Anomaly Vineyards is a hidden gem, located in the western city limits of St. Helena at the base of the Mayacamas mountains, right where the housing from the town ends and vineyards begin. Anomaly Vineyards was founded by Steve & Linda Goldfarb. Steve was one of the founders of Goldfarb & Lipman LLP in 1971, a San Francisco Bay Area based legal firm that focuses on real estate projects – now with offices in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. Steve was partner in the firm for 25+ years – Linda worked at the firm as a paralegal.
Facing mounting commute times between their home in Berkeley to their office in San Francisco they began to consider retirement. They eventually moved to the Napa Valley in 1997 with the intent to simply enjoy the views of all the beautiful surrounding vineyards. But as invariably happens to those who move to the Napa Valley the lure of the vineyards takes over and there is nothing one can do but make wine. Resistance to what we call the “Napa allure” is futile. When Steve and Linda moved to the property their tiny home vineyard was planted to only 149 vines, 6 rows of grapes. When these grapes ripened in 1997 they harvested them and armed with only a small hand-destemmer, tiny press and an old barrel, they made their first vintage in their garage (Steve was the winemaker at this time).
Buoyed by high praise from friends and family, they took the next steps, hiring several employees and increasing production significantly. Their first commercial vintage in 2000 was 300 cases. They hired prominent architect Jon Lail of St. Helena based Lail Design Group Inc to design their winery. By the 2002 harvest, the stone winery was operational. Despite many years of making wine, their production has not grown that much – and that is perfectly fine with the Goldfarbs – preferring to remain small and focus on quality and primarily estate grown wines. Total production now is around 1,000 cases per year.
The footprint of the winery is small but incorporates three floors. The cellar room is located about 20 feet below ground and is completely isolated from the surrounding water table which rises quite high during the winter months. The winery itself is one of the smaller ones in the Napa Valley (although not the smallest by any means); their offices are located on the third floor.
This is a prime vineyard neighborhood – nearby historical vineyards include the Hayne Vineyard (old-vine Zinfandel) and the Beckstoffer owned Bourn Vineyard. Anomaly’s vineyards are planted to three blocks; Cosette’s Vineyard is the smallest and their original vineyard, slightly less then an acre of Cabernet Sauvignon bordering the winery, Indee’s Vineyard is the largest block at 5 acres, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller sections of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and Ashby’s Vineyard, about 2 acres planted entirely to Cabernet Sauvignon. Taking advantage of one of their historic vineyard neighbors, the Lewelling Vineyard – Anomaly purchases a small amount of fruit from this premium site every year.
So with no more messy commutes, the Goldfard’s live on the property and their commute to the winery is only about a minute or two walk. And when we met Steve and Linda, it was obvious that they were having a lot of fun with their new careers.
Their vineyards are CCOF certified and are growing in prime soil for Cabernet Sauvignon; this area features gravel based sandy loam soil. Grapes from nearby vineyards are sometimes used in small wineries’ higher end offerings. Rather then purchasing grapes from their immediate neighboring vineyards, as luck would have it, their neighbords ended up selling several pieces of land to the Goldfarbs – increasing the overall size of their vineyard.
Their vineyards are somewhat sheltered because of the horseshoe shape of the surrounding mountains which effectively protects their location from frost. The vineyards are planted to four clones of Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller amounts of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc which are used as blending wines. Their current winemaker Mark Porembski has been with Anomaly since 2002, first as an assistant winemaker and now their head winemaker. Endowed with plenty of passion, energy and drive Mark is an ideal fit for Anomaly; this was one of his first primary winemaking jobs.
We initially tried the 2004 Anomaly Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. This is very approachable wine that is a food friendly – so seamless across the palate its texture is very appealing characteristics. It has perfectly balanced tannins with rich layered fruit and a very pleasing velvety finish. Shows hints of cherries, cocoa and some other herbal notes to this vintage. Like their early vintages (which we tried years later) this wine should also age quite nicely.
The 2011 vintage was a challenging growing year with cold temperatures and rain at inopportune times between spring and autumn. This wine reflects this particular growing season well. The 2011 Anomaly Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon shows characteristics not as commonly found in the Napa Valley but more so during a cool year in Bordeaux. On the bouquet it shows more red fruit than dark fruit with notes of dust, bell-pepper, and cigar smoke. This is a very balanced wine with superb acidity and delicate tannins that linger for some time. The finish shows a slight tartness – this wine will have good age-ability.
Contrasting the 2011 vintage with the following year (2012) sees remarkable differences in the two wines. The 2012 Anomaly Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon shows bright lively fruit aromatics complemented by dessert/baking spices (cinnamon) and toasted cedar. The wine is mouth watering on the palate – with more robust chalky tannins that linger longer than the 2011.
The wines are distributed in select restaurants in a number of states including Michigan and Nevada and California. Locally the wines can sometimes be found at Calistoga Ranch, the French Laundry and at Meadowood. Anomaly is also involved in a variety of charity organizations. Those interested in staying updated from Anomaly Vineyards can join their mailing list online.
For more information, to schedule an appointment or to join one of their wine clubs, visit: www.anomalyvineyards.com or their very informative but no longer updated blog: http://anomalyvineyards.blogspot.com
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