Darrin Low is all about community.
The Domaine Anderson winemaker has hosted the Anderson Valley Terroir-ists, a group of winemakers sharing information and wines in the pursuit of developing sub-AVAs in the region. But, the California community he’s most tied to these days is at the microscopic level.
“We want our underground community of fungus and roots working together,” Low said.
This has put Domaine Anderson on a path toward organic and biodynamic practices in its vineyards.
Domaine Anderson’s Dach Vineyard was certified organic in 2014, and achieved Demeter biodynamic status in 2016, which also happened to be Low’s first year. In that time, the balance that has come to the vineyard as it returns to full health is fascinating for Low.
“Last year, we dry farmed as we slowly weaned off irrigation,” Low said. “The vines are super healthy and about 10 years old. I truly believe we are nursing the soil back to health, and getting rid of all the chemical inputs, which has made for better vines and microbial life in the soil. The grapes are now more situated to the site. To see the progression is fascinating.
“You can feel the vibrancy of the vineyard as all the leaves point upwards toward the sky,” he said. “They are a vibrant light green. I see the searching of the vines towards the light. Part of that is the biodynamic farming. They really respond, as all living entities on the planet do, to the light.”
The Domaine Anderson Dach Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 ($65) had a wild, brambly, mixed berry fruit flavor, cherry cola and a little evergreen note on the finish that is also noticeable on the nose.
In the cellar, Low found it best to use a light touch. There was so much “generosity in the fruit,” that he shortened the maceration period, the time the pressed juice is left in contact with the skins, to find the right result.
“I wanted to be super gentle and light with extraction techniques,” Low said. “Then I could preserve the pure texture. There are light, elegant tannins that are supple, but not heavy.”
It’s fitting the Domaine Anderson Pinoli Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 ($65) had the descriptor of “cranky” in my tasting notes. It’s bold and tangy, with wild blackberry, mushroom and bacon fat flavors. There’s an attitude about the wine that is fitting for an area local winemakers have coined “The Deep End.”
In The Deep End, the fog hits the vineyards first at night, and is also last to leave in the morning. Low said the diurnal shifts there are more pronounced, and the hang time of the fruit stretches longer into the fall, as harvest typically takes place 10 days after Dach Vineyard.
Because any wine rules or traditions in Anderson Valley and the domestic wine market, in general, seem to be suggestions, Low pushed the envelope with alcohol content. The Pinoli Vineyard pinot came in above 15%, which he said is “not traditional, but in the New World, you can get away with it.”
“There’s still a lot of purity; it comes in at 15.5% alcohol, but doesn’t taste like that,” Low said. “I don’t get the heat. There’s California richness and sunshine, but I’m the governor for this wine. I felt like it’s a great example of what we can get out of The Deep End.”
With an expected conversion to organic certification in 2022, Low will have uniform farming practices across all the Domaine Anderson vineyards.
Because it’s from vineyards across the appellation, the Domaine Anderson Estate Pinot Noir 2018 ($45) had the best characteristics of both single vineyard wines. There was Earl Grey tea and spice rack on the nose, with dark fruit and black cherry with a very tidy acidity.
“Anderson Valley is perfect to join the worldwide pinot conversation,” Low said. “Pinot only grows in these select, cool spots. The best pinot expression, whether that’s Burgundy, the Santa Lucia Highlands or Russian River Valley, they all tend to come out with their own personality. We are small, but we are trying as a winemaking group to develop a common theme in our AVA.”
The common theme at Domaine Anderson is that year after year, Low turns out great wines.
“Every site, you hope, expresses a different flavor, aroma and texture profile, and that’s the beauty of pinot noir,” Low said. “It’s all I can ask for in farming and winemaking.”
• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.