With all the fanfare surrounding Cabernet and Pinot Noir coupled with the obsession this country seems to have with Chardonnay, it's sometimes hard for people to remember that California produces a lot of different kinds of wine. It's even harder, it seems, to get people to drink some of it.
Perhaps some of the most under-appreciated and least consumed California wines are those made from grapes like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. There aren't a lot of places in California where these grapes thrive, but the Anderson Valley, three hours north of San Francisco, may well be the best place in the state for growing and making wines from these varietals in the style common to the French border region of Alsace.
California grown Alsatian-style wines are not plentiful, nor are they particularly well publicized, but that seems to suit both the winemakers of Anderson Valley, and the folks who have been happily buying these wines for years. But in the interest of spreading the word, and the love, a couple of years ago all the winemakers who produce these wines decided that they needed to get together to showcase and celebrate their shared passion.
In this, the third year of the festival, the local winemakers will also be joined by a few Alsatian winemakers as well as other winemakers from around California and the US who have decided to support this rather unique celebration of the wines they love, even if it is so far from home.
The weekend begins at 8:15 AM Saturday morning, February 9th, with a technical seminar on growing and making Alsatian style wines given by both local and visiting winemakers. The grand tasting begins afterwards at Noon and goes until 3:00 PM, after which attendees have a chance to relax before a winemaker dinner begins at 6:30. Tickets are available for each event separately, or as a package. On Sunday the 10th, most wineries in the valley hold open houses with food and, of course, more wine to taste.
The following winemakers will be pouring at this year's public tasting:
Barra of Mendocino
Chateau Grand Traverse
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Claiborne & Churchill
Claudia Springs Winery
Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss
Foris Vineyards Winery
Graziano Family of Wines
Greenwood Ridge Vineyards
La Crema Winery
Lazy Creek Vineyards
Philo Ridge Vineyards
Robert Sinskey Vineyards
Thomas Fogarty Winery
Though I have not yet attended this festival personally, I know several folks who have, and who report that, like a lot of things in Anderson Valley, it's low-key, easygoing, and a lot of fun. Couple that with some pretty damn good wines, and it's a winning combination, provided that it isn't pouring rain (cross your fingers).
3rd Annual Anderson Valley Alsace Varietals Festival
February 9th & 10th, 2008
Mendocino County Fairgrounds
14400 Highway 128
Boonville, CA 95415
Tickets for the public tasting are $65; the technical conference costs $35, or both can be attended on a joint ticket for $85. The winemaker dinner is an additional $85. Tickets can be purchased online in advance.
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