This past weekend I made my third visit to the Anderson Valley wine country. I first toured this area in July 2011 when I visited Robert Young Winery and more recently I visited the old vines of Sausal Vineyards and White Oak Winery.
The valley has a similar climate and scenery as the Napa and Sonoma Valleys with beautiful rolling hills and oak tree lined vineyards. The most noticeable difference is that this beautiful countryside is less traveled by tourists, even though it has easy freeway access to Highway 101. But as soon as you get off the freeway and head east, you find yourself immediately traveling down beautiful narrow winding oak tree lined roads interspersed with horse ranches, farms and old barns.
My first stop in the Anderson Valley this past weekend was at Lancaster Estate, a family owned winery dedicated to producing estate grown and bottled Bordeaux varietal wines. Tucked away in the canyons and valleys of the Chalk Hill wine trail, Lancaster features picturesque hillsides, a modern wine production facility with a comfortable tasting room. The winery also features an impressive wine cave with an additional seating rooms where visitors can sample a selection of wines after taking a tour. The estate was previously Maacama Creek Winery but in 1995 the Lancaster family purchased this absolutely spectacular vineyard and then built the current facilities.
The first wine which I sampled in the tasting room was the 2011 Samantha’s Sauvignon Blanc which is named in honor of the owner’s daughter. This wine is aged in stainless steel and French Oak to retain brightness and expression of fruit. This wine is very aromatic and on the palate it is light, crisp and refreshing with layers of lemon zest, grapefruit and tropical notes followed by a very long finish. An excellent wine which sells for $30 a bottle.
After sampling the Sauvignon Blanc I did a tour of vineyards with Mike Madigan who is one of the most knowledgeable winery tour-guides I’ve ever met – a real professional. It is not uncommon to visit tasting rooms in which the server/host doesn’t know anything about wine other than how to pour wine into a glass. Mike is the exception, he knows all about the winery’s history, the vineyard’s soils, the varietal clones... you name it. We drove up into the hills to over look the vineyards and then did a tour of the wine cave where I sampled the following estate red wines:
The first was the 2008 Sophia's Hillside Cuvée 2008. This wine is fruit forward with layers of ripe black cherry, black currants, chocolate, black licorice and vanilla with a hint of dried herbs. On the palate it has soft chewy tannins, is well structured and has a medium length finish. A superb ready-to-drink-now wine, I brought a bottle home for $42.
I then sampled two wines side by side, the 2007 and 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The ’07 is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 9% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petite Verdot. The ’08 is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petite Verdot. The ’07 has big fresh fruit on the nose with Bing cherries, blackberries, currants and cocoa powder. This is a very exciting and racy wine that is fresh and lively on the nose with supple and refined tannins on the palate and great acidity. The ’08 is earthier and dustier and yet is very intriguing with layers of evolving dark black fruits, black licorice and mint. On the palate it has chewy tannins and seems more old-world and Bordeaux-like than the ‘07. While both wines were spectacular, I preferred the second Cab and brought one home to add to my collection for $70.
Having visited seven wineries in the area, I can confidently say that Lancaster Estate is head and shoulders above their neighbors. They are truly producing world class wines and the tour and service is absolutely outstanding. But, if you’d like to visit the Estate you’ll need reservations. To contact or for more information:
15001 Chalk Hill Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448