ANDERSON VALLEY, CA—A drive along scenic Highway 128 from the Mendocino Coast or the inland Redwood Highway leads to picturesque Anderson Valley. There you will find a number of noteworthy tasting rooms, serving world-class wines, but no tasting room through this corridor is more charming than Phillips Hill Winery. If your time is limited, this is one not to be missed.
Housed in a restored, two-story apple-dryer barn from the 1880s, the site retains many elements from its past: weathered redwood siding milled form trees grown on the property, apple-drying equipment, and a tin roofed antique fruit stand.
The tasting room occupies a peaceful corner of the eight-hundred-acre Valley Foothill Vineyards, amid apple, pear, and willow trees; ponds, and grapevines.
On fair-weather days, visitors gather on a deck over a bubbling creek to taste winemaker Toby Hills' latest creations. On other days, the upstairs tasting room has a charming ambience.
Last week, I stopped in and tasted the following menu selections:
($5 tasting fee is waived with purchase)
Chardonnay 2013 Ridley Vineyard Anderson Valley (Retail: $30)
Dry stainless steel fermented, no oak and no malolactic fermentation. Aromas of pear, honey. Crisp yet round with stone fruit flavors and some light minerality. Toby's Pinots are heavenly. I didn't expect to find a Chardonnay on the menu that day. It was quite good.
Pinot Noir 2011 Boontling Mendocino (Retail: $25)
A classic blend of fruit from the Anderson Valley and Comptche, in the costal region of Mendocino County. Named in homage of the local language, "Boontling", spoken in the nearby town of Boonville. Great price for an easy drinking and full flavored Anderson Valley Pinot.
Pinot Noir 2012 Oppenlander Comptche Mendocino (Retail: $45)
Blueberries and cranberry preserve. Rich fruit flavors. A very special Pinot. I'll be opening a bottle from my cellar later in the season and go into more detail. I love Pinots from this region!
Tempranillo 2012 Lake County (Retail: $35.00)
Grown in adjoining Lake County, this grape thrives on the warmer climate there. I was very pleased with this wine. I'm not a big fan of Tempranillo but Phillips Hill has crafted another winner here.
FINAL NOTE: We will be featuring Phillips Hill Winery in our next Northern California book to be published in spring, 2015. It was originally Toby's various Pinots that really excited me, but now I'm also impressed with his other offerings. This is a wonderful, family-owned, "destination" winery with a great vibe. Natasha in the tasting room is terrific. If you stop by, please tell her hello from me. :-)
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