Anderson’s Conn Valley Winery was founded in 1983 by Gus and Phyllis Anderson along with their son Todd, who owns and operates the winery today. Their first release was in 1987, making it one of the earlier wineries in the Napa wine boom that started in the late 1970s, and the estate has produced beautiful, classic Napa wines ever since. Although there has been some new construction in recent years, it is still a little bit of a throwback to the earlier days compared with some of the super-modern, high-tech designs of the newer wineries on the scene today.
The winery is nestled on 40 acres located in the scenic Conn Valley, just off Rossi Road, in the foothills on the eastern side of the Napa Valley. It is only three miles east of Saint Helena, but feels much more remote. Howell Mountain lies just to the north, with Lake Hennessey to the south, both working to create a unique micro-climate that is quite different than below on the valley floor. If you look at it on a topographic map, the winery and vineyards lie in a slight depression, a bowl formed by an elevation line that runs a couple of hundred feet above the vineyards and wraps around the property and a couple of other neighboring vineyards.
Driving in, you crest the ridge near the turn off from Conn Valley Road and drive down into a little valley to the winery and vineyards. The only break in the bowl is where the property is open to the south, towards Lake Hennessey, which lies about a mile or so away. The valley is influenced by cool air that forms on Howell Mountain and washes down its slopes into the valley, and fog that lingers in the mornings an hour or so later than on the valley floor. Mornings start out cooler, then by early afternoon temperatures catch up until a breeze comes up from Lake Hennessey at about 3 o'clock on summer afternoons that typically lasts until early evening. This cools the vineyards, allows a slower maturation for the grapes, and helps maintain freshness and acidity. Most years everything from bud break to veraison and harvest is two to three weeks later than on the valley floor. Harvests often don’t really get underway until October, while many spots lower down start in September.
Soils vary throughout the various blocks and parcels, with parts of the vineyard comprised of clays over rocky soils, (with the cool clays playing a role in the site’s cooler nature as well), and others with deep gravelly clay loam of the Bale Loam series, similar to those on the Rutherford Bench.
Winemaker Robert Hunt arrived on the scene three and a half years ago, with 2015 marking his fourth harvest here. He comes with an excellent resume, having worked at Clos Pegase for two years, working a crush at Ovid, traveling for a year and a half in Italy, a stint at Colgin in 2007, and getting his start in the cellars at Pine Ridge. His philosophy is fairly straightforward: no enzymes, minimal additions, do as little racking and moving as possible, let the wines and the place speak for itself, and concentrate on great fruit in the vineyards.
Having spent time at two of the most sophisticated and impeccably designed wine facilities at Ovid and Colgin, Robert notes the difference working here, where it’s a little more traditional. With the winery’s roots back in the 1980s, he feels a connection to the earlier days in Napa, and brings all of the experience and insight he gained over his career to continually learning the property’s ins and outs, and making the best wines possible — evidenced by his extremely successful and well-made 2012s, and the 2013s and 2014s in barrel indicating even more great things to come.