2 Fun Days Tasting Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

Fantastic wines, au courant cuisine, sticker-price delight in Mendocino County.

Northern California wine lovers nostalgic for the days before glitz and high prices overtook Napa and Sonoma often head to the Anderson Valley. The bucolic Mendocino County wine region’s three dozen or so tasting rooms pour Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and other wines reflecting the valley’s distinctive maritime climate. (The Pacific Ocean is as little as 10 miles west of parts of the 15-mile-long valley.) With restaurants in Boonville and Philo serving au courant cuisine based on local produce and proteins, an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir tasting trip provides a low-pressure, high-quality wine and culinary experience.

Scallop ceviche on the half shell at the Boonville Hotel.

Meet Owner-Winemakers

In recent years, large outfits have purchased some key vineyards, but for the most part the farms here are small. Don’t be surprised to find the winemaker or owner—at some places the same person—on hand to answer questions, providing a personal touch not possible at more prominent wineries.

Pay Less

Most tasting rooms charge $25 or less for four or five pours, and a few have no fee at all. If you’ve noticed the upward creep in Napa and Sonoma County prices the past few years, prepare for sticker delight instead of shock at the cost per bottle for wines this fantastic.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” in the Boonville’s local “Boontling” dialect.

Taste the Difference

This itinerary moves east to west along Highway 128 the first day and west to east the second. Several wineries purchase grapes from the same vineyards, allowing you to compare different winemakers’ approaches to the same fruit. Some wineries require a reservation. Call ahead for same-day appointments; they’re usually possible during the week, less so on weekends.

Vineyard and barn views from back patio at Pennyroyal Farm.

Day One

10 am

Pennyroyal Farm

The goats and sheep that provide milk for several excellent cheeses at this combination creamery and winery captivate guests almost as much as the estate Sauvignon Blanc, rosé of Pinot Noir, and Pinot Noir. Tours of Pennyroyal Farm’s creamery take place at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm from Friday through Sunday pretty much year-round, sometimes also on Thursday or Monday. Even if you don’t take the tour, you may spot the animals grazing in the vineyards nearby. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, Pennyroyal’s whites include Chardonnay, Muscat Blanc, the Anyhow Blanc blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and Pinot Trio, made with Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris grapes. There’s also a sparkling wine.

Why go: captivating animals seen on tours;  estate Pinot Noirs and creative whites; tastings include creamery cheeses. 

Feeding time at Pennyroyal Farm.

11:15 am

Foursight Wines

The grapes at family-affair Foursight Wines, a tenth of a mile northwest of Pennyroyal, are grown by the third generation to farm the land its 15-acre vineyard occupies. The fourth generation makes the wines – Semillon,  Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir rosé, plus several Pinot Noirs – and runs the winery. Two Pinot Noirs to seek out are the Clone 05, made from the Pommard clone (known for firm tannins and rich flavors), and Paraboll, a blend of Pommard and Dijon 777 clones that takes its name from “para,” an art term for “deep cherry red,” and “boll,” which means “excellent” in the local Boonville dialect. One tasting includes a tour of the 2-acre lavender farm and pollinator garden behind the winery.

Why go: longtime locals; Pinot Noirs from same site made in different styles; lavender farm and pollinator garden. 

Two generations of the Charles family grow the grapes and make the wines at Foursight.

12:30 pm

Lunch Downtown

Have lunch a quarter-mile or so farther along in downtown Boonville. Casual Lauren’s at the Buckhorn and nearby Mosswood Market Cafe & Bakery prepare sandwiches and salads; Disco Ranch, run by an experienced wine merchant (with plenty of advice about area wineries without tasting rooms), serves tapas, succulent sliders, and other “disco snacks.” On Saturdays year-round and sometimes other afternoons, pasta or pizza at Offspring at the Farrer Building is another option. If it’s open (usually from April through October), treat yourself to organic ice cream or another sweet delight at Paysanne, a few doors west of Mosswood. The Farmhouse Mercantile contemporary general store that adjoins Mosswood is worth a peek.

Tasty morsels: Disco Ranch “disco snacks.”

1:45 pm

Bee Hunter Wine

After lunch, head to Bee Hunter Wine, which sources grapes for its whites and reds (several of each) from top Mendocino County vineyards and a few farther afield. Owner-winemaker Andy DuVigneaud is an Anderson Valley native; he or his wife, Alisa, are often at the tasting room.

Why go: adventurous winemaking; wide range of grape types; owner-winemaker often around.

Bee Hunter’s owner-winemaker parks his attention-getting yellow Porsche outside the tasting room.

3 pm

Goldeneye Winery

Continue west from Boonville to Philo and Goldeneye Winery, known for its single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. The founders of the Napa Valley’s Duckhorn brand established Goldeneye, one of several wineries that put the Anderson Valley on the enological map. Lush Merlots made Duckhorn’s reputation—refined single-vineyard Pinot Noirs are Goldeneye’s calling card. The grapes come from four estate vineyards planted with more than 20 clones (variants) of Pinot Noir. If the weather’s nice, enjoy your tasting on the back patio.

Why go: full-flavored single-vineyard Pinot Noirs; wines from estate fruit; patio tastings. 

Dijon clone 667 Pinot Noir vines at Goldeneye.

4 pm 

Scharffenberger Cellars

Visiting five wineries in a day is pushing it, but tastings in the valley tend to be quick, and the wineries aren’t that far apart. Cleanse your palate with a bit of bubbly on the veranda or in the pet-friendly garden at Scharffenberger Cellars, founded in 1981 and now owned by Roederer Estate.

