The Anderson Valley is located in the western portion of Mendocino County along the alluvial terraces of the Navarro River and its tributaries and cuts laterally through the coastal range. The appellation is known for its cooler climates making it an ideal location for growing Pinot Noir as well as Alsatian varietals like Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The west end of the Valley is only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, taking advantage of the cooling maritime effects. The eastern end of the Valley features a more moderate inland temperature. The foggy mornings give way to sunny and warm days only to return to cold nights, which allow the grapes slowly reach their maturation and develop the deep complex flavors characteristic of wines from this region.
Cool air from the Pacific travels along the Navarro River help moderate the temperatures in the valleys. The temperature variations help create air flows that protect the vines from extremes in temperatures as well as decreasing the chances of frost. These conditions allow grapes like Pinot Noir to mature slowly balancing the quantity of sugar and acids.
The soils of the AVA vary from sandy to gravelly loam and are very well draining, allowing the vines to develop a deep root structure and ensuring the vines do not become waterlogged. Soils of the appellation are clays overlain with sediment from the Navarro River and its tributaries. From the valley floor, these soils become thinner and more acidic due to the increased elevation causing erosion and the presence of evergreens such as Coast Redwood and Douglas Fir.
Elevation ranges from zero to 2,500 feet above sea level with an annual rainfall of 35 to 80 inches. While the Anderson Valley has an average annual temperature of 53 degrees, there is a wide diurnal cycle that can reach 50 degrees between the day and night temperatures. The mix of sun, fog, well-draining soil, maritime winds and a long growing season make the Anderson Valley one of the most famous and successful Pinot Noir growing regions in the United States. Aside from Pinot Noir, there are also producers of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Syrah in the Valley.
The valley was settled originally in the 1830s with the family of Walter Anderson arriving a decade later. Viticulture can’t be verified as having taken place until the 1890s when Italian immigrants arrived but it is assumed that Swiss and German settlers had not done without wine that was a staple of their diets in Europe.
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