Conn Valley Vineyards
Napa Valley AVA
93 Points - Robert Parker Jr.’s, The Wine Advocate publication
Right next to the world-renowned vineyards of Joseph Heitz and Joseph Phelps, in the Napa Valley, lies a small 40-acre parcel, called Conn Valley Vineyards, belonging to the Anderson family. As you will soon discover, the Andersons are turning out world-class wines that rival the best in Napa Valley.
Gus and Phyllis Anderson, their son Todd, and Dana Gallagher founded Conn Valley Vineyards in 1983. The winery is so-named due to its location near Conn Creek, where it flows out of Howell Mountain. The soil is deep gravelly clay loam—ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon, and other Bordeaux varietals. In fact, 16½ out of 26 acres of vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. Small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Sangiovese are also planted primarily for use in blending.
Farming, it seems, has always been in the Anderson family. Gus' grandfather and father owned and managed a 500-acre farm in Michigan's upper peninsula. Growing up, Gus learned an appreciation and love for the land from his father. So, when the opportunity arose to start his own winery it completed a circle of life’s events that began and ended with the land.
Gus studied at Northwestern University to become an orthodontist where he met his wife, Phyllis, who was in nursing school. After college, the Andersons moved to California where Gus spent three years in the Air Force, then later, entering into his own private practice.
It was during those first few years in California during the late 1950's when Gus and Phyllis discovered wines. Ironically, the wines they discovered were mostly French, German and Spanish. It wasn't until the early 1970's that they began to realize that California was making good wine in its own right. Theirs' was a classic pattern of evolution into the wine industry. Discovery of wines initially, followed by collecting and cellaring, then the home winemaking stage. Finally, in 1981, Gus gave up his orthodontic practice to pursue a Masters degree in Viticulture and Enology at U.C. Davis.
While in school Gus and Phyllis looked all over California for potential vineyard land. A connection through one of his professors led them to the 40-acre site they eventually purchased with the help of their son Todd.
Todd also had acquired a love of the land through his father. As a young boy he spent many days in the field driving a tractor. But just as his father did, he turned his interests to other endeavors. Todd went to college at the University of the Pacific, to study geophysics. In 1980, Todd graduated with a degree in Geology. He landed a job that took him all over the U.S., performing seismic exploration for major oil companies. After two years of extensive traveling, he settled in Pasadena, California to continue his career. It was this period in time that Todd's parents had become interested in purchasing the land near Conn Creek. And soon, Todd, like his Dad, had come full circle too, back to the land.
They started with bare land in 1983. The 40 acres they purchased was basically a big hayfield. That first year they planted vineyards and built a reservoir for irrigation. The following year they converted an old machine shed into what is now the winery. Then in 1986, they built a house and carved out of the hillside, a 3000 square foot series of caves for aging their wines. More than 8,000 sq. feet of new caves were added in 2001.
From the ground up, the Andersons worked as a team to develop the vineyard, grow the grapes and begin producing a world-class style of wine. Today, Todd Anderson and his wife Ronene operate the family winery that is licensed to produce upwards of 16,000 cases annually. From the very first 1988 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, Anderson’s Conn Valley wines have been showered with world-class praise. Gold Medal Wine Club was right there singing the praises at the beginning as we featured the Anderson’s 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon to ecstatic club members. Now, Conn Valley Vineyards is perched solidly among the premier producers in California and perhaps the world. In fact, Robert Parker Jr. says their Cabernet Sauvignons “taste like the best young Bordeaux wines in great vintages.” Enjoy.