Full of wine, redwoods, and fresh coastal air, Anderson Valley's Pinot Noir Festival is historically one of the best weekends in California Wine Country.
After having to cancel the event in 2020, Pinot Fest is back this year, with a Covid-friendly twist. Next month, Anderson Valley is putting on a month-long celebration of their signature red wine, centered around the Passport to Pinot Weekend, May 14th through 16th.
A limited number of passports—priced at a steal of just $95 for three days—give holders access to complimentary VIP wine experiences like library tastings, picnics, epic food and wine pairings, and vineyard visits that aren't normally offered to the public.
When you purchase your passport, you'll be directed to make reservations for specific experiences (there are over 20 being offered) and time slots. Here's our suggested itinerary.
Day 1: Check into your hotel + grab some wine on the way
(Courtesy of Little River Inn)
Where to Stay Near Anderson Valley
Anderson Valley lodging is, unfortunately, so limited that you'll likely only be able to snag a stay for the weekend on the Mendocino coast. Not that this is a bad thing, since you'll get the best of both worlds. We suggest booking a room in Albion or Little River, which are less than 45 minutes from the heart of Anderson Valley. Check in to an ocean-view room at Albion River Inn, Little River Inn, or Heritage House. You can't go wrong with any of them.
The Anderson Valley Winegrowers are also giving away a three-night stay at the Little River Inn, complete with two passports, wine luggage, a Coravin, and a wine country Covet Pass.
Bee Hunter Wine
If you were able to get out of work on Friday and have time on your way up north, kick off Passport Weekend by stopping in at the Bee Hunter tasting room in Boonville before you head to your hotel. Husband and wife team Ali and Andy DuVigneaud are always the life of the party at these events and will be pouring barrel samples next to their finished pinots so you can get a feel for how a wine evolves over time. They're also launching a new estate wine and, in case you needed some extra incentive, there's a very good chance some adorable pups will be running around. Their last tasting is at 4:45pm. // 14251 CA-128 (Boonville), beehunterwine.com
Dinner at Wild Fish
One of Mendocino's top seafood restaurants is located in Little River Inn. Get the freshest catch—everything from swordfish and petrale sole to rock cod and sablefish—at Wild Fish, where dishes are served mere hours after they're brought in from the nearby waters. Make a reservation for just before sunset so you can watch it all go down from your seat. // 7750 N. Highway 1 (Little River), wild-fish.com
Day 2: Wine above the fog, meet the up-and-comers + food and wine pairings
(Courtesy of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers)
The drive up to this little-known vineyard is a bit, um, rugged, but the views above the fog (nearly 2,000 feet) are worth it, as is the genuine hospitality from owners Dean and Suzi Carrell, who have been growing grapes here for nearly 30 years. Roma's isn't typically open to the public, but they're opening up this special place just for this weekend to let passport holders stroll their ridgetop vineyard and taste their small-production pinot noirs along with charcuterie boards and live music. Opt for the morning slot to get a view of the marine layer below before it burns off. // 10001 Lone Tree Ridge Road (Boonville), romasvineyard.com
The Pinot Trio
One of the best parts about Anderson Valley's Pinot Fest is the chance to discover small, boutique producers who are making stellar wine but don't have a tasting room. This year's event won't have the big grand tasting of years past, but you can meet a trio of Anderson Valley's newest, up-and-coming pinot stars in the enchanting gardens of the Boonville Hotel. Sip wines from DuPuis, Read Holland, and Wentworth, paired with wood-fired pizza from Michelin-rated chef Perry Hoffman, formerly of the now-defunct Healdsburg Shed. // 14050 CA-128 (Boonville), boonvillehotel.com
Finish your day of wine tasting at the family-owned Foursight Wines, one of the first wineries you'll see on your way into Boonville. They're offering a French-inspired tasting menu from chef Kim Badenhop, owner of The Rendezvous Inn & Restaurant in Fort Bragg and previously of Mendocino's famed Cafe Beaujolais, in addition to John Clancy's Restaurant in NYC. Sip Foursight's estate-grown pinots with beef burgundy, duck rillettes, and savory bread pudding. // 14475 CA-128 (Boonville), foursightwines.com
Hike it off.
Now that you've spent the whole day eating and drinking, you can start making your way back to Mendocino. But first, stop to hike it all off before sundown at the nearby Hendy Woods State Park, which is full of old-growth redwoods so tall and round that they'll make you feel like ants. // 18599 Philo Greenwood Rd. (Philo), parks.ca.gov
Dinner at Albion River Inn
Even if you're not staying at the Albion River Inn, its restaurant has one of the best coastal dining views around. Fresh seafood is obviously the star of the menu; local favorites include the seafood chowder, grilled prawns, and pan-roasted rock cod. 3790 N. Hwy 1 (Albion), albionriverinn.com
Day 3: Wine workshops, finger-lickin' ribs + lunch from Chez Panisse alums
(Courtesy of Phillips Hill Winery)
Phillips Hill Winery
This is a great opportunity to school your friends on your wine know-how at your next dinner party. Phillips Hill winemaker Toby Hill will take you through the art of blending wine and discuss the ins and outs of crafting the perfect pinot noir. And yes, you'll also get to taste them either underneath the redwood trees or creekside under their historic apple dryer bran. // 5101 CA-128 (Philo), phillipshill.com
Greenwood Ridge Vineyards
Greenwood Ridge had us at barbecue ribs glazed with a pinot barbecue sauce paired with a flight of pinot noir. You'll also love one of the area's oldest wineries (founded in 1980) for its sweeping views, pond with an adorable footbridge, and funky octagonal tasting room built out of a 400-year-old redwood that fell during a storm. // 5501 Hwy 128 (Philo), greenwoodridge.com
Lunch at Wickson
Treat the ribs as an appetizer to lunch at Wickson (you'll want to make a reservation as soon as you purchase your passport), the new restaurant in town from Rodney Workman and Alexa Newman, both Chez Panisse alums. They specialize in wood-fired cooking but go far beyond pizza with hearty sandwiches like a grilled cheese, veggie focaccia, and house-smoked sausage that's guaranteed to soak up all the wine. // 9000 Hwy 128 (Philo), wicksonrestaurant.com
Wrap up your weekend with a side-by-side, tactical exploration of how different kinds of barrels can change the taste of a wine. In this tasty lesson at Toulouse—the winery's Burgundian-style pinots are the best kept secret this side of France—you'll compare pinots aged in French and Hungarian oak, plus get the chance to soak up one of the best views in Anderson Valley before heading home. // 80001 Hwy 128 (Philo), toulousevineyards.com
Can't make Passport weekend? You can celebrate virtually by purchasing a Pinot Pack, a curated case of Anderson Valley pinots that come with a Coravin, and by tuning into weekly webinars featuring winemakers, winegrowers, chefs, and sommeliers.
// Get more information about Anderson Valley Pinot Month at avwines.com.