2014 marked the 50th (or 51st depending on who you ask) anniversary of the planting of wine grapes in the Anderson Valley in 1964 by Dr. Donald Edmeades, a cardiologist from Pasadena, California. In 1963, he bought 108 acres of grazing and orchard land north of Philo and began planting 24 acres of grapes excluding Pinot Noir. (Note: the Edmeades website reports that the first plantings were in 1963, but other sources date the plantings to 1964) The locals were skeptical and Edmeades, in good humor, put up a sign on Highway 128 that read, ‘Edmeades Folly.’ In truth, Edmeades had carefully researched the potential for wine grape growing in the Anderson Valley and had been visiting the region on vacations since the 1950s. The University of California at Davis viticulturists had completed a survey of the climate of the Anderson Valley, and classified it primarily as Region I (up to 2,500 degree days), ideal for cool climate grapes.
Edmeades was the not the first to successfully grow wine grapes in the Anderson Valley. According to the book, Images of America Anderson Valley, wine grapes were a valley crop since the late 1800s when Italian immigrants from San Francisco settled in Greenwood located on the ridges of Anderson Valley (what is now known as Mendocino Ridge). The Valenti Ranch Vineyard is believed to be the first in Greenwood. Prohibition and frosts ended the early wine era in the valley with only the Zeni, Ciapusci and Dupratt vineyards surviving. Joe Pinoli was the first to established grapevines on the valley floor in 1911-1912, and he founded the first bonded winery in the valley.
Edmeades grew French Colombard, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Cabernet Sauvignon, and the grapes, which struggled to ripen, were sold to many buyers including Parducci. In 1972, the Edmeades winery and label was launched, but both Donald and his spouse passed away from cancer just after the winery was built, and a son, Deron, carried on. Edmeades achieved the most notoriety with Zinfandel produce from grapes sourced from vineyards in the Mendocino Ridge, but was never a major player in the Anderson Valley with Pinot Noir. The winery averaged ten Gold Medals a year in major competitions from 1994 to 2004, primarily for Zinfandel. The exact history of Pinot Noir planting at Edmeades is unknown although John Haeger dates it probably to 1980. The Edmeades property was acquired by Kendall-Jackson Estates in 1988, and Jesse Jackson modernized the winery and replanted vineyards.
The Edmeades property is also now the home of Champ de Rêves, a winery dedicated to Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley’s Boone Ridge Vineyard, also owned by Jackson Family Estates. The two wineries recently opened for tasting daily from 10:00 to 5:00 at 500 Highway 128 in Philo.
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