Take a step back in time and try your hand at an old language
Words and photographs by Shelley Pittman
The Anderson Valley sits about 155 miles or a few hours driving time north of San Francisco and is a narrow strip, just 25 miles long, tucked between coastal redwoods and inland oaks in Mendocino county. While most drive through the valley towards the coastal towns, the adventurous ones who stop discover a place that will take you a step back in time.
The rural community still regards themselves as ‘the keepers of the old ways while bringing in the new’. For generations, the valley’s rolling hills shaded by Oak and Madrone trees now share the landscape with olive trees and colorful wildflowers. The farmlands were once home to an orchestra of apple & fruit orchards and so many sheep to maintain the wild grasses that they easily outnumbered the residents. While the valleys still grow over 60 different apple varieties and are home to fewer sheep grazers who tend the smaller orchards, the main crops are now rows of stately vineyards.
Over time, this region has become renowned for its ideal pairing of warm days and fog-cooled nights produce delicacies of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Rieslings, with a side of laid-back country hospitality.
One utterly rare tradition of the past that shapes the present and is still being used today is a dialect called Boontling. Developed by an isolated and tightly knit community of farmers around the turn of the 20th century, Boontling is Boonville’s lingual claim to fame. With a vocabulary of around 1600 words and fewer than 100 individuals who can speak it, Boontling is simultaneously evolving towards the future as the local school district now offers it as a class to the young generation to keep their vocabulary from disappearing.
Let’s take an insider tour around the valley and discover how the rich past is still being embraced and a few exceptional additions taking the valley towards the future.
A shared dream and a serendipitous encounter
Homesteading has shaped the valley in the past and is still embracing the future. A perfect example is Pennyroyal’s family farmstead of pampered sheep & goat herd who munch on wild grasses and pennyroyal mint that blanket their sixty-six-acre farmstead and vineyard in Boonville.
This is a story about two pioneering women who collaborated and created their dreams, now a reality known as Pennyroyal Farm.
First, meet Sarah Cahn-Bennett, daughter of Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn of highly regarded Navarro Vineyards grew up in the valley. She spent her days learning how to nourish their vines in step with nature and tended to her pets, a herd of working sheep. Country life agreed with Sarah and filled her head with a vision for her future.
At the time, she said, she didn’t know how her dream would come together, but by the time she graduated from Davis with a Master’s in Viticulture and Enology, she was on her way to making it happen.
Sarah returned home to the Anderson Valley. She worked alongside her father and mother and Navarro winemaker Jim Klein for a few years while implementing some of what she had learned at Davis to spearhead sustainability initiatives and experiment with methods she also hoped to use one day on her farm.
Second, meet Erika McKenzie-Chapter, a second-generation Sonoma farmer who knew as a young kid that she wanted to spend her life on a dairy farm. She completed her Bachelors in Animal Science w/ Dairy & Livestock Production emphasis from UC Davis in 2003. She then worked as a student milker at the Goat Barn for 3+ years before deciding to move to France for a year to work as an apprentice on a small farmstead goat cheese farm.
A year later, she returned to UC Davis to complete her Master’s in Animal Biology. During this time, she purchased her first group of dairy goat kids. And yes, each goat is bottle feed and gets a name with endless loving.
The Pennyroyal project, ‘Where everything becomes something else’, started with the spark of an idea hatched during a goat husbandry class at UC Davis. These two pioneering young women instantly bonded and their talents are a perfect match for their shared dream. They stayed in touch.
The opportunity arose just a few years later when Sarah approached her parents with the idea of a minimum-waste sustainable farm, hospitality and events space, and a creamery producing European-style cheeses made with milk from their animals in Boonville. Deborah and Ted agreed, and one giant leap was made on the path to making her dream a reality.
Herd Master and Head Cheesemaker
After two years of planning, she moved herself and her herd of 84 goats to Boonville where they had begun planning and the initial construction of Pennyroyal Farm. The creamery was opened in May of 2012, and during their first full year of production, they took both Gold and Silver medals in international cheese competitions.
The goats are all raised by hand as bottle babies, making them generally very affectionate. The goat kids jump up at the fence and gate when staff or visitors are around, clamoring for attention and for face rubs.
