Wine Country Itinerary: Anderson Valley

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By Courtney Cochran

Bucolic Anderson Valley is fast taking off as one of the nation's most buzz-worthy wine regions, but you wouldn't know it to wind among the valley's verdant vineyards, gently rolling hills and towering redwoods on twisting Highway 128. Situated some 75 miles north of San Francisco, the valley - home to show-stopping Pinot Noir and palate-quenching whites - exudes a peaceful serenity that seems diametrically opposed to its escalating notoriety. To see for yourself what all the (low-key) buzz is about, follow this itinerary for a rewarding day of wining and dining among the vines - Mendocino style.
Stop 1: Scharffenberger Cellars
There's no better way to wake up your palate - as well as your party - than by making your first stop a sparkling house.  And with its gracious period architecture and ebullient gardens, the tasting room at sparkling powerhouse Scharffenberger Cellars welcomes as much with its charm as with the promise of award-winning sparklers on hand for sipping inside.  Bonus: Tasting fees at this Anderson Valley stalwart are rightly reasonable, and a rotating display of artists' works makes for eye candy to go along with your sips.
Tasting Room: 8501 Highway 128, Philo, CA 94566. Open daily 11am-5pm.
(tel) (707) 895-2957
Tasting Fee: $3

Lunch: Picnic Makes Perfect
Picturesque Anderson Valley doesn't afford much in the way of dining options, but that's hardly a problem given the propensity for area tasting rooms to offer picnic amenities.  To wit, plan on an early afternoon picnic lunch at your second stop, Husch Vineyards, where the friendly tasting room staff will gladly set you and your group up for an alfresco meal powered by provisions you've picked up along the way. Score sandwiches at nearby Anderson Valley Market in Boonville (707-895-3019), which makes them to-order, or find another spot that suits your tastes. Tip: most wineries require you to consume wine purchased on-premise when picnicking, which means you'll need to spring for a bottle from the spot's tasting room if you plan to sip during your meal.

Stop 2: Husch Vineyards
The oldest winery in the Anderson Valley, Husch beckons with its cozy, country-quaint tasting room, value-priced wines and complimentary pours. Once you've sampled the likes of the spot's popular whites (think crisp Sauvignon Blanc, elegant Chardonnay and aromatic Gewürtraminer) and at least a dash of Husch's soulful Pinot Noir, head outside for an alfresco lunch under grape arbors overlooking the valley's wow-worthy rolling hills.
Tasting Room: 4400 Highway 128, Philo, CA 95466. Open daily 10am-5pm (winter), 10am-6pm (summer).  (tel) (800) 55-HUSCH
Tasting Fee: Free; includes 6 complimentary tastes

Stop 3: Handley Cellars
Just a stone's throw across 128 brings you and your group to your next stop. With a broad selection of white, rosé and after-dinner sippers custom tailored to pair with international fare, Handley Cellars offers an array of adventurous sips that complement the tasting room's eclectic collection of Oaxacan, Balinese and African folk art. Call ahead to arrange a "Culinary Adventure" pairing - part of a program inspired by the spot's folk art that matches wine with foods from around the globe.
Tasting Room: 3151 Hwy. 128, Philo, CA 95466. Open daily 10am-5pm (winter), 10am-6pm (summer). (tel) (707) 895-3876
Tasting Fee: Free; includes 8 complimentary tastes

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