Eastbaytimes.com: March 15, 2022
Napa. Sonoma. Boonville. On the list of California’s celebrated wine towns, the name Boonville may sound a bit odd. With more livestock than people (area pop. 1,400)and not a stop-light to be found, Boonville sounds like a wide spot in the road – not an award-winning wine destination.
An hour or so north of the Alexander Valley is the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County – a charmingly rural region of small farms, vineyards and towering redwoods. The coastal climate is perfect for Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay, along with industry up-and-comers rosé and sparkling wines.
The weekend of May 20-22, Boonville and nearby Yorkville, Philo and Navarro host the Anderson Valley’s Pinot Noir Festival, an annual event that includes over 50 wineries and pairings from the region’s most innovative chefs. The three-day celebration features winery open houses, a VIP bubble lounge and a sunset barbecue.
Boonville native and winemaker Andy DuVigneaud makes a popular Pinot Noir at his Bee Hunter winery. He’s also a chef (he and partner Alisa Nemo have a weekly live cooking show on Facebook and Instagram) and a linguist of sorts – as one of the few speakers of an esoteric local jargon called Boontling.
You may remember Johnny Carson yucking it up on the Tonight Show with Boontling speaker Bobby (Chipmunk) Glover in the mid-1970s. In the late 19th century, there were over 1,000 words and phrases in this strange-sounding language, a blend of Scottish, Gaelic, Irish, Spanish and Pomoan (spoken by the Pomo Indians). How Boontling was born is anyone’s guess, but Wikipedia says someone named “Squirrel” might have started it – which sounds about right. There’s also a book on Boontling, which enlightens readers on terms like Applehead and Bearman. In fact, the Bee Hunter name comes from Boontling, and means “a free spirited valley girl.”
There’s more than one free spirited valley girl in Boonville, today. Like those commercials touting “the most interesting man in the world,” Boonville boasts the most interesting women in the world…wine growers, merchants, farmers and chefs who bring their “can do” spirit to this valley.
One woman is Bonny Meyer with Meyer Family Enterprises, owners of Meyer Family Cellars in Yorkville. Bonny’s story is in a newly-released book called Perfectly Paired: The Love Affair behind Silver Oak Cellars. It’s the bombshell story of her romance with then-Christian Brother Justin Meyer, who studied winemaking under the legendary cellarmaster Br. Timothy Diener. Justin left the Brothers community and his vow of chastity to marry Bonny and they eventually co-founded the legendary Silver Oak Cellars. Now, son Matt and his equally adept wine-making wife, Karen, make heralded wines at Meyer Family Cellars. Their passion for cool climate Syrah and delicious Pinot Noir makes them stand-outs in the Anderson Valley.
Wendy Lamer is another stand-out, who came to Boonville in 2019 and started a hugely-popular wine bar and specialty market called Disco Ranch. Wendy’s focus is on under-the-radar wines, meats and cheeses from the region.
The rural nature of this lesser-known destination, with its winding country roads and small-town appeal, makes the Anderson Valley a hidden gem. With only 130 beds and one main street for commerce, it’s often compared to Napa 50 years ago. But the impressive range of premium wines, including world-class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Alsace Varietals (Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pino Gris) and now sparkling wine and rosé – ensure this region won’t be ‘hidden’ for long.
In a word, the coolest wine-growing region in California is also the coolest when it comes to cachet. In the lingo of folks who speak Boontling, it’s a place where back-to-the-landers, appleheads and bearman live in sweet harmony.
The Anderson Valley is 110 miles northwest of San Francisco and about 45 minutes north and west of Healdsburg. Other wineries that will be pouring at the Pinot Noir Festival include: Weatherborne Wine Corp., Witching Stick, Brashley Vineyards, Goldeneye, Navarro, Handley and Roederer Estates, one of California’s premier sparkling wine producers.
For a full list of festival activities, wineries, food vendors and more – see https://avwines.com/pinot-noir-festival/
For lodging, Indian Creek Inn is a quiet, hilltop resort set back from the highway and overlooking the Anderson Valley. There are 15 rooms nestled around five different ‘hubs’, each with their own shared kitchen, sitting room and dining area. For rates and more information, go to Indian Creek Inn.