Anderson Valley, California (5) Drew


Jason Drew is based just outside the Anderson Valley, on the Mendocino Ridge, about a mile west from the valley. It’s a beautiful spot, and on a chilly but sunny March day it was a good place to be.

In 2004 Jason and his wife Molly bought an organic apple orchard planted in the 1960s, and planted vines. The granddaughter of the first owner is still living nearby, and she told the Drews the history: she’d been involved in planting the apple trees when she was very young. They’d water them with buckets, which is quite a task with 2000 trees.

Jason has been in the wine industry since his early 20s. ‘My uncle planted a vineyard on the Silverado Trail in 1980,’ he says. ‘It was a six acre vineyard and I’d go up and help them in the summer time. They would sell their fruit to La Famiglia, which is a Mondavi-owned winery. Then I went to UC Santa Cruz and got a degree in agroecology. This was enlightening: I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I veered in that direction.’

Jason got increasingly wine focused. A turning point was a spell working for Richard Graff, who started Chalone wine group (an umbrella company for the Carmenet and Acacia wineries) back in the 1980s was one of the pioneers for Californian Pinot Noir. Graff returned with different cuttings from Burgundy and planted them in Soledad. ‘I worked for Carmenet and became more enchanted by the wine part of the industry,’ he says. He later worked with Joseph Phelps and Cathy Corison, and then ended up coming to Navarro in 1996 as vineyard manager. ‘I decided to go back to school at that point. I got a graduate diploma in enology at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.’

‘That was really fun: I met a lot of great people and it was an eye-opening experience in the industry.’ Jason and Molly had a son in Australia, and returned with him as a newborn. They went down to Santa Barbara where Jason got his first winemaking job with Brian Babcock in Santa Rita Hills. ‘We were there for five years. It is interesting of how some of the wines from Mendocino Ridge are reminiscent of the Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir: they have really nice tannin, nice depth of flavour, good intensity.’

They began planting in parts of the apple orchard, and now have 10 acres of vines. The site is quite exposed, and some days you can see the ocean through the trees, which is three miles away as the crow flies. ‘We are on Greenwood Ridge,’ says Jason, ‘and that’s Cliff Ridge over there. You can see the orientation of these big, big ridges. They are just funnelling in the ocean air. We also get fog. Often we will see fog coming in at the 800-1000 ft level. We are at 1200-1250 ft. It is stunning to watch it come in through the canyon. Other times there is a tidal wave of fog and it is coming right over us.’

Because of this fog, the Mendocino Ridge appellation has a nickname: islands in the sky. ‘This influences the wine’s expression,’ says Jason. ‘We are receiving coolness from that fog, but we also get sunlight. The climate here is pronounced: it is an integral part of the wine’s expression, just as much as the soil.’

‘In 2011 I had planted 7 acres of Pinot Noir and 0.1 acre of Chardonnay (just to see if I could ripen it). I have since discovered we can get Chardonnay just ripe. In 2019 I planted an acre of Chardonnay and I also grafted over an acre and a half of existing Pinot Noir that was California heirloom clones, Calera and Swan, that just weren’t producing. Here they just didn’t work. I’d get a third of a ton per acre.’

Pinot grafted to Chardonnay

‘Last year I added an acre of Gamay and a test block of Chenin Blanc, and also some Syrah which will be super edgy.’

Farming is certified organic. ‘I’d say it is regenerative,’ says Jason, ‘and I do some biodynamic practices along the way. I plant BD500 and BD501, and I put preps in the compost. I don’t make the preps here: that’s another level.’


Drew Bahl Briney Chardonnay 2021 Anderson Valley
Organic. 8% Estate Chardonnay and then Valenti (West Ridge, 1300-1400 ft, planted in 1998, north facing) and Clow Ridge (800-1000 ft, 1×1 m, planted in 2011, Wente clone on 428) vineyards on opposing hills. Foudre and barriques, all neutral, 100% malolactic. Start it in stainless steel, cool fermentation for 3 weeks, then goes to barrel to finish primary, but most is done in steel. Lovely balance here with pear and peach richness but also citrus freshness. Really refined with a savoury, mealy twist to the fruit and fine spicy notes. Has a taut personality, but there’s a bit of richness lurking there. Such harmony. 94/100

Drew Faîte de Mer Farm Radio Lauria Chardonnay 2021 Mendocino Ridge
60% foudre, 40% barriques, 16% new oak. Barrel sample of final blend. Estate fruit. So textural, with some fresh, mineral-laced citrus fruit and then some melon and pear richness, with a hint of spice and baked bread, and just a hint of oak. Very fine and expressive with great balance and harmony. Very refined and elegant, with the high acidity integrating so well. 95/100

Drew The Fog Eater Pinot Noir 2020 Anderson Valley
Clow Ridge and Valenti, plus a bit of Weendling. 30% whole cluster. This has lovely cherry and berry fruit aromatics with some floral notes, as well as fine spices. The palate has lovely sour cherry and spice character with a bit of grunty tannin, and some juicy acidity on the finish, as well as hints of forest floor. Lovely weight and character, with a bit of punch and lovely acidity. Real personality. 94/100

Drew Estate Field Selections Pinot Noir 2017 Mendocino Ridge
13.5% alcohol. 35% whole cluster, 20% new oak. Concentrated, textural and fresh with a spicy edge to the sweet, layered black cherry and plum fruit. There’s a sweet core to this wine which shows a hint of mint and some tannic grip on the finish. Lovely generosity here, but also some grip. Ripe but not over-ripe. 94/100

Drew Estate Field Selections Pinot Noir 2019 Mendocino Ridge
13.3% alcohol. 50% whole cluster, 18 months in barrel, 50% new oak. Smoky, spicy edge to the red cherry fruit on the nose. The palate is concentrated and bright with red cherries and a distinct mintiness. Some green notes as well as powerful cherry and spice with some tannic grip. Quite distinctive, structured and fresh. 92/100

Drew Estate Mid-Slope Pinot Noir 2019 Mendocino Ridge
13% alcohol. All clone 943, lighter soils that are mostly sand. 100% whole cluster, 18 months in barrel, 50% new. Taut and expressive with fresh red cherry fruit and a hint of smoke and mineral. The palate has lovely brightness and fruit focus with just a hint of chalk and green under the bright cherries and berries. Nice density here, but also showing brightness and lightness. 96/100

Drew Faîte de Mer Farm Côte Fôret Pinot Noir 2020 Mendocino Ridge
12.2% alcohol. This is a new name for the mid-slope. Clone 943 with a bit of Calera. 50% whole cluster, 18 months in 50% new oak. Lovely freshness here with bright, pure cherry and raspberry fruit with a bit of grip. Such purity and texture: this is very fine with good structure, a fine green hint, and some fleshy texture. Such a beautifully expressive Pinot Noir with the structure and acidity to age. 96/100

UK agent: Flint