Back in October, we stopped into Lula Cellars in Anderson Valley on our way to Mendocino. David decided to visit because, during his search for wineries in the area, he noticed the overwhelmingly positive customer reviews. His thinking was that any tiny winery with that many fantastic reviews has to be worth a visit. We wanted to know what everyone was raving about, considering we hadn’t heard of the wine. Just a hint, they were right, this place is solid gold. We are so glad we stopped by.
Lula has been in business for nine years. They sell at the winery and through a few restaurants on the Mendocino coast. Those channels support an annual production of three and a half thousand cases. Their grapes come from three vineyards, which total about forty acres. Lula dry farm, irrigating only during the first four years after planting.
Lula’s tasting room is located on a 22-acre property located in Philo, just a couple of hours north of San Francisco. In the area known as “The Deep End” of Anderson Valley. Some of its more famous neighbors are Twomey, Roederer Estate, Goldeneye Winery, and Navarro Vineyards. There are plenty of smaller producers along the 128 Highway; like SmithStory Wine Cellars and Phillips Hill.
The tasting room and estate
The tasting room is easy to find, right off the 128 highway. You pull off the main road onto a little track. The first thing you notice is the rustic tasting room, the old fashioned farm equipment, and their cool classic car that sits out front. David, the car fan, noted that it was a convertible Morris Minor; a classic British from the 60s. It’s shabbiness and rustic charm made us feel like this was a real place, rather than a fabricated designer tasting room. One of the three vineyards is located on-site. Elevated above the tasting room for pretty views.
The tasting room has a simple layout; a tasting bar at one end and a few pieces of merchandise. There are winery dogs there to greet you, and they do their job well. They are well behaved and adorable; another reason to love the place.
Dan, our host greeted us with enthusiasm. His bright personality lights up the entire room. He is constantly good-naturedly joking with every single person in the tasting room. His puns are horrible but hilarious and we couldn’t help but be charmed. He was also very knowledgeable about the wine, the history, and the operation. His enthusiasm for his product was infectious. We couldn’t stop smiling. He’s one of those people who make the tasting experience come to life and makes our writing about wine such a fun thing to do.
We started our tasting with a pour of the Lula Rosé of Pinot Noir. The rosé was orange in hue. It offered a rich nose of strawberry and tangerine. The wine was lean with mineral and lemon flavours. It was fine, nothing special; it did not prepare us for what was to come.
Dan made several mentions of his winemaker; Matt Parish. Matt is a New Zealand native with an impressive experience making wine. He was Chief Winemaker for the Americas at Treasury Wine Estates. Their wineries include Stags’ Leap Winery and Etude.
The 2018 Chardonnay was the sole white wine, as they had sold out of the Gewürztraminer. The 2018 Lula Cellars Chardonnay offered a nose of mango with a hint of vanilla. The flavor was of pineapple and crisp green apple. This fruit was backed with restrained oak. A well-balanced example of the varietal that sells for $32.
On taking on the role at Lula Cellars, Matt was quoted as saying: “I’ve always loved Pinot Noir as a varietal and Anderson Valley is one of a few places in the world where I feel it truly expresses itself.” Pinot Noir is at the heart of Lula Cellars’ wine; we tasted three different examples. There is a fourth Pinot, as well as the Rosé of Pinot which started our tasting.
The first of these was the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. A rich nose of red fruit laid on a bed of loam made a positive impression. When we took a sip, we were not disappointed. Good acidity combined with a balance of redcurrant and mushroom. The fruit for this wine was from the vines rising up the hill behind the tasting room.
A side by side tasting of the Costa Vineyard and Peterson Vineyard Pinots was next.
The Costa Pinot had an earthy nose with a light touch of fruit. The wine was lean, but with a complexity and balance that made every sip a taste of discovery. Mushroom, sour cherry, flint, and a sprinkle of dust merged in a bottle of wine reminiscent of an Old World Pinot.
The Peterson presented a fruitier nose. Here we had lush redcurrant, and raspberry, the earthy notes pushed to the back. Bigger than the Costa, but not out of balance. A wine that still shows restraint.
The last wine was a Zinfandel from the Fashauer Vineyard. An intense nose of cloves and ripe blackcurrant led us to expect a jammy California Zin. What we tasted was far more interesting. As had been the case with all Lula wines, there was excellent acidity. Silty, big tannins balanced the raspberry and ripe cherry. Drinkable now, this wine should improve for at least half-a-dozen years.
Favorite Sip of the Day
Which was our favorite wine of the day? It was one of those last two Pinot Noir. The two wines show two different aspects of the varietal. If you asked us which one to buy, we would say buy one of each.
Taste the wine for yourself
Want to taste these wines for yourself? Log on to their website www.lulacellars.com to purchase their wines for shipment or to arrange a tasting in person. This is a winery we fell in love with and would recommend it for both the lovely wines and the wonderful tasting experience.
If you are in the Anderson Valley this weekend February 22-23 you can catch Lula Cellars at te Winter Fest – Anderson Valley’s White Wine Festival. For more information and to get tickets: visit www.AVWINES.Com