“Absolutely every goat (and dairy sheep too) has a name. In fact, most have their names picked out months to years before they are even born, though sometimes a goat is born who just doesn’t look like the name she was going to be given.”
The goats produce on average a gallon of milk per day, the sheep about half of that. Their milk is transferred twice daily to the adjacent creamery in small containers, ensuring that their cheese is made from the freshest milk possible. The barn, milking parlor and creamery were designed with the visitor in mind. Large windows allow you to view each stage of the cheesemaking process, from inoculation in our 50-gallon vats, cutting and molding curds, through the aging stage, and finally, packaging.
Erika’s talents have earned Best in Show Awards for our cheese multiple times at the California State Fair and in national competitions.
Pennyroyal vineyard, dairy farming, poultry, egg, fiber, fodder & Winemaker
Sheep have been in residence at their family’s Boonville farm for over a quarter of a century. She oversees the vineyard, dairy farming, poultry, egg, fiber, fodder, wine and other food production as essential to the long-term health of farmland. Still, it wasn’t until 2006, armed with a lifetime of experience, advanced education and support from her family, Sarah’s dream was becoming a reality.
Pennyroyal Farm is aptly named after the purple bon-bon topped wild spearmint that thrives in the vineyards.
Sarah’s priority was planting 23 acres of specially selected Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir clones, divided into seven main blocks, centered by a circular turnaround. Their unique trellis system is the modern “V-top” that Navarro has used for all new or replanted fields in the last decade. This system allows their herd of Babydoll sheep to rotationally graze the vineyards, eliminating the need to hand sucker the vines, thus decreasing the mowing and fossil fuels used.
They strive toward closed-loop systems at Pennyroyal Farm, integrating farmstead compost is an integral part of the soil amendment regime. The traveling chicken coop home to a flock of 150 laying hens contribution is used in the pastures, vineyards, and compost piles. Their barn’s bedding is composted for a year and then returned to the vineyard and gardens to fertilize our crops.
Like a portrait, the vegetable plots are brimming with culinary herbs, leafy greens, wild berries and cheerfully vibrant native flowers frame their vineyards from the tasting room. Lounging under the big top canopies resembles a luxury country safari experience than a standard tasting room. It is a tranquil place to taste and combine seasonal bounty from their garden with Pennyroyal Farm’s wines, cheeses, and meats.
Pennyroyal vineyard has won many awards for their delightful wines, including the Sommeliers Choice Awards 2020.
2014 Pinot Noir
“The warmth of Boonville’s summer sun can bring out rich, stewed flavors in our Pinot Noir grapes. The wine’s unfiltered nature and balanced structure make it a classic pairing with the youngest of our raw, aged cheeses, Boont Corners Two Month Tomme.
2018 Muscat Vine Dooley
Muscat Vin Dooley—a vin doux naturel, it has an aroma of an orange blossom bouquet, honey-cake flavor, and a kicking finish. When paired with our Boonter’s Blue, it’ll be your new favorite for a sweet’n’savory treat.
2018 Chardonnay Hamer Olsen
Though barrel-fermented nine months in oak with 100% malolactic fermentation, you won’t find too much butter lurking in this spritely gem. Its rich nose of lemon verbena, flavors of lemongrass and baked nutmeg, and long finish will have many saying “Chardon-yay!”
Sarah and her friends have also started serving small plates on the weekends at the tasting room. All recipes highlight their cheeses. A recent menu included Deviled Ham Gougeres, Boont Corners Quiche and Chive Lychee & Golden Beet Terrine.
“I’m really glad that we included this kitchen in our new tasting room design. At first, it seemed like a lot of extra work, but it has been wonderful to experiment with different recipes and to have school classes come through.”
In addition to the delicious fare, the kitchen also produces artisan goods like pickles, preserves, “snack packs,” and other farm-fresh takeaways.
Everyone on the team strives to be a regenerative vineyard in the tradition of the old-time American farm and all their bounties are reflective of this dream.
Lychee – named from the Boontling for “milk”- is a fresh, spreadable cheese made in the chevre style. We chose the name Laychee because the cheese is so quick to make (only 3 days) and mild, it immediately reflects the seasonality of our milk.
