A romantic getaway calls for something extravagant. Celebration travelers are talking about Hwy. 128, a world-class route du vin and cuisine two hours north of San Francisco. Fresh-cracked crab with Pinot Gris or Riesling—a highlight at Anderson Valley’s Alsace Wine festival— is a bright start to a food and wine weekend.
Anderson Valley wine festival
Anderson Valley produces Alsace-style white wines featured each February at the festival. Table hopping at the Boonville fair grounds, we tasted Gerwuztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Riesling.
That evening at Scharffenberger Cellars, chef Rocco Hanson pulled off a series of remarkable pairings. Crab gateau, his signature dish, won first place at Mendocino County’s crab cake competition. He kindly sent out a second portion of crab gateau, so we could taste it again with a Riesling and a Pinot Gris.
The foie gras tartlet had a filling of caramelized onions and—the revelation of the evening—Oma cheese. Hanson hunted far and wide to find a cheese to complement the foie gras and found this Vermont gem from the von Trapp Farmstead. A late harvest Riesling from New York ’s Sheldrake Point Winery provided a light gold counterpoint to the savory dish.
Boonville tasting rooms
As for the route du vin, Anderson Valley is a far cry from Alsace with its medieval towns of Colmar and Riquewihr. But laid-back Boonville has rural charm. In the late afternoon, friends stroll into the tasting room for a glass of Semillon or Pinot Noir. They pet the winery dog. The owner appears, still clad in field clothes with pruning shears in a back pocket. He pulls up a chair. Why not? It’s near closing time.
Approaching the Foursight tasting room, we witnessed such a scene. Dexter, a black-and-white McNab Shepard, bounded out to greet us. We were immediately included in the conversation. The owner’s daughter, Kristy Charles, poured Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Pinot Noir, all from the family vineyard across the lane.The complexity of the wines confirmed that the vines are meticulously cared for.
Gesturing with a full glass of Pinot Noir, Bill Charles recounted the family’s story. His parents ran a mill during the lumber boom. In the rowdy 1950s, fights broke out nightly at the Bucket of Blood bar, so named by the locals in the colorful Boontling language. When the mill closed, the Charles family took up agriculture. Now it would take millions to get into the business. Dexter wagged his tail.
Rosy hues appeared in the sky and gave the homely scene a universal quality that made us feel we could be anywhere good wines are grown and enjoyed. Check online for upcoming winemaker dinners and Anderson Valley wine festivals.
–Text and photography by Donna Peck.