On my way home from Mendocino on Sunday, I paid a brief visit to Vern and Maxine Boltz’s Toulouse Vineyard in Philo, a tiny hamlet in Anderson Valley.
It seems as if every time I pass thorough this beautiful valley, someone says Anderson Valley is coming of age, and this time that message came from Vern.
It’s all a matter of perspective, of course, but things are changing. The number of wineries that dot Hwy. 128, which connects Anderson Valley with Hwy. 101 and the outside world, is growing, and more and better wines are coming from the area’s vineyards. The valley’s signature grape is Pinot Noir and there are enough Pinots now that we’ve added Anderson Valley to our vintage chart.
A case in point is the Boltz’s 17-acre vineyard and small, folksy winery, named after a goose they found in France. The winery operation is tiny enough for the Boltz's to do much of the daily work themselves, with the assistance of a vineyard manager. The winery is bare bones and the Boltz’s live above it.
After living in Napa and Oakland, where Vern worked as a fire captain and Maxine worked for United Airlines, the couple bought their Anderson Valley property in 1997, planted vines and started making wine and selling grapes in 2002.
Pinot lovers will recall that MacPhail made a terrific 2004 with grapes from Toulouse; James MacPhail is also part of the winemaking team at Toulouse.
Toulouse’s wines are a work in progress. Before tasting them at the winery, I tried several of the wines at Greg Gorman’s photo workshop finale, which included a dinner, photography exhibit and wine tasting, on Friday night.
The Toulouse Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2006 is rich and refreshing, very delicate and complex for a rosé, with wonderful cherry and watermelon flavors. It would be a perfect match for the tomato and watermelon salad mentioned in Harvey Steiman's blog.
The 2006 Pinot Grigio is fresh and snappy, but the real star is Pinot Noir; I especially liked the 2002 and 2005. The 2002 is the first commercial release, and I rated it in the outstanding range during a recent blind tasting at my office. It is now medium red garnet in color, intense and vibrant, with sour cherry; it's more Burgundian in its restraint than some of the fuller-blown wines that followed.
The 2003 Reserve tastes more mature than the ’02, with a stewed cherry flavor, and the 2004 has a minty-clove edge and firm, chewy tannins. Both fit into the very good category, non-blind.
The 2005 ($39) is similar to 2002, but with riper, richer flavors that are intense yet elegant and spicy. I also liked the 2006 barrel sample. Vern has one barrel of Pinot still on its lees and it's remarkably complex; sadly there's only one barrel.
Toulouse is part of the changing face of Anderson Valley. The valley is still small enough to visit in one or two days and you can focus on Pinot, or enjoy the other wines of the area, many of which are on display at one of the more than dozen wineries. There's also some lovely places to stay in the area, including MacCallum House Inn and Albion River Inn, both of which have Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants.
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — August 21, 2007 5:35pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — August 21, 2007 7:47pm ET
Mary Constant — Calistoga — August 22, 2007 11:10am ET
Darlene Lyness — Moraga, CA — August 23, 2007 5:33pm ET
Michael Greenwald — Wynnewood, PA — August 28, 2007 12:51pm ET
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