Why go: excellent sparklers; casual tastings.

Late-March blossoms outside Scharffenberger’s tasting room.

6 or 7 pm


Have dinner in Philo at the Wickson Restaurant, or backtrack to Boonville and dine at the Restaurant at The Boonville Hotel or across the street at Offspring at the Farrer Building. If all these are closed, everyone out on the town will likely be at Lauren’s

“Elevated comfort food that’s rustic with a dash of elegance” is the goal of Wickson’s chef.

Day Two

Begin Day Two at what’s known as the Deep End, a downward, narrowing slope in the northwestern Anderson Valley. Nearer to the Pacific Ocean than much of the valley, it benefits from cool temperatures. As a result, grapes here ripen slowly, allowing flavors to develop more fully.

11 am

Roederer Estate

Toast the morning with great valley views and a little Roederer Estate bubbly courtesy of the California offspring of France’s Champagne Louis Roederer.

Why go: stellar sparklers; hilltop setting; blend of French and California style.

The French champagne house Louis Roederer began making Anderson Valley sparkling wines in the 1980s.

12 noon

Lula Cellars

Head west 1¼ miles to Lula Cellars, whose tasting room, constructed of rough-hewn wood and the antithesis of Wine Country chic, sits just off Highway 128. It’s a laid-back setting to sip Pinot Noirs, including two from the estate Lula Vineyard and a few more from Ferrington, Peterson, and other prime Mendocino County sources. Lula also produces rosé of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a dry, characterful Gëwurztraminer from estate and Ferrington grapes.

Why go: Pinot Noirs; laid-back setting.  

Lula’s laid-back tasting area. (Photo courtesy of the winery.)

1:30 pm

Philo Apple Farm

Keep the doctor away 1½ miles east at the Philo Apple Farm‘s self-service stand. Look for apples and pears in season (fall) and apple products the rest of the year, along with jams, jellies, chutney, and vinegar. The farm’s owners, who also operate Farmhouse Mercantile in downtown Boonville, have four lodgings, three of them cottages, for overnight stays.

Philo Apple Farm stand.

2 pm

Lunch at Lemons

Head to Lemons Philo Market, 3¼ miles east, for a deli sandwich, then continue east to The Madrones, a small complex that includes an inn, a tasting room, and two other businesses. The Wickson Restaurant is another option if it’s open.

Long Meadow Ranch Philo tasting room at The Madrones.

3 pm

Poking about The Madrones

The well-respected Napa Valley–based Long Meadow Ranch serves sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir Blanc, and Pinot Noir from its Anderson Valley estate in a space at The Madrones. Also worth checking out are the well-curated Sun & Cricket Curiosity Shoppe and the Art Deco–style The Bohemian Chemist, “an herbal apothecary with an emphasis on locally sourced and sun-grown cannabis.”

Its vintage-apothecary aesthetic sets The Bohemian Chemist apart from other dispensaries.

4 pm

Toulouse Vineyards

Backtrack 1½ miles west from The Madrones to this winery whose “Too Tense? Toulouse” sign near the entrance encourages all guests to kick back and relax. In addition to the expected Pinot Noir, Toulouse Vineyards also makes Gewürztraminer and Riesling whites and a rosé of Pinot Noir. Other reds include Petite Sirah crafted in an almost Pinot Noir–like style. The wines are good, the staffers are cool, and the views west to the Navarro River and the ocean are often sublime.

Why go: wines sommeliers love; cool staffers; sublime views.

Navarro River view from back deck at Toulouse.

5:30 or 6 pm

Dine Upscale or Down

The Restaurant at The Boonville Hotel serves prix-fixe meals (reservations essential). Chef Perry Hoffman grew up in these parts but made his reputation in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Hoffman occasionally incorporates the recipes of his grandmother, Sally Schmitt, who started The French Laundry with Perry’s grandfather in the 1970s (they sold it to Thomas Keller in 1993). Across the street, the younger Schmitt generation prepares pastas, pizzas, and shareable small plates and full entrées at Offspring at the Farrer Building. Nearby Lauren’s at the Buckhorn serves burgers, fish-and-chips, and other comfort fare and has a full bar.

Chef Perry Hoffman prepares the prix-fixe cuisine at his family’s Boonville Hotel.

Tips and Suggestions

Pre-trip to-do list: It’s wise to make winery reservations, especially on weekends. Also make reservations for meals at the Restaurant at The Boonville Hotel and Wickson.

Best days to visit: This itinerary works best from Friday through Sunday, when all the tasting rooms and most of the restaurants are open. Thursday and Monday are also good days, though a winery of two might be closed. Tastings are straightforward at most of these places. Except for those with views, there’s not too much reason to linger, though in most cases you’re welcome to. Two annual events showcasing Anderson Valley wines are February’s White Wine Weekend and the Pinot Noir Festival in May.

Rooms at Indian Creek Inn share living rooms and kitchens.

Lodging: The Boonville Hotel and Philo’s The Madrones, the affiliated The Brambles, and the Indian Creek Inn rank among the valley’s best lodging options. You can also overnight amid the redwoods in a cabin or a tent at Camp Navarro. The award for upscale rustic charm goes to the Philo Apple Farm for its three tastefully appointed cottages and lodge room. To steep yourself in the winery experience, book yourself into the guesthouse at Foursight Wines in Boonville.

Breakfast spread at Boonville Hotel.

This story originally appeared in 2017; it was most recently updated in early 2024.

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