Recently a dear Yorkshire Terrier girlfriend of mine, Miss Ruby, and her caregivers came for a visit. My dads decided to take us all for a trip to some pet friendly wineries in Anderson Valley.
After a picturesque 45-minute ride down from the coast through the redwood forests we arrived at our first winery of the day, Goldeneye. This winery has a world wide reputation for excellence in producing award winning Pinot Noirs. Our visit took place on a Sunday and we had chosen this day of the week especially to partake of Goldeneye’s Confluence Estate Vineyard Tour & Alfresco Lunch. Reservations either through their website www.goldeneye.com or by telephone 1-800-208-0438 are required for this experience.
Guest with pets, are required to keep their pets on a leash at all times and to please enter the vineyards grounds through the side entrances rather than the main house. Both paths are easily accessed and beautifully landscaped with plenty of interesting smells to mark. There are no poop bags provided so please have your caregivers carry a supply at all times.
The back patio garden overlooks one of many vineyards that Goldeneye uses to grow, buy and harvest their grapes from across the valley. It is this variance in altitude and terroir that influence and contribute to the subtle different growing conditions of the grapes, which help create the award winning pinots that my caregivers will shortly be trying.
While we were waiting for the wine tour to begin, Miss Ruby and I had plenty of opportunity to walk around this gorgeous property with its gentle bubbling water feature, manicured lawns adorned with Adirondack chairs. The chairs are just perfect for lounging with us on your laps or by your side along with a glass of red or blush pinot noir nectar as you gaze silently, soaking up the quintessential Anderson Valley views of majestic rows of vines beginning to turn their emerald green leaves into a kaleidoscope of fall color with their varying hues of yellows, orange and reds (more about the colors later).
Our docent arrived punctually at 11am to begin the tour, after introducing herself to our caregivers, and of course their canine companions. Lynn, the docent, proceeded to give a brief outline of the history of the winery and its accomplishments; she regaled us with delightful personal stories of her adventures as a farmer and wine grower in Anderson Valley, from raising goats to biodynamic and organic practices. Lynn also acted as wine taster/pourer and lunch server, she was personable and engaging throughout our two hours at Goldeneye.
Beginning the walking part of tour (you don’t walk far on the whole tour) Lynn proceeded to lead the group down the central path between the rows of vines. Pausing at a row, Lynn showed and explained to us Goldeneye’s vine identification system and shared some of Goldeneye’s insights for their growing, planting, varietal and bottling methods, recounting some of the experiences of Zach Rasmuson, Goldenye’s resident blending & winemaking maestro.
While listening intently to Lynn, one could not help noticing that the majority of the vines were turning yellow but the odd vine had orange and red leaves. This observation was addressed by Lynn; she explained that the only healthy color for a vine in fall is varying shades of yellow, the variance in leaf color of the vines was an indication of the vine having been compromised by nature, usually an insect of some kind, that can with patience and fast action be treated and the vine saved. When touring vineyards in the fall, yellow vine leaves equal healthy, orange to red not so much. Miss Ruby and I did not mind either way, they were all great for smelling and marking as well as for playing chase with the odd frog and small lizard that happened to come into our presence.
Once the walking part of the tour drew to a close, we made our way back to the garden. The weather was slightly overcast with patchy sun and it was perfect for sitting outside on the elegant patio furniture with our caregivers as the wine tasting and lunch portion of the tour began. In inclement weather, tasting and lunch is served in the main house.
Bowls of cool water were offered to Miss Ruby and I, these were very welcome. The wine tasting at Goldeneye is different from most tasting rooms in that you are served at a table by a host who delivers the glass of wine, explaining a little about it and sets it on a coaster that is also an information sheet. This souvenir coaster describes the wine, its’ notes, along with pertinent information about this particular year’s production and crafting in far more detail. Everyone agreed this was a very stylish and clever way to better understand the wine you were sampling.
The tasting began with Goldeneye’s Migration Pinot Blush served cool; this wine is a refreshing way to start. In all, six varying style Pinot’s ranging in complexity and price were tasted. Lunch was served during the tasting, from a selection choice (made at time of reservation) of fresh focaccia bread filled either with chicken salad and capers, sliced hard boiled egg and cheese or roasted vegetables including, peppers, mushrooms & zucchini. I had a little of each and they were all yummy. All the sandwiches were served with a small side of fresh figs, strawberries or nectarines and accompanied by a generous garden salad of fresh mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette. A plate consisting of slivers of a semi-hard aged Spanish cheese, dried almonds and dried cherries was also served; this is the usual accompaniment to the wine tastings at Goldeneye and each of these foods help bring out the unique aromas and characters of the wines. No water was offered with the lunch for our caregivers (which would have been welcome). Miss Ruby and I did partake of some cheese and for Miss Ruby bell peppers, from one of her caregiver’s sandwich, which she adores.
The Pinot Noir grape is known as the Heartbreak Grape, because it is” Hard to Grow” and “Hard to Make Money From”. The Confluence Estate Vineyard Tour & Alfresco Lunch experience at Goldeneye is a wonderful intimate way to learn more about the minute details of the growing and handling of such a delicate grape, while sharing in the joy these winemakers have in all the processes of their craft. To be able to taste and experience the fruits of all that effort and passion in such a beautiful setting, alongside your favorite canine companion is a true magical Anderson Valley experience.
Hairy gives Goldeneye Winery four PAWS.