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Alsace Fest

Anderson Valley Winegrowers celebrate the land of misfit wines

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As origin stories go, the folks at Cartograph Wines tell a pretty good one.

Here's Alan Baker, sitting in a kayak in the middle of a Wisconsin lake—if it's dusk, all the better—wondering what he's going do with his life, when inspiration strikes, thanks to a bottle of 1998 Alsatian Riesling that he happened to have packed. Then Baker and Serena Lourie, first separately and then together, plot a course for wine town. Until recently, however, there was a big hole in that plot: where's the Riesling?

After five years of searching, Baker finally found a source of Riesling that suited him: Allan Green's Greenwood Ridge Vineyards. "It was one of those fortuitous occasions," says Serena Lourie. "Alan Baker was tasting his wines and said, 'Boy, I'd really love to get those grapes!'" Turns out, Green was thinking of retiring, and he agreed to sell Baker the grapes.

Cartograph's first release, the 2013 Greenwood Ridge Vineyard Riesling ($28), tastes like a success so far. The acidity shimmers like light on water, while the buoyant finish hints at more to come. Like morning mist rising skyward, this wine is slowly winding itself up; in a few years, it just might rain honey. Unlike some other fresh, white wines such as Pinot Grigio, good Riesling doesn't tire out after a few years—some can age like a Cabernet. Baker thinks this one has promise, so he's holding it back for later release—there's only one and a half cases left for sale this year. The 2014 will likely be released in September.

Meanwhile, Cartograph will pour its Riesling at the 10th annual Alsace Varietals Festival Grand Tasting, Saturday, Feb. 7, in Boonville. Hosted by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, but open to all who have the good taste and daring to grow the traditional white grapes of France's Alsace region—Muscat, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris—the festivities include a winemaker dinner, educational seminars with speakers including Thomas Schlumberger of Domaines Schlumberger, and a walk-around tasting with 30 wineries and 100 wines from Anderson Valley and around the world, including New York, Alsace and New Zealand; local restaurants and inns contribute tasty bites.

Held in the fairground's library, the festival is a comfortably scaled event where you can taste and chat without the crush of a crowd. After all, it takes a bit of inspiration to get up here.

The 10th annual International Alsace Varietals Festival, Feb. 6–8, 2015 is held at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds, 14400 Hwy. 128, Boonville. Grand tasting, Feb. 7, 1–4pm; tickets, $65, at www.avwines.com. Cartograph Wines, 340 Center St., Healdsburg. Daily noon–6:30pm. Tasting fee, $10. 707.433.8270.

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