Your Guide to the Undiscovered Anderson Valley
By The ThirstyNest Editors
What has lumberjacks, cannabis farms and iconic wineries peeking out over the Pacific? The under-the-radar riches of Anderson Valley. This hidden gem in Northern California -- beyond the bustling tasting rooms of Napa and Sonoma -- should not be overlooked. We’ve put together the ultimate itinerary for your next big wine weekend off the beaten path.
Riding up the California coastline to Mendocino County is an experience that driving dreams are made of. You’ll fall in love with your co-pilot all over again gazing off into the crashing waves. Create a playlist that pulls on all the feels for a view that Instagram just can’t do justice. The drive is just shy of 3 hours north of San Francisco with a gorgeous road ahead of you.
Make sure to stop along the way at Point Arena Lighthouse for a view that just won’t quit. With water surrounding on all three sides, this lighthouse is the tallest on the west coast. Its breathtaking 360-degree views await atop its 145-step climb. It’s a perfect way to kick off a romantic journey to bucolic Anderson Valley.
Right in the heart of the Anderson Valley lies a Mediterranean compound called The Madrones. This oasis of charm offers rooms that feel like an extension of a country home in their stylishly appointed guest quarters. Each room has a warm pastoral vibe that is the perfect welcome to all that awaits in this distinct wine community.
For a more uniquely rustic stay, The Brambles at The Madrones property offers cozy abodes nestled deeply into the redwoods. Inspired by a Victorian-meets-industrial steampunk aesthetic, these homes are an experience unto themselves. When you get tired of that glamping life this is surely your next upgrade deep in the forests of this charmingly wooded region.
While the redwoods and countryside aesthetic may have brought you here, the wine of the Anderson Valley won’t let you leave. This region’s location just above the Mendocino Coast allows for a distinct cooling effect on the vineyards that reside in its terroir. It’s this cooling effect and fog that create an utterly ideal location to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Similar to our friends in Burgundy, Anderson Valley creates a perfect situation for a cool climate take on these iconic varietals through the lens of California sunshine.
To experience the ultimate expression of the valley the first stop must be to Domaine Anderson. This property elevated the region’s notoriety to clamoring heights and they were soon followed by many other industry icons. The winery was founded by the owners of Louis Roederer who know a thing or two about growing beautiful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (They’re one of the most celebrated Champagne houses in the world.) The tasting room itself is a perfect metaphor for winemaking in the Anderson Valley -- rustic chic meets the wooded wild.
We recommend starting with the Domaine Anderson 2014 Estate Pinot Noir. It’s dark and rich tempered by the region’s calling card acidity to balance. Before leaving be sure to learn about their tireless efforts to employ sustainable practices, organic farming and biodynamic efforts to create an unadulterated expression of the region in their wines.
The Apple Farm in Anderson Valley is a rare find. This family run orchard has been drawing visitors with the charms of the farm lifestyle since 1984. You can simply visit to pick apples for a day or stay a night and learn to cook and tend to the land. This biodynamic farm (you may be sensing a theme here) opens its doors for guests to stay, learn and cook their way through the farm.
Lastly, if you need to work off those days of sipping wine and cooking delicious food there’s Hendy Woods State Park to round out your visit. The trails feature some of the oldest growth Redwoods in the area alongside camping grounds and natural wonders.
Before heading back down the coast, fill your bellies with local fare. Bewildered Pig is a dining experience that’s not to be missed. The couple that created this refined-rustic beauty uses all local ingredients to create dishes that bring the Valley to life. The menu is bold and hyper-local framed by classic techniques in chef Janelle Weaver’s kitchen.
The offering evolves constantly based on the seasons. If you’re lucky you can try the Miso Deviled Eggs or the Pekin Duck Breast with fermented cabbage brassica flowers and black garlic. The restaurant evokes a sense of place that is more than a fond farewell to a weekend in Anderson Valley.
With all there is to discover in this often overshadowed region, Anderson Valley makes for a perfect trip for those that seek the next big thing. Before you go try the wines of Domaine Anderson to get a little slice of the life that awaits you in this pocket-sized destination.