Sixteen years ago, in the quaint town of Mendocino, my husband took a knee in the middle of a grassy field and proposed- this year we will be celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary together... Hard to believe that the time has passed so quickly. Our adventures over the years both as a couple and accompanied by friends have been full of laughter, great food, really good wine and unforgettable memories. Oddly enough, and much to the puzzlement of our native Mendocino friends, we haven't been able to return to that area of Northern California since that fantastic day in August of 2000. Time got away from us, calendars filled up and before we had even realized, our beloved beach town became further and further away.
Our luck turned a bit this past month, as were invited to return to Mendocino County to discover and explore the region and all of its splendors by the lovely folks at Lula Cellars...
Located in the bucolic town of Philo, Calfornia (about 5 miles west of Booneville, smack dab in the heart of the Andersen Valley), Lula Cellars sits quietly along Highway 128, surrounded by rolling hills and dense redwood forests. An unassuming little red barn-like tasting room, complete with vineyard dog "Honey", await guests as they ramble down the gravel driveway. I immediately fell in love with the simplicity of the new tasting room at Lula: comfortable stools, a dog to play fetch with, a space heater to keep warm on a chilly day and of course, really good wine.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by one of our gracious hosts, Mr. Dan Reed, keeper of the homestead and wine gentleman extraordinaire. Dan pours at Lula Cellars pretty much every day of the week, so he's entirely immersed in Lula's wines and can lead guests on a tasting journey through the many different wine styles that Lula produces. We'd be staying with Dan on property for the weekend in Lula's refined rustic cabin, with 360 views of Anderson Valley's "deep-end" picturesque terrain. If you are ever in the Philo/Boonville area, keep an eye out for Dan as he can regularly be seen toting around town with Honey the dog in Lula's 1958 Morris Minor 1000.
100 miles away from home and worn out from a very winding road, we were both ready to settle in and make ourselves comfortable in our cozy little guest quarters. A slower pace of life forced us to sit back, relax and enjoy the view from the porch as the sun went down over the woods and vineyards. Not much to do, nor the need to do much when you are absolutely engulfed in the beauty that is Northern California. Ogling the clouds is a fine way to spend an evening and falling asleep to mist dripping on your tin roof from redwoods overhead is even better.
The next morning, we were up with the shining sun and found ourselves walking back down to the tasting room, eager to begin our tasting of the wines and also eager to meet Jeff Hansen, winemaker for Lula Cellars.
"Jeff Hansen, winemaker for Lula Cellars, brings nearly 30 years of grape growing and winemaking experience to the brand. Jeff’s handcrafted, limited production Mendocino Coast Pinot Noir, along with Zinfandel, Dry Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Rosato (Rosé of Pinot Noir) reveal the passion he has for producing world class wines."
Jeff was great company- cheerful and witty, well-spoken and he very obviously possessed a wealth of knowledge regarding the Anderson Valley appellation. His casualness and warmth is welcome breath of fresh air, bringing ease and civility to sometimes otherwise terse wine tastings. Both the hubbs and I thought him entertaining and friendly, and the level at which he could speak about his wines, vineyard details and overall wine philosophy was greatly appreciated. It certainly didn't hurt that he had great restaurant recommendations as well, helping us with reservations and tips along the way.
Now for some of their fabulous wines...
One of my favorites of our tasting was the 2012 Costa Vineyards Pinot Noir- with classic aromatics of tea and rose petal, deep plum flavors and a beautiful ruby color. "The five acre vineyard this wine comes from is a hidden jewel located in the mountain town of Comptche, which is eight miles east of the Coastal Village of Mendocino, 700 feet above sea level." Jeff suggested a nice Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce to pair with this elegant wine.
Also high on my personal list was the 2013 Mendocino Rosato- ripe red strawberry, watermelon flavors and a crisp, clean finish. I'm a rosé girl, so I was immediately intrigued when I saw this beauty on the shelf. I was not disappointed.
I'm not usually interested in Zinfandel, but Lula Cellars 2012 Mendocino Zinfandel was enough to change my mind a bit. There's a juiciness and fruitiness to this Zin that is in no way heavy or overpowering. Not too spicy either, which makes it distinctive in its own sense. A pairing to consider with savory Braised Lamb Shanks.
Another surprise from Lula is the 2012 Mendocino Pinot Gris- "The 2012 vintage marks the first release of Pinot Gris. The vineyard this wine came from is located south of the town of Ukiah, on the east side of Highway 101, a perfect climate for the varietal." Crisp, clean and citrusy. As a special treat, Jeff pulled out a round of the most incredible St. George cheese, made by the Matos family of Sonoma County. Enough to swoon over, I tried to escape with pockets-full of the buttery cheese, but alas, will have to make a special visit to the dairy on my own one day soon.
So many thanks go to Jeff Hansen and Dan Reed of Lula Cellars for their generous hospitality during our visit. If you are interested in visiting Lula Cellars, they are located at 2800 Guntley Road in Philo, CA @ Hwy 128 and are open from 10am-6pm every day of the week. Stop by, say hello to Honey & by all means, nab a taste (or a bottle) of their dreamy Anderson Valley wines.
Lula Cellars ~ 2800 Guntley Road, Philo, CA 95466 ~ 707.895.3737 ~ email@example.com