA through Boonville and Philo and then ending at the town of Navarro about 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean.The Valley, as alluded to in the beginning paragraph, is an undulating, lush, generally narrow valley paralleling the Navarro River which is the source of much of the water needed for growing grapes. The valley and the surrounding hills and ridges are blanketed with horses, sheep, orchards, redwoods and vineyards. Breathtakingly idyllic.The proximity to the Pacific also accounts for the deep fog layers that come in late in the day to cool the hot days and slow the ripening process to allow grapes to gain the ripeness, acid and intensity needed for complexity desired in wine grapes. 2. The festival runs for three days beginning at 8:30 am Friday morning with 'Technical Conferences' which run until 4:30 pm. The lunch break is a beautiful picnic style which included in the cost of the ticket. The conferences are serious, informative and fun! This years moderator, Greg Walter, formerly President of the highly respected Wine Spectator, a sought out wine judge and publisher of a special newsletter, called the PinotReport, did a terrific job of keeping things moving and audience focused. Each of the various panels offered topics of interest to growers, winemakers, industry, media and consumers. The presenter/panelists included the Nature Conservancy, Glenn McGourty, from the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Steve Price, a PhD specializing in viticulture, local and distant winemakers and a fascinating post modern review of winemaking by author, wine judge and winemaker, Clark Smith. 3. Friday's activities concluded with a "Casual BBQ" hosted, this year, by Foursight Winery on their tasting room grounds just east of the town of Boonville. The BBQ is always a highlight and the location rotates from year to year. Kristy Charles and husband Joe Webb (co-proprietors of Foursight where Joe is also the winemaker), with the support and participation of their families, provided a great fun wine country atmosphere. Music, food and wine, of course, are the highlights and the Foursight team moved the bar higher this year. The BBQ was catered by Bones Roadhouse from Gualala, CA.4. The Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association (AVWA) growers, winemakers and supporters (over 100 members including associate members) are an amazing team including scores of volunteers lead by the AVWA President Joe Webb (Foursight Wine) and especially, AVWA Executive Director Janis McDonald and her team. With three major events (the other two being an International Alsace Wine Festival in February and their 2nd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend in July), Janis and her legions of supporters and members continually produce first class events that are educational as well as great fun. Truly a credited to this organization and the people of Anderson Valley.5. Of course the Pinot Noir is the star of the festival which culminates at the Grand Tasting on Saturday. Again this year, Goldeneye Winery (part of the Duckhorn portfolio of wines) hosted the Grand Tasting in a setting that may be impossible to replicate anywhere. About 200 yards behind their Philo tasting room on Highway 128, in the middle of their vineyards with the evergreen forested hills as a backdrop, four large white event tents are set up with a grassy center courtyard. Lining the perimeter of these tents are all the participating wineries showing off their Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Wineries from numerous other AVAs (Napa, Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin and Santa Cruz, for example) who source Pinot grapes from the Anderson Valley are there to celebrate these luscious wines. Food purveyors are also their in force offering onsite wood fired pizza (Piaci), paella by Karina's Catering and many other delights. When one needs a break from all the wine and food, the center court has space to lounge and enjoy the musicians performing there. This is, perhaps, the best organized and friendliest wine tasting event you'll ever experience. Add to that, it is in the heart of California's fastest growing Pinot Noir producing region. No wonder it is totally sold out early each year. Don't miss 2015!

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