Bollie’s Mollies – named from the Boontling for Bolly Creek (now Anderson Creek, which runs through the property) and mollies which is one of many words for the female anatomy that produces milk, and is a nod to all the mollies on our goats in the barn. The cheese is based on the recipe from the farm I trained on in France after college. The rounds are aged for three weeks and develop a light blue to the blue-grey mold-ripened rind.
Pepper Moldunes is a fresh version of Bollie’s Mollies that is not aged and does not develop the mold rind; instead, we dust them in Piment de Ville pepper. Modules is another Boontling word for breasts (or in our case, udders).
Log Lifter – named from the Boontling phrase for a storm heavy enough to fill the river and “lift logs.” we make this cheese during peak milk production from May to September when we have a surplus of milk. The cheese is a small, semi-firm wheel that is great for cooking, and so we have dubbed it out Farmstead Kitchen Cheese.
Velvet Sister – named after a trio of pioneer sisters from the Anderson Valley known as the Velvet Sisters for their luxurious fur coats, this cheese is made in a Camembert style and develops a thick, soft rind of white mold. As it ages, the paste becomes soft and then runny, perfect for fancy fondues.
Boont Corners- sold under age designates of 2 Months, Vintage (4-7 mo), and Reserve(8+ mo)- The Corners was the name for the original center of town, at the crossroads of Hwy 253 and 128, where the corner of the farm now site. The cheese is an aged Tomme style, made of raw milk. Young wheels are more pliable in texture, with a milky flavor, which develops sharpness and sweetness with age. Reserve wheels are harder, similar to parmesan.
Fratty Corners – young wheels of Boont Corners take a dunk in some of our Pinot Noir wine (fratty) before being buried in grape pomace from our wine pressing. They pick up the aroma and flavor of the wine and grapes as the wheels age.
Booster’s Blue – our raw milk blue-veined cheese, has a natural rind of mixed molds and moderate to heavy blue veining inside.
They offer several different farmstead tours and each one is a true expression of life sustainability in step with nature and man. The perfect place to learn, play, celebrate and embrace life.
Call ahead to schedule a tour at 707-895-2410.
14930 Hwy 128, Boonville.
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Brews and ‘disc golf’ Park
The roots for the Anderson Valley Brewing Company was founded on December 26th, 1987, when they brewed out of a modest 10-barrel brewhouse located in the lower level of our original brewpub, The Buckhorn Saloon, now being transformed into Laurens Cafe, in downtown Boonville. At the time, they were one of only 20 craft breweries in the country and have long been considered one of the pioneers of the craft beer industry. Many of their beers are as unique as their beer names, words from the Boontling dialect.
In 1996, the demand exceeded the capacity so they started construction on a facility at Highways 128 and 253. Surrounded by rolling hills peppered with century-old oaks to the west and towering redwood forests to the east, their 26-acre property houses a 100-barrel brewhouse, tasting room, beer garden, and home to the first 18-hole disc golf course ever to be built at a brewery.
They still brew their world-class and award-winning Ales in huge 31,000-gallon copper vessels imported from Germany. AVBC brews many of your classic beer styles, including several IPAs, pale ale, stout, Boont Amber Ale and their gose (pronounced “goz-uh”) style beers and barrel-aged brews.
THE BOURBON BARREL SERIES
In 2011, they established an exclusive partnership with a leading bourbon maker, which brought about our Bare Series of bourbon barrel-aged beers. This collaboration gave them a consistent barrels source, allowing their brewers to create world-class, barrel-aged beers with a distinctive bourbon character. Try brews such as our Bourbon Barrel Stout, Salted Caramel Porter, Pinchy Jeek Bare, and Huge Arker Imperial Stout.
Family and pet friendly fun
This is a great place to sit outdoors and enjoy a picnic on their 9,000 square foot lawn area for beer-lounging with wi-fi access. Table service, via a remote, easily keeps you in touch with the taproom.
Try your hand on the improved 18-hole disc golf course. It’s become wildly popular and it’s so easy to play that just about anyone of any age can enjoy it.
Their new outdoor stage provides the perfect setting for live music during the summer-long evenings. Meet the locals as they share the valley’s bounties at the seasonal Farmers Markets and sample some local cuisine from the parked Food Trucks.
