This remote vineyard is located in a small natural clearing above the town of Comptche, just inland from the northern Mendocino County coast. Owned and managed by the Weir family, Comptche Ridge is dry-farmed on a complex mix of fine sandy-clayey Franciscan soils, and is ringed completely by high redwoods and Douglas-fir.
The shape of this wine has a formal elegance, a clarification of what pinot can achieve when grown with care in the cool ridges of the Mendocino coast. It comes from a dry-farmed vineyard planted by the Weir brothers in the late 1990s, mostly to the Swan clone of pinot noir. While oak is present in the wine’s initial scents, bringing out notes of mint and black tea, a rose fragrance gains precedence and length with air. That floral freshness is equaled by foresty notes of wild strawberries and savory roots that may make your mouth water.
Anthill Farms is an exciting project that focuses on producing exceptional Pinot Noir from a broad range of North Coast vineyards. The properties are managed with intensive and meticulous farming practices, with minimal ecological impact. As for winemaking, there are two unchanging goals: to make wines that express the growing site and the characteristics of the vintage above all else, and to make wines that, simply put, taste good. These goals require gentle handling from crushing to bottling, judicious use of oak, and, perhaps most importantly, leaving the wine alone as much as possible.
“We didn’t know whether the name was really great or really dumb,” admits Anthill Farms Winery partner Webster Marquez. “It came about because we’re all winemakers and people would see us all scrambling around trying to grab the same hose at once; they said it was like watching a bunch of ants.” This trio of ants—Marquez, Anthony Filiberti and David Low—met while working at Sonoma’s Williams Selyem. Says Marquez, “We realized that we have the same approach: using Pinot Noir—the most ‘transparent’ grape in the world—to communicate the way vineyards from cooler areas create distinctive wines.” The partners themselves farm many of the small plots where they buy their grapes, and the results of this labor of love are remarkably seductive wines that combine concentration and finesse. Now that the company has grown from producing 200 cases in 2004 to 1,800 this year, the trio’s work is becoming ever more demanding. Notes Marquez, “It’s a good thing we’re young and don’t need much sleep.” –Food & Wine Magazine’s “Most Promising New Winery” 2009
A large and diverse appellation within California’s North Coast AVA, Mendocino is home to several smaller sub-regions—most notably the Anderson Valley. This scenic region, with rolling hills covered in redwood forests as well as vineyards, is one of the world’s top producers of certified organically-grown grapes. Due to wide geographical and climatic variation, a vast array of wine styles can be found here.
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