Gentrification is often the result of efforts by smaller locales to stimulate visitors and grow their economies. Avoiding that somewhat artificial outcome takes good planning and a balanced and patient approach to development. Both Healdsburg and Geyserville, in northern Sonoma County, have successfully navigated this minefield. Boonville, so far, seems to be on the same successful path. Located in the Anderson Valley, about 120 miles from San Francisco via Highway 101 and Highway 128 and about 40 miles southeast of the city of Mendocino, Boonville is rapidly following the successful model from these other towns. With a population of about 1000 (2010 US Census), Boonville is known for its unique folk language, Boontling. The ‘downtown’ area has sprouted several restaurants, unique shops and fun tasting rooms representing some of the best Pinot Noir houses in Anderson Valley. Early arrivals were Londer, Foursight, Zina Hyde Cunningham and Philo Ridge.
Larry and Shirlee Londer started Londer Vineyards in the late 90’s and have built a successful winery focused on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Dry Gewurztraminer. They produce about 3000 cases per year including estate Pinot Noir from their 15 acres. Joe Webb, general business manager, and Brian Snelling, tasting room manager, are exceptionally knowledgeable about wines in general and Anderson Valley wines in particular. They do yeoman’s work in presenting these excellent wines for Larry and Shirlee.
Foursight Wines was started in 2006 by longtime grape growers Bill and Nancy Charles. Winery operations and the tasting room experience are mostly managed by daughter Kristy, they produce about 1000 cases a year of Pinot Noir, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The Pinot bottlings are very good with some excellent library offerings to consider. Kristy is the current President of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association and is a force to be reckoned with in this rapidly evolving AVA.
Philo Ridge Vineyards is owned and operated by Fred R. Buonanno and Heather A. McKelvey. They started as growers in 1999 with their first vintage (2001 Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon) released in 2004. Their 2500 cases per year include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier. Jill Derwinski established and now runs their tasting room in town. She is a supernova of energy and enthusiasm, not just for Philo Ridge but the entire valley.
Boonville hosts two major wine festivals: the Alsace Festival in February and the Pinot Noir Festival coming up in the middle of May (18-20 May 2012). The town also hosts the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival every summer solstice weekend in June and the annual Mendocino County Fair in September. All fun events.
For the not so wine focused visitor to town there is the Anderson Valley Brewing Company whose bottles are labeled with the motto “It’s bahl hornin’,” meaning “It’s good drinkin'” in Boontling. The annual Legendary Boonville Beer Festival is held at the fairgrounds as well and features beers from about 50 craft breweries.
If the tasting rooms in town do not satiate then not too far to the west of Boonville are another 40 wineries with names like Berridge, Binks, Breggo, Brutocao, Drew, Esterlina, Goldeneye, Handley, Husch, Lula, Navarro, Roederer, Scharffenberger and Standish. An exciting and evolving venue, The Madrones, in Philo hosts 4 winery tasting rooms, a gift shop, lodging and an eatery (to be opened soon). More to come on The Madrones soon.
The Anderson Valley and especially Boonville are worthy of your travel and time. Visit. You will NOT be disappointed.