It’s hard to imagine that Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards ever receive loud, rowdy guests. A 10-minute drive on a narrow winding road surrounded by moss-covered trees and hill-side vineyards, away from the Valley’s busy highways, is enough to put one in a serene and contemplative mood.
Once on the property, the atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and unpretentious. I’ve visited the winery twice, and both times we had hospitable and knowledgeable hosts. At $65, the tasting doesn’t come particularly cheap. However, both times our hosts were happy to pour some older vintages and barrel samples, in addition to seven wines on the menu. So in the end the tasting of 11 wines, accompanied by an unhurried, jovial conversation, seems like a good value.
Tastings are held in the cave, dug out in early 2000s, or in the summertime, on the patio overlooking the water reservoir. The cave setting produces general ambiance, which at times is complemented by sound (if cellar workers are moving barrels around) or smoke effects (if barrels are being cleaned).
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards have been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. It is possible that you’ll meet Todd Anderson, the vintner, during the tasting (while his two sons seem to have left to work on their own wine projects). The winery is one of Napa Valley’s small producers with 6,500 cases made annually. The 40-acre estate (with 20 acres under vine), which is just outside of Howell Mountain AVA and is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. In addition, the winery sources Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir from various locations in Napa Valley.
Rich, concentrated and beautifully balanced Estate Reserve Cabernet is full of ripe blackberries and black cherries spiced with black currant leaves, cinnamon and cloves. It has smooth tannins and a long satisfying finish. Todd seems to favor big, ripe wines with high alcohol levels. This Cab has 15% abv but doesn’t taste hot.
The lovely 2011 vintage of Eloge (we also tasted 2012) was made in the year considered to be difficult in Napa Valley. But I like it more than 2012: it has less alcohol (13.8%) and more acidity, while retaining usual complexity. Black cherries and plums mingle with aromas of dried leaves, liquorice and vanilla in this elegant blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.
Address: 680 Rossi Road, Saint Helena. Daily cave tastings ($65, waived with $100 purchase) are by appointment only.