Glorious Mendocino, I am in love with your wines. Readers, keep an eye out, because my next several posts will include winery profiles, favorite bottles and a run-down of my visit there a few months back, including where to stay and what to eat. Although Mendo and the wines of the Anderson Valley are on the cusp of discovery, it is still a quiet, delightfully rural, forest and fog-filled fairy-tale of foraged food, pure and fresh wines and intriguing winemakers. Can you tell I have a crush?
I landed my bottle of 2009 Baxter Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot direct from the winemakers by tracking the Baxter family down at their rustic, ridge-top home/winery in the Anderson Valley. I will be posting a separate profile on the winery, so just a brief note on their story here. Baxter is a young husband and wife team, Phil Jr. and Claire, led by Phil Sr., between them carrying 50 years of winemaking experience (mostly Phil Sr.’s). They produce single vineyard Pinots from the surrounding lands, and production is tiny. The Baxters practice restrained winemaking and use neutral French oak for maximum purity of fruit.
It is often opined that wine tastes better at the source than it does once you get home—perhaps the result of the rose-tinted lenses we sport on vacation coupled with too many glasses of wine. Not true in this case. I tasted the ’09 at the winery and although found it delicious, I thought it a touch shy. What a difference 9 months makes (no, I have not since had a child). This bottle was assertive with vibrant red raspberry and cherry fruit; layers of sexy tannins, smooth like the silk purse of a Chinese Empress, yet full of finesse from the mountain air acidity. Hints of savory earth and wild herb, followed by a lightly spiced finish; a heartbreaker for sure, particularly at $60.