Always playing a part in preserving our lands, their large solar panels provide over 40% of their electrical needs. In comparison, 100% of our wastewater is treated and used to irrigate the goat pastures and estate hop fields. In addition, the spent grain is given to local cows and spent hops as a natural fertilizer.
Tours of the brewery are daily at 1:30 and 3 PM.
Tapa & Wine Experience
For years the social center of downtown Boonville was the Horn of Zeese Cafe, Boontling for ‘cup of coffee’. Locals and loggers gathered to drink strong coffee, eggs and homemade sausage gravy & buttermilk biscuits while exchanging pleasantries and gossip each morning. It was a place where everyone knew your name.
Sadly over time, the cafe closed and a change was coming. It tried to change twice, but neither idea fit the Redwood and Tin Roof building.
As fate would have it, Wendy Lamar and her bag of talents came to the valley to visit family and inspiration was born. The result is the Wine Spectator 2021 Award of Excellence, Disco Ranch: Wine Bar and Tapa Market.
Wendy started her journey in wine and specialty foods at the age of 18 under the tutelage of Tim Hanni, who became one of the first Masters of Wine in America.
Then desire led her to the vineyards throughout France, Italy, Germany and South Africa. Her love of wine and specialty foods has continued for three decades and, luckily for us, with no end in sight.
With a new name as unusual as the old one, Wendy started by creating an enticing outdoor patio seating area. Ornately carved wooden benches, black wrought iron tables with vivid batik print pillows under a sunset-colored kited sky, bestow a tranquil place to relax and experience some outstanding wines and incredible bites.
As you enter the Market Place doors, you’ll find the walls filled with a collectors library of the valleys local wine stars alongside elegant sparkling wines and classics from France, Spain and Italy. Her perfect palate knows every bottle of wine and will graciously guide you towards a new discovery.
It also beholds a food paradise and treats for that perfect picnic. All of Wendy’s Tapas are created from her speciality food selection and can be purchased for later indulgence or gift giving.
“To me wine is food and should always be available and complement each other while neither steal the show.”
Tapa & Wine Experience
Smoked Salmon Boursin on cucumber
Perfect combination of crisp and creamy boursin before tender salmon sweetness
2020 Weatherborne Grenache rose Mendocino
Combines both tangy & earthiness with a nutty attitude rice filling
2019 Minus Tide Pinot Noir, Manchester Ridge Vineyard Mendocino Ridge
Piquillo filled with Goat Cheese
Sweet tender chili pepper envelope filled with fresh creamy goat cheese
2020 Read Holland Riesling, Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley
Informal cheese boards are a playful option to satisfy both your appetite and allows for a full exploration of various wines. Try 3 different wines and mix & match flavors to our tastebuds delights.
Disco Ranch is utterly unique and the perfect place to experience Anderson Valley.
It is the blending of both cuisine and wine with an atmosphere where time seems to standstill and questions are welcome.
WINE TASTING EXPERIENCES
“The Anderson Valley may be one of the best places
in the country
to grow Pinot Noir.”
Food and Wine Magazine
France’s Champagne Louis Roederer’s perfection in the Anderson Valley
The first Anderson Valley vineyards appeared in the 1970s, but legendary French champagne maker Louis Roederer in the early 80s established the region’s bona fides.
When he inherited the Champagne House in 1833, the cognoscente Louis Roederer implemented his visionary approach to cultivating his vines, aiming to master each stage of the creation of the wine. While other Houses purchased their grapes from outside sources, Louis Roederer put his efforts in his own vineyards. He methodically acquired the finest land for expansion of his guiding principle that all great wine depends on the quality of the soil, a passion for tradition. His heir, Louis Roederer ll adopted his father’s unique approach to the production of champagne, astute estate management, and instinctive audacity.
In the early 1900s, many Europeans were busy moving to California’s temperate climate, vast land opportunities and almost identical soil conditions. Each brought their own prized family rootstocks, purchased land and started California’s Wine Country.
Jean-Claude Rouzaud, then president of Champagne Louis Roederer and fifth-generation descendant of the founder, began his search for creating a sparkling wine estate in California. Rouzaud, who has since handed down the family tradition and position to son Frederic Rouzaud, believed that estate-owned vineyards were essential to ensure top quality wine and had researched California for ideal growing conditions throughout several years.
