Anthill Farms | Hand-Crafted Pinot Noir from the Northern Coast of California
© Stephen Smith

Anthill Farms | Hand-Crafted Pinot Noir from the Northern Coast of California

It was on a breezy road-trip up the Pacific to Oregon’s Willamette Valley that three winemakers hatched a plan to build their own business, producing hand-crafted Pinot Noir on California’s Northern Coast. Since 2004, our three protagonists – Anthony Filberti, David Low and Webster Marquez – have grown their operation from eight-and-a-half barrels per year to around 1,400 cases. They have nevertheless kept it their mission to remain small, to maintain strict control over sourcing of their grapes. Anthill Farms Winery offers some of California’s finest new-wave Pinot Noir, six single-vineyard creations made with grapes from the Far Sonoma Coast and Mendocino County.

A Tale of Three Amigos

Anthony Filberti, David Low and Webster Marquez first crossed paths in 2003, while working for Williams-Selyem in Sonoma. A native Sonoman, Filberti learned to make wine at Bergstrom Winery in Oregon and then continued his career at Hafner Vineyards in Alexander Valley before joining Williams-Selyem. David Low, originally from Kansas, first embraced the vine during his time at University of California Berkeley and after a short stint in computer programming he changed paths to winemaking. Webster Marquez grew up on the East Coast and worked as assistant winemaker at Jefferson Vineyards before moving to Sonoma County. United by their common passion, the three budding winemakers embarked on an adventure up to the vineyards of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Inspired by the modest scale of wineries they visited, the three began to plan their own project. They began by purchasing fruit from around Sonoma and Mendocino Counties to make their first experimental wines at the winery of Papapietry Perry. Over time this collaboration grew into a small artisanal winery that was named Anthill Farms.

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© Stephen Smith

Pinot Noir from Six Distinct Vineyards

Anthill Farms currently sources its grapes directly from six main vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. Cool-climate Pinot Noir is exclusively used to make the Anthill Farms flagship wines, each of which is designed to clearly express the character of its terroir and vintage. Although this varietal is often considered the most complicated to grow, the team also considers it the most “transparent,” easily communicating through its bouquet and palate the message of the land from which it came. The patchwork of vineyards included in the Anthill Farms portfolio include the highly mineral, slate-based Baker Ranch vineyard in the Anderson Valley, the foggy Harmony Lane Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast and the densely planted Tina Marie Vineyard in the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley. In some vintages, Anthill Farms also produces Chardonnay from Peugh Vineyard in the Russian River Valley and Syrah from three vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. While the trio does not outright own the vineyards from which the grapes are sourced, they themselves farm many of them and maintain strict control over the practices used in the cultivation of the vines.

© Stephen Smith

© Stephen Smith

Aiming for freshness of flavor and nice acidity, the winery limits the use of new oak to only around 30% and avoids racking, fining or filtering the wine before it is bottled. As a form of partial whole-cluster fermentation, stems are sometimes included in the winemaking process to produce certain vintages of wines from certain vineyards. At Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir is basically treated as a white grape, with just as much attention paid to limit oxidation during the winemaking process. The result is a range of fresh, seductive and fruit-forward wines that balance concentration with great finesse.

Focus on 3 of Our Favorites from Anthill Farms

Anthill Farms : Baker Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

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The Baker Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 from Anthill Farms is a single-varietal Pinot Noir wine made from grapes sourced from the deeper side of the Anderson Valley, west of the Philo hamlet, above the redwood groves of Hendy Woods. The Baker Ranch vineyard extends over an east-facing slope on the southern side of the valley. The vines, almost 20 years old on average, are planted in very shallow, slate-based soils of the Casabonne-Wohly complex. These characteristic soils boast an especially high mineral content and a very high pH.

The Anthill Farms Baker Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 exudes on the nose exotic aromas of cherry liqueur, green tea, jasmine, and, as it opens, subtle hints of fresh mushroom. Complementing the nose are the velvety, smooth mouthfeel and intense mid-palate characteristic of this wine. Adding structure and complementing the gentle sweetness of the fruit are juicy acids and subtle tannins. The wine offers a beautifully long, floral and spicy finish. To be consumed in its youth or kept for the next 3-8 years.

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Anthill Farms : Cambell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

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The Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 from Anthill Farms is a red wine made exclusively with Pinot Noir, grown on the Campbell Ranch Vineyard, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, near the town of Annapolis. The 20 year old vines are planted around 750 feet above sea level in an area with a cool, coastal climate that delays ripening and allows a more gradual development of maturity in the grapes. The vineyard is characterized by its sandy Goldridge soil, which reduces yields to two tons per acre, resulting in more concentrated and complex wines.

The Anthill Farms Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 is a powerful coastal Pinot Noir which opens enormously on the nose with even the slightest aeration. The wine reveals hints of fir bark, garrigue, and osmanthus tea. The palate is long and elegant, with prominent flavors of cider apple and raspberry, as well as black pepper and spices. This Pinot Noir also offers a delightfully tannic bite, transforming into a very seductive, long finish. Great young but even better after kept for 3-8 years.

Anthill Farms : Harmony Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

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The Anthill Farms Harmony Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 is produced from Pinot Noir grapes sourced from the ridge located between Graton and Occidental, often referred to as the Occidental Ridge or Harrison Grade. The Harmony Lane vineyard extends over three acres of fine Goldridge soil, at about 800 feet above sea level. The vineyard’s elevation put the vines at the marine layer. The fog coming off the ocean creates a dynamic warm-and-cool environment, which results in wines of tight precision.

The Harmony Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 from Anthill Farms exudes intense floral notes on the nose, whose aromatic intensity can be attributed to the whole cluster approach used to produce this wine. Notes of dark cherry, mint and lavender also appear on the nose. On the palate this single-varietal Pinot Noir is juicy and succulent, with an elegant tannin structure complementing plenty of fresh red fruit. The wine offers a beautifully long, satisfying finish that lingers on the palate. This wine can be consumed young or kept for 3-8 years to reach its optimal drinkability.

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