I’m still dreaming about being back in Comptche, warming my toes in front of the fire and sipping on a 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – my favorite varietal right now. Starry had never been to Anderson Valley before and I had been once in June 2009, so I thought it would be cool to repeat my original Anderson Valley Winetinery, adding in a couple new stops as well. We packed as many wineries into Saturday that we could handle, beginning the day of tasting with one of my favorites: Husch Vineyards.
Husch is one of the oldest wineries in Anderson Valley, and the tasting room building is 110 years old! There are guesses as to what its purpose was before the winery existed: a pony barn, grain storage, chicken coop. Whatever it was, I’m glad Tony Husch had the brilliant idea to make a winery out of the property! In 1979, Husch Vineyards was sold to Hugo Oswald Jr., and the winery is still owned by the third generation of Oswalds. A few years ago, Husch bottled a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah and called the wine Grand Oz. I got to taste the 2009 Grand Oz (second vintage) this past weekend, which is only available in the tasting room with a 2 bottle limit per person. Grand Oz is smooth and delicious, with bright fruit and a hint of spice. I was tempted to purchase a bottle, but I didn’t want to blow my budget at the first stop!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Starry and I were led by Mike as we each tasted six different wines from the current selection at Husch (of which there are 16). Mike had been working in the tasting room for about six years, and before that he was launching rockets at Cape Canaveral! He even launched one of the missions to Mars, and got a little nostalgic when recounting to us his days at the Cape. I love the attention that you get from the host at small wineries like this, and I also love to taste the wines that are only available in the tasting room. So I opted for a diverse selection of winery exclusives, including: 2012 Renegade Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino, 2012 T-Bud Dry Cuvee Gewürztraminer Anderson Valley, 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, 2010 Knoll Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, 2010 Syrah Mendocino and of course, the 2009 Grand Oz Mendocino.
While Starry and I both really enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc, my favorite of the whites was most certainly the T-Bud; slightly sweet with hints of pear and grapefruit on the nose and a refreshing palate of citrus and baking spice. I also had a sip of Starry’s 2012 Vine One Chardonnay Mendocino, which was light and delicate with floral aromatics and fermented mostly in stainless steel tanks. I would later learn that much of Anderson Valley white wine is fermented in stainless steel with just a touch of oak. I think this is because the Anderson Valley white varietals are mostly cool climate grapes, such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Blanc. These grapes are more delicate and bright, and possess zesty and somewhat tropical flavors so an overabundance of oak in the fermentation process would clash with the natural flavors in the wine.
As for my red selections, I was very pleased and particularly enjoyed the 91 point (Wine Enthusiast) 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir. The wine had complex aromas of toast and black cherry, with a soft yet full palate. For only $38 (not including my industry discount), I couldn’t resist buying a bottle! I also enjoyed the 2010 Knoll Pinot Noir, a historically significant wine because it was the first planting of Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley. The wine had a lot of body and complexity, with hints of cloves on the nose and a soft, velvety finish in the mouth. Of course, neither of these compared to the Grand Oz, which simply blew me away.
Mike was pleased to tell us that they had sold out of their innaugural 2008 vintage of the Grand Oz, a vintage that all wineries in Anderson Valley struggled with due to the forest fires. We had heard that some wineries tried to profit off the unique smoky flavor, claiming that it was a piece of history and created an interesting tasting Pinot Noir. While this may be true in some sense, Starry and I knew better than to be duped by this marketing twist. We did manage to taste some 2008 Pinot from other wineries throughout the weekend. While most we found to be undrinkable – with one even smelling like gasoline – we hardly noticed the smoke in a 2008 Pinot Noir from Breggo. This probably had something to do with the reverse osmosis truck that they used during production.
Husch Vineyards proved to be the perfect start to our weekend, and Mike’s in-depth account of the winery’s background and the history of the valley made the experience all the more special. This tasting also launched my new obsession with 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – which I’m told is one of the best years in the region for growing Pinot. Thank goodness the bottle prices in Anderson Valley are more than reasonable; not to mention that the majority of the wineries offer free tastings to the public! The wine nerd in me has never been so happy to live in Northern California.