In 1982, France’s Champagne Louis Roederer’s quest for perfection, which places research and respect for the terroir on an equal footing, perfectly reflects Louis Roederer’s philosophy, was completed and they established this California outpost of 580-acres in the cool, fog enriched Anderson Valley. Today winemaker, Arnaud Weyrich, produces this rich and aromatic Chardonnay or Pinot Noir dominated blend entirely from estate fruit. Arnauld has a veritable passion:
“it is based on a vision of wine that consists of a ‘tailor-made’ viticulture, which includes the principles of biodynamic cultivation on 24 acres to date and applying the two hundred year old tradition of Mehundred-year-old technique to create a crisp acidity level with layered aromatics.”.
Stories, laughter, smiles and good wine is the draw to Lula Cellars.
Lula Cellars is located in the “deep end” of the valley, according to Boontling. Locals, back then, found very few reasons to travel that far until now.
Of Napa’s Amici Cellars acclaim, Jeff Hansen sold out and left St Helena to follow his dream of growing Pinot Noir grapes and relocated to the Anderson Valley. He methodically weaved a deep relationship with a few high-quality Pinot Noir vineyards, began crafting his wine and opened Lula Cellars tasting room in Philo. The name he chose is a tribute to his grandmother.
After acquiring a 22- acre de-funked vineyard and replanting the estate with Pinot Noir grapes, Lula Cellars was finally home, the ‘Deep End’ of the valley.
Sadly, Jeff passed away and the business was sold to majority stockholder Ken Avery. Lula Cellars continues to this day with winemaker Matt Parish, from New Zealand. His style is a fruity bouquet for the palette with sexy legs and a light lingering finish.
Tasting Room Manager Dan Reed’s slap-dash humor is contagious and their single vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs are a gift to your palette. Everyone is welcome and they even encourage pet owners with treats in hand.
Tasting are done by reservations under outdoor tents. Alongside their rich wines you will receive the valleys’ no pretense’ country hospitality.
Picture yourself taking a stroll in their vineyards with a rich, fruity Sauvignon Blanc or sip a glass of spicy dry Gewürtraminer while lounging pond-side in colorful lounge chairs.
“Some say that if you listen hard enough, you can hear the grapes talking to you.
I have found this to be true and they changed my life.”
creator of Lula Cellars
Bee Hunter Wines
Boontling: A valley going on a date or Bee Hunter
They are located in the Tin building with green striped market-style awnings and bright yellow shade umbrellas in downtown Boonville. Alisa, the ‘queen bee’ graciously holds their tastings on their street-side patio deck. With grapes sourced from 14 different vineyards located all around Mendocino county, they pour from a diverse pallet of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Syrah varietals. Take a taste around Mendocino county while challenging your Boontling with Alisa. Get her to share a few stories about Boonville’s beginnings.
Don’t miss their 2014 Pinot Noir, Docker Hill.
Chocolate-dipped sour cherries play with your tastebuds before enjoying a long lingering finish—the perfect companion with a ribeye steak or Mushroom Penne.
50+ years of excellent wines and hospitality
Owners Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn saw the potential for grape growing when they were seeking a property where they could plant Gewürztraminer vines and farm sheep. The husband-wife team was in the right place at the right time to build a winery that would showcase the potential of the Anderson Valley for producing stellar white wines and, in particular, Alsace varietals.
Since the mid- ’70s visitors have constantly been visiting Navarro Vineyards thanks to their consistently excellent wines and hospitality, stunning views and non-boutique prices.
Today, the winery offers a selection of eight or more white wines, including a very dry Gewürztraminer and excellent Pinot Noirs with a dash of their cousins for variety. They also produce a limited amount of non-alcoholic Grape Juice each year. This is a true gem and always sells out quickly.
Navarro Vineyards grounds are a sight to behold. Several sitting nooks are stationed amongst bursts of colorful flowers of every size, shape and smell. Their mini-botanical gardens attract those inquisitive hummingbirds and those amazing stumbling bumblebees to put on a daily show. Looking out over their vineyards is not only a stunning display but even without noticing it, it entices one to take a deep breath and exhale a new sense of contentment.
THE APPLE FARM
and so much more ….
