Drew Wines Tasting Room
9000 Highway 128
Hours: Thursday – Monday, 11am – 5pm
Back in December, the SF Chronicle’s Jon Bonné wrote a glowing story of a small Anderson Valley winery, Drew Family Wines, making well-structured, cool climate pinot noirs and syrahs. I’ve had a print out of that article on my coffee table ever since, hoping to find an opportunity to try these wines. Luckily, that day came over Memorial Day weekend, and the wines did more than just live up to the hype — they were the highlight of a day of tasting in Anderson Valley.
Drew Family Wines is run by Jason Drew and his wife Molly, natives of Los Altos, California. Having worked in Napa and Anderson Valley wineries, Jason left for Australia to continue studying winemaking. After returning to the U.S., Jason began working for Babcock Winery & Vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills as their associate winemaker. In 2000, he started producing wines under his own label, too, sourcing mainly from the surrounding areas.
But Jason and Molly wanted to go in another direction, and they started exploring sites in Northern California for a winery and a vineyard. Jason had previously worked with Navarro Vineyards in the Anderson Valley, so the Mendocino area became part of that search. In 2004, the Drews found their ideal location: they purchased an old apple orchard in Elk, just south of Mendocino Village, and close to the coast. This rugged terrain became their new home, and they’ve planted some pinot which will someday become part of an estate-bottled wine. You can sense the excitement from Jason as he talks about this venture, and I’m sure that first vintage will be very special for both Jason and Molly.
The move north has resulted in many accolades for Drew Family Wines and their Mendocino / Anderson Valley sourced pinot noirs and syrahs. In 2009, Drew was named a “winery of the year” by Wine and Spirits Magazine. And as I mentioned earlier, that same year the San Francisco Chronicle identified Jason as a “winemaker to watch” and PinotFile called him “A star in the making.”
Now, consumers can taste these wines on their way through Anderson Valley. In mid-May 2010, Drew opened a small tasting room space just past Goldeneye Winery. They’ve decorated the space with great pictures of their wine adventures, including a priceless shot of their son taking a “swim” in a fermenting bin. This is not an elaborate tasting room, and the soft pink, mission-style building seems a bit disconnected from the character of the wines. These earthy pinot noirs and syrahs would probably be more at home in a weathered, dark-wood barn looking out over rolling hills. [Yes, I know it may be an odd to think about the type of “house” a wine would buy if it were in need of a residence, but these wines have serious character.] But putting architectural aesthetics aside — the quality of wines makes this tasting room a required stop during any trip to Anderson Valley. And given the small production, a visit to Drew is your best bet for finding (and securing) a few bottles of these exceptional wines.
I’m a big fan of what Jason and Molly are doing. They’ve got a clear vision of the types of wines they want to make, have taken some risks along the way, and are executing their plan flawlessly. Please do stop by their tasting room when you’re up in the Anderson Valley — you won’t be disappointed.
WHAT I BOUGHT: Always a tough decision on how much wines to bring back, but I demonstrated tremendous restraint and limited myself to four bottles. I have a return trip to the area in July, and am likely to pick up a few extra bottles during that excursion.
- 2008 Drew Valenti Vineyards Pinot Noir (Mendocino Ridge) – $36 (362 Cases): A really fresh and tasty pinot noir, but a lot more restrained than the ripe pinots from the Russian River Valley. This wine has great style, with enough tannins to make it a food-friendly wine, but not so much as to keep you from enjoying the balanced cherry-and-earth flavors (though note that the winery recommends cellaring or decanting).
- 2007 Drew Valenti Vineyards Syrah (Anderson Valley) – $30 (100 Cases): Ridiculously small production from a difficult vineyard site, but wow was it worth it. This is a mouth-wateringly good syrah that sent me into wine-tasting nirvana. One sip of this wild, lively, structured wine conjured up images of a hearty lamb shank dinner. I couldn’t believe the price point, and took home two bottles. The other folks in the tasting room also picked up a bottle of this wine after tasting it, with no hard sell by either me or Jason — this wine just sells itself.
- 2006 Drew Broken Leg Vineyards Syrah (Anderson Valley) – $35 (115 cases) : I tried the Drew 2007 Broken Leg Syrah, which was delicious, but needed some time to settle down. Having had great experience with this vineyard before (A Donkey and Goat Winery also makes a fantastic syrah from this vineyard), I took Jason’s recommendation, and brought home a bottle of the ’06 vintage. I’m looking forward to opening this up at a later date, and will update this post when I do. For now, here’s what the winery say about this bottle:
“The nose is generous with aromas of violets, white chocolate and blueberries. The flavors have seductive and wild fruits with the aromas with black cherries and raspberries. The structure is aligned and very cellar worthy.”
[please excuse me as I wipe the drool off my chin].
WHERE TO FIND IN SF: Drew seems to have limited distribution in SF retail stores, but much wider restaurant distribution. Here are some place to try these wines in the city (and the quality of the restaurants below should probably tip you off that this is some seriously good juice):
- Epic Roasthouse
- Foreign Cinema
- Gary Danko (!!!)