The phrase “California wine country” conjures up images of columned mansions surrounded by perfectly manicured, sun-drenched vineyards filled with throngs of dedicated Cabernet Sauvignon lovers. In comparison, the Anderson Valley, situated just north of Sonoma, has little of the heat, polish, visitor traffic or Cabernet of its southern neighbors. What it does have is clingy fog from the nearby Pacific that produces the ideal cool climate to grow the state’s best Pinot Noir. If you’re up for it, a trip to the trailblazing wineries of the A.V. is not to be missed. But if your idea of a perfect day is a hot-stone massage at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in the morning and a round of wine-tasting in the afternoon, you can just as easily partake by visiting a number of Sonoma wineries that source their grapes from the Valley.
7227 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, 707-433-6425, williamsselyem.com
Forget California, these guys make some of the world’s greatest Pinot. They source the most promising grapes from all over the state – including the Anderson Valley.
The Wine: The 2008 Ferrington Vineyard is a classic California Pinot from one of the valley’s premier vineyards. It’s a masculine mix of coffee and blackberry aromas paired with a relatively high (14.3 percent) alcohol content.
The Visit: You must call ahead: They’re closed to the public, but accept the faithful with advance notice.
7800 Eastside Rd., Healdsburg, 707-836-8822, copainwines.com
One of Sonoma’s young bucks, this winery has been making a name for itself with its A.V.-sourced Pinots. (They also craft a mean Syrah.)
The Wine: The 2008 Tous Ensemble – at US$20, this expressive wine from a blend of local grapes is the very best deal you will ever find in an Anderson Valley Pinot.
The Visit: Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
11001 Hwy. 128, Boonville, 707-895-9589, breggo.com
This is the newest and slickest of the wineries actually located in the Anderson Valley. They’ve been the darling of critics since day one – so much so that Napa winemaker Cliff Lede recently purchased the entire winery.
The Wine: The 2008 Savoy Vineyard is the Anderson Valley at its most exotic, with aromas of tea, black cherry and cocoa.
The Visit: The tasting room is just north of Boonville, the area’s funky main town, and is open daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
9200 Hwy. 128, Philo, 707-895-3202, goldeneyewinery.com
When famed duo Dan and Margaret Duckhorn of Duckhorn Vineyards opened Goldeneye in 1997 it was a sure sign that the Valley wasn’t going to stay undiscovered for long.
The Wine: 2007 Confluence Vineyard has traces of smoke from the wildfires that bedeviled other vintages from that year, but here it’s balanced with vanilla bean and red fruit flavors.
The Visit: Daily, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
9000 Hwy. 128, Philo, 707-877-1771, drewwines.com
This small family winery is new, but its slow pace, small production and ephemeral Pinots are classic Anderson Valley.
The Wine: The 2009 Morning Dew has every red fruit – from pomegranates to cranberries to raspberries – a palate can pick up.
The Visit: The tasting room is open Thursday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The winery is open by appointment, but it’s a serious drive away.