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
Home to a diverse array of smaller AVAs with varied microclimates and soil types, Sonoma County has something for every wine lover. Physically twice as large as Napa Valley, the region only produces about half the amount of wine but boasts both tremendous quality and variety. With its laid-back atmosphere and down-to-earth attitude, the wineries of Sonoma are appreciated by wine tourists for their friendliness and approachability. The entire county intends to become a 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019.
Sonoma County wines are produced with carefully selected grape varieties to reflect the best attributes of their sites—Dry Creek Valley’s consistent sunshine is ideal for Zinfandel, while the warm Alexander Valley is responsible for rich, voluptuous red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are important throughout the county, most notably in the cooler AVAs of Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Carneros. Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Syrah have also found a firm footing here.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”