The Secret Language of The Anderson Valley

Only have time for one stop in Mendocino? Then make it out the Anderson Valley. Home of Boonville, where residents once spoke the secret language of Boontling, as the locals call it. This tongue was a creative jargon used not only by workers in the hop fields but by women who wanted to gossip about a young lady who may have found herself kaishbook or pregnant. Even children used this lingo to keep their secrets safe from adult ears. Whatever the origin of Boontling, one can say it was soon the talk of the town. “Pardon me?” was the question of outsiders and visitors; they were baffled. This lingo changed and borrowed words from the regional Appalachian dialect, as well as Spanish, and the local Pomo Indian language.

Today, the Anderson Valley is home to another home-grown secret, only this time, it stems from borrowed bud wood originating from Alsace, Champagne, and Burgundy. Wine is also a language of its own. A language that inspires and creates community no matter its origin when shared across tongues that only a few insiders can comprehend.

Bahl Hornin’: means “good drinking!” in Boontling.

The Beginning of Wine Production in Anderson Valley

Roughly 100 years after Boontling came to be, the French Champagne house Louis Roederer announced its plans to build a California sparkling wine facility in the Anderson Valley. Roederer’s decision to locate its vineyards and sparkling wine production facilities drew international attention and prestige to the region as a premium grape-growing and wine-producing area. And not surprisingly, one year later, in 1983, the Anderson Valley gained AVA status. Today some of the best sparkling wine, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer California has to offer have their roots in the Anderson Valley.

Great Wineries & “Agritourism” Hot Spots To Visit

Located in the rolling hills of the coastal region of Mendocino County, about two hours North of San Francisco and twenty-two miles southwest of Ukiah sits the 15-mile-long Anderson Valley. The best way to get there is Highway 128, which crisscrosses through hills and valleys leading you to some of the most excellent wines of Mendocino County.

Heading northwest on Highway 128 from Highway 101 is  Yorkville and the Yorkville Highlands. Yorkville is home to Yorkville Cellars, a small family-run winery that produces all eight of the main Bordeaux grapes. They bottle each varietal individually by vintage and are the only known winery outside of Bordeaux that makes this effort.

The Best Anderson Valley Wineries | Winetraveler.com

Next, be sure to stop in Boonville where Pennyroyal Farm and the Anderson Valley Brewing Company reside. Pennyroyal is both winery and creamery, and the components of the operation support each other, with sheep doing vineyard work as well as providing milk for cheeses. You can walk in and taste the bright Sauvignon Blanc and Pinots while taking in views of cheesemaking through large glass windows. Or you can make an appointment to tour the farm, including the sheep and goat barn, which I highly recommend.

Boonville is also home to Anderson Valley Brewing Company that’s renowned for its uncommonly good beer, and seasonal releases only found at the Tap Room.

In “downtown” Boonville, you’ll find restaurants, shops and tasting rooms to explore. Including Philo Ridge Vineyard’s tasting room, the only 100% wind and solar-powered winery in the county.

Agriturismo or Agritourism defined: the crossroads of tourism and agriculture

Agriturismo could be a Boontling word, but it’s really the best way to experience the Anderson Valley, and The Madrones in Philo is an excellent example of it. This Mediterranean style enclave looks like something straight out of Tuscany, and you can kill two birds with one stone here; wine tasting and lodging. Comprised of three wine tasting rooms and nine beautifully appointed guest quarters. The tasting rooms are steps away from each other.

First, there’s Drew Wines. A small family winery that consistently wins accolades. Drew remains committed to Pinot Noir and Syrah from California’s northern far coastal edge, which includes Mendocino Ridge, Anderson Valley, and the Yorkville Highlands. Husband and wife team of Ali Smith and Eric Story also have a tasting room and pour samples from Smith Story Wine Cellars. The latest tasting room to open at The Madrones is Long Meadow Ranch, an Anderson Valley Estate which has 69 acres planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.

Another Agriturismo destination that isn’t as wine-centric, but wine-inspired is The Apple Farm. Located on the banks of the Navarro River—across the river from Hendy Woods State Park—the Philo Apple Farm is a working apple farm and a bed-and-breakfast. Come autumn; the apple orchard contains nearly 80 varieties of apples. And you can stay in one of three intimate cottages located “smack-dab in the middle” of the apple orchard.

Starting in 1971 when the Anderson Valley was apple country, the Husch family took a chance and planted Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. Today, these varieties are the region’s trademarks. A visit to the area wouldn’t be complete without stopping at Husch Vineyards. Or, if you’re interested in a winery tour, private tasting, picnic or camp-out, Handley Cellars has got you covered.

For some of the best views of the Anderson Valley, check out the Toulouse Vineyards tasting room overlooking the valley floor toward the fertile hillsides westward. You can sit inside at the bar or at a table outside while being poured each of their wines one at a time. It won’t be the quickest wine-tasting stop, but it’s serene and picturesque.

For a more family-oriented atmosphere, Navarro Vineyards and Winery is the place to be. With a diverse range of wines that includes dry Alsatian-styles as well as earthy Pinot Noirs. The folks at Navarro have been growing grapes, making wine, and producing non-alcoholic grape juices in the Anderson Valley since 1974.

Philo is also the home to Roederer Estate. Stop by and be generously poured their award-winning sparkling wines from a magnum, “en magnum.” Here you can practice your Boontling and make a toast to “Bahl Hornin'” as the Tiny Bubbles arouse your planning for the last leg of your journey through Mendocino wine country – The Mendocino Coast. 

Where to Eat in the Anderson Valley

The Bewildered Pig

Table 128 inside the Boonville Hotel

Lauren’s

Where to Stay in the Anderson Valley

Indian Creek Inn

The Boonville Hotel

The Madrones

To be continued … next stops, Elk, Albion, the Town of Mendocino and Fort Bragg!


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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Jeff or “JB” is a native to the San Francisco Bay area and wants to live in a world where wine is served with every meal. As a beverage and food professional with more than 20 years of experience, he’s contributed to The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine; The Pho Cookbook (James Beard Award Best Signal Subject 2018); Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life (James Beard Award Lifetime Achievement Award 2018); Manresa: An Edible Reflection; Happiness is on the Plate: Episode #1; Wine Spectator; Wine Enthusiast; The Wall Street Journal; San Francisco Chronicle; and GQ Magazine. When he’s not “tasting” and eating he’s writing about food and beverage or developing recipes in his laboratory (AKA: kitchen).

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