Matt and Mary Elke

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival day 2 part 2


Update November 16: This article evolved into a four-part series.  Here are the links to parts 1, 2, and 3:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

And we are just about exhausted. Forthwith, the fourth and final segment of our seemingly never-ending series on the Anderson Valley pinot noir festival day 2 part 2.

Elke Vineyards

Elke Tasting Room Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival day 2 part 2

Elke Tasting Room

Elke focuses on traditional Burgundy-style pinot noirs. The Elke family has been growing fruit since 1979 but has only been making wine under their own label since 1997. Here’s their story in their own words:

Tom and Mary Elke started Elke Vineyards back in 1979. Drawn to the land, they bought vineyards and orchards in Napa and Anderson Valley. With their two young boys in tow, they set about learning to grow grapes the old-fashioned way – by just doing it, and overcoming the challenges along the way.

Originally, the Elke’s Anderson Valley property was planted with organic apple trees, and Mary was known for years for the apple juice that she produced. Over time, she realized the potential of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the land, and began planting grapevines. In 1997, she launched the Elke wine brand and the first commercial production of Elke wines, and she has been running the business since then. She has served as president of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association.

Mary has sometimes defied conventional wisdom in her grape growing. The customers for her grapes, which include some of the finest Pinot Noir wineries in California, seem to vindicate her approach. In any case, Mary’s deep understanding of her land and vines, and her commitment to hard work, continue to shine through. You will still find her driving a tractor through the vineyard, encouraging the grape pickers at 4am, and helping out with winemaking.

Matt Elke (Tom and Mary’s son, […] ) has always felt a special attachment to the family’s home ranch in Anderson Valley, and he is now managing that land.

Elke’s signature wine is their Blue Diamond brand. We were treated to a three-year vertical:

The 2011 Blue Diamond ($36) features red raspberries, spice, and minerality. This one’s ready to drink now.

Their 2012 ($38) shows good aromatics, some minerality, tannins and spice. We liked this one the best of the three.

And the 2013 ($38) has layers of red fruit, earthy notes, and minerality. Look for hints of cedar and spice.

Winemaker Matt Evans Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival day 2 part 2

Winemaker Matt Evans

[pullquote]This label allows Matt to step outside of the traditions of the Elke Wines, and explore different techniques (some modern, most ancient) in pursuit of great Pinot Noir.[/pullquote]

But it happens that the wine we liked best was under their have a second label, Evans (named for winemaker Matt Evans).→

The 2011 Evans is not on website where the 2013 is featured. The wine opens with aromas of strawberries and mild pepper, with a hint of caramel on the palate.

Baxter Winery

Phillip and Claire Baxter are the second generation of the Baxter family to make wine in California. The winery began when Phillip I. Baxter teamed up with his youngest son, Phillip T.G. Baxter to open their eponymously-named winery in 2002. It happens that was also the year the younger Baxter finished his studies in enology and viticulture at U.C. Davis. Additional details here.

Claire and Phillip T.G. Baxter Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival day 2 part 2

Claire and Phillip T.G. Baxter

Baxter sources grapes from seven vineyards in the Anderson Valley, Mendocino, and Mendocino Ridge appellations. The Mendocino Ridge vineyards (Fashauer, Signal Ridge, and Valenti) are at an elevation that gets quite a bit of sun. The grapes get more solar ripening and less heat. The winery was pouring five pinots.

Baxter’s 2013 Valenti Vineyard Mendocino Ridge (not on website) has the lightness characteristic of many Anderson Valley wines. Strawberries and raspberries abound overlaying a mineral and spice base.

The 2013 Langley Vineyard Anderson Valley ($48) begins with aromas of huckleberries and violets. A palate of bing cherries, raspberries and pomegranate lie beneath a layer of minerality.

Their 2013 Oppenlander (not on website) is silky, with aromas and flavors of light cherries and strawberries. According to my notes, this wine is 100 percent whole cluster.

Finally, the 2012 Oppenlander Vineyard Mendocino ($60) features aromas and flavors of light bing cherries and strawberries.

Toulouse Vineyard

Toulouse has a theme: geese. Their motto is “Too Tense? Toulouse!” And there’s this:

Tense Goose Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival day 2 part 2

and this:

Stuffed geese Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival day 2 part 2

Toulouse parrot Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival day 2 part 2

(click for larger image)

And, of course, the inevitable parrots.

But the wine is pretty darn good, as is the ambience. Owners Vern and Maxine … well, let’s let them tell their story:

Owners Vern and Maxine didn’t always make wine. In previous lives Vern was a Captain in the Oakland Fire Department and also built homes as a residential contractor. Maxine traveled the world as a flight attendant for United Airlines.

After retirement, the two decided to explore the possibility of owning vineyard land and becoming grape growers. Their quest brought them to a beautiful site approximately one mile from the town of Philo. The couple planted 21 acres of vines and by 2002 they were making wine!

From this hard work and shared dream comes the Toulouse vision for creating exceptional, handcrafted wines. Vern and Maxine take great pride in producing their wines and want you to come enjoy a tasting experience at the winery (where dogs are welcome).

The 2012 Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands ($55) is a bit restrained, with medium-weight dried herb, brambleberry, spice, cherry and tobacco flavors, fanning out on the finish.


Next up: the annual Pinotfest at Farallon.  Wish us luck.


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