Last Monday I spent a beautiful day with Handley Cellars in California's Anderson Valley - approx. 10 miles inland from the Mendocino Coast. Milla Handley and her co-winemaker Kristen Barnhisel hosted a group of wine-pros from around the country to learn more about their Pinot Noir program, and to experience blending a bottle of Pinot.
The day begin with touring Pinot Noir vineyards in the Anderson Valley ... Ferrington, Helluva and Handley's Organic Estate Vineyard. A bottle of Handley Anderson Valley Pinot in some years can have as many as 10 different vineyard sites, or as little as 1 - depending on the particular role Mother Nature played. The group spent the afternoon blending a bottle of Pinot using 5 different vineyard sites. "Day Dream" was my final blend, Milla suggested I wait until XMAS to open. I'll report back then.
For now... a few quick facts from Monday:
1. Handley Cellars is located in "Region 1" , a scale the folks at UC Davis created to determine the coolest (the chilly kind) to the warmest climate regions. Region 1 means the most days at 50 degrees and under.
2. Bell Beans and Arugula are grown as cover-crop between the vineyard rows. Why? They hold a lot of nitrogen down in the roots which is very good for the soil and grapevines.
3. Most of the Anderson Valley Pinot vineyards are pruned already this year and are budding early.
4. Soils: Most of the soils are clay and sandy loam, with 5-15% rock.
5. Temperatures in the Anderson Valley swing BIG...it can reach 100 degrees by 3pm and dip back down to 45 degrees at night. This is fabulous in creating acidity levels and the high heat days help prevent disease and mildew.
6. How to tell if the vines need water: If you reach your hand inside the canopy (where the grape clusters hang and are surrounded by their leaves) and it's the same temperature as the outside air - they need water. The canopy should create it's own little AC system within the vines.
7. Handley uses a propane flame to control weeds. It's the shot with the guy on the tractor down below, flames shoot out at the very bottom on the backsides behind the tractor and hit just deep enough to kill the roots.
8. Handley Estate Vineyards (Martini Clone = big fruit flavors, lower tannins and silky smooth texture) were planted in 1987, the water tower and ranch house were built in 1906. Milla, her husband and their 2 daughters lived in the old water-tower for awhile (great stories about this time in their lives, ask me in person, too long to type now!).
9. 2007 is the current Handley Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir release.
10. Handley uses solar-power and organic growing practices. You can see the solar-panels in the background of the first picture on the right with Kristen and Milla.
Handley Cellars wines are available anywhere you like in Texas, Avante Beverages is their distributor and currently has the Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. Cheers - Ali
(Please click image to enlarge each picture, such a magical place)