Anderson Valley History of Pioneer Wineries and Vineyards

History Of Anderson Valley

Winegrowing came to Anderson Valley much as it did to the rest of California: brought by European immigrants following the 1849 Gold Rush. But the valley’s ocean-cooled climate and geographic isolation made it a better home for sheep and orchards than wine grapes. That changed when roads and cars proliferated after World War II, enabling the back-to-the-land movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Foggy mornings and rainy autumns made it difficult to ripen the popular red wines of the time, so early commercial wineries leaned into Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. When Anderson Valley requested official recognition as an American Viticultural Area (AVA, or appellation) in 1982, these three grapes accounted for 400 of the 582 acres then planted. Pinot Noir’s 47 acres were mostly in one vineyard.

The valley’s winegrowing fate changed just a few years later. Pinot Noir had long been judged unsuitable to California: it ripened too much in warm interior valleys, and not enough in coastal appellations. Then French scientists unleashed a new wave of Pinot Noir clones that ripen reliably in cool climates, especially those with hot days and cold nights – just like Anderson Valley.

The 1980s were also the beginning of America’s love affair with fine wine. The romance turned red during the 1990s, sparking massive plantings of red wine varieties throughout California. American Pinot Noir found ardent fans among connoisseurs of French Burgundy (which is just Pinot Noir with a geographic name). The new clones poured into Anderson Valley, pulling in grape buyers from other regions as well as new wine entrepreneurs and highly skilled, internationally-minded winemakers. Sparkling wine also arrived in force, giving the rustic valley a new sophistication.

With world-class fruit, facilities and winemaking all established in the new century, Anderson Valley rapidly rose to join California’s other top wine Valleys. Yet it did so without losing its soul. The delicious white wines and historic heirloom Pinot Noir varieties are still here. Sheep and orchards still grace the landscape. Vineyards and wineries of all sizes nestle together, surrounded by redwood and oak trees. The hillsides still glow green and gold in the sun. Great wine is now as characteristic of Anderson Valley as the scent of the sea on foggy mornings.


  • 1851


    Anderson Valley Was Settled

    Walter Anderson lends the valley his name by settling his family near what is now Boonville.

  • 1894

    Vineyards Were Planted

    Italian immigrants arrive and plant vineyards.



  • 1911


    First Winery Was Established

    First bonded winery (according to legend).

  • 1946

    Commercial Winegrowing Began

    Beginning of commercial winegrowing.



  • 1960’s


    More Wineries Were Founded

    Edmeades and Husch wineries founded; plantings mostly Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay.

  • 1970’s

    Pinot Noir Comes To Anderson Valley

    Husch plants the Knoll Vineyard in 1971. Navarro Vineyards, Lazy Creek Vineyard and Greenwood Ridge Vineyard founded; Pinot Noir gains a toehold.



  • 1980’s


    Introduction Of Sparkling Wines

    1981 Scharffenberger Cellars, 1983 Handley Cellars, 1984 Navarro Vineyards, and 1988 Roederer Estate sparkling wines were released, primarily from Chardonnay (and some Pinot Noir).

  • 1982

    AVA Petition Initiated

    Petition for American Viticultural Area (AVA) status lists 6 wineries, 16 vineyards, and 582 acres under vine.



  • 1990’s


    Superior Grape Vintages

    Wineries and winemakers outside the valley discover its great fruit and low prices.

  • 1997

    First Pinot Noir Festival

    Inaugural Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival.



  • 2000’s


    Anderson Valley Modernizes Wine Production

    Quality revolution driven by new planting and replanting by trained viticulturists, more sophistication among internationally-minded winemakers.

  • 2005

    First White Wine Festival

    Inaugural International Alsace Varietals Festival (now Winter White Wine Festival).



  • 2006


    First Pinot Noir Tasting

    First comprehensive tasting of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir includes 43 wines from 30 producers.

  • 2006

    Vineyard Milestone

    More than 2000 acres are now under vine.



  • 2020


    AVWA Continues Growth

    AVWA membership reaches 22 vineyards and 54 producers.

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