Sally and Don Schmitt were the original owners of the French Laundry in Yountville. They transformed what was once variously a bar, laundry, brothel, then run-down rooming house into a destination restaurant with a prix fixe menu. It opened in 1978, Don was the maitre d’ and Sally was the cook, serving up five French-comfort-style courses at $46 per person.
In 1994, after several restaurateurs eyed the property with interest, the couple decided to take the chance to sell it to a young chef named Thomas Keller. Together they built a world-renown restaurant. They decided to sell the French Laundry and went on to refurbish yet another run-down property — a 30-acre swath in Philo in Mendocino County near the Navarro River. They turned what was once a decrepit sharecroppers farm into a thriving biodynamic farm specializing in heirloom apples. The family now have over 25 years of homesteading behind them. They welcome you to come and take advantage of what they’ve learned.
The Apple Farm is family run. Aside from being a spectacular apple orchard and farm-stand selling outstanding Apple Cider, fresh fruits from the orchards and delicious honey to take home with you, they host weekend cooking classes and farm stays. Well, not exactly, they don’t call what they offer cooking classes since there is no formal curriculum. They don’t call them demonstrations since guests take part in the cooking rather than just observing. For experiences where guests stay overnight and join in the preparation and enjoyment of meals, or the term “Stay & Cook”. It might be a weekend or a midweek dinner. Either way, you will get a taste of cooking and staying on a working farm and come away with recipes, new ideas and inspiration.
Their cottages sit in a group among the apple trees, forming a little village of sorts. Each has a porch to sit on, a wonderful big bathroom and a comfy queen-sized bed. Our original guest room, the “Room with a View” continues to be a favorite, probably because of the view and all the open windows. All rooms have gas fireplaces for warmth and ceiling fans to keep them cool in the summer.
For an eye inspiring experience, come gaze at the towering 1,500-year-old Redwood trees while you hike along two different trails.
A lush green blanket of ferns lines the mile-long loop hiking trail that runs along the side of the Navarro River at Hendy Woods State Park. As you walk along the trail, small rays of the sunlight trickle down from the canopied skies while the Scrub Jays weave through the massive tree trunks racing to locate that perfect acorn before the squirrels do. You can sense the majestic serenity around you from some of the oldest redwoods alive today and the lingering smell of Christmas.
The parks Upper Loop Trail is a self-guided trail winding through 80 acres of pure discovery known as Big Hendy, This part of the park was home to the “Hendy Hermit” Petrov Zailenko, who lived there for over a decade in the 1960s and 1970s, hunting local game and taking produce from local farms. The Hermit Hut Trail in the park passes by one of the huts built by Zailenko from fallen redwood debris. Zailenko who died in 1981, is still part of the park as his ashes were scattered around. Use your imagination and try to find where he hid out all those years, there are some traces of his hut, if you look hard enough.
The Little Hendy Trail, which covers about 20 acres of easy terrain, meanders alongside the Navarro River with many picnic sites to choose from. It’s a quiet place to celebrate nature in it’s finest.
Hendy Woods is home to campers and hikers. They proudly offer a choice of more than 90 tent campsites or trailer options for camping, 25 picnic tables, two different hiking trails, kayaking and canoeing launching sites, biking options, mushrooming in winter, and swimming.
It is a “must-do” when you visit the Anderson Valley in Northern California. Visit their day use area offering gorgeous views and picnic table sites.
(707) 895-3141 Greenwood Ridge Road in Philo.
Shopping Downtown Boonville
The towns mercantile row lines the main drag or Hwy.128, is an expression of the communities pride of heritage and history.
Fish Rock Farm Girls & the Farmhouse Mercantile are filled a delightful jumble of collectibles, antiques and hard-crafted items. Hedgehog Books is a tiny treasure chest of selection, plus they also double as a ‘lending’ source for used books and DVDs. They are located in the ‘Caboose’.
Even ta visit to the local hardware store is a step back in time. And they are proud of it!
Mosswood Market, Boontberry, Paysanne Ice Cream, Boonville General Store and Lauren’s await with home-made cooking with love.
Anderson Valley’s lazy days offer wine enthusiasts, Ale drinkers. savory cuisine, nature lovers and the romantic at heart, a palate full of fun. It’s time to plan a getaway and experience the Anderson Valley for yourself!