World-Class Lula Cellars
The Lula Cellars Vineyard
Wine adventures in Mendocino County
By Bob Page
The next Napa Valley?
Oenophiles love the question. It’s not to dismiss getting into the hearts and minds of wine lovers, but rather which appellation becomes the most compelling new road heretofore less traveled.
And therefore, into their pocket books.
California is home to 76 appellations or, AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), and anyone who has ever sipped the grape knows about, and has most likely been to Napa and Sonoma or to Santa Barbara and the Central Coast.
As neophyte oenophiles, we decided to stake out a journey to the ruggedly beautiful rolling hills and coastline of Mendocino County.
We knew very little or, more candidly, virtually nothing about Mendocino’s wine country along Route 128, which carves its way from Cloverdale to the coast.
The first few miles motoring west from Cloverdale can easily discourage. The 20 or so miles to Boonville are twisting curves and hills and not a place to be stuck behind a double-wide.
A less than seasoned traveler or, one without a plan, might surrender to the road, and turn back to Cloverdale.
Into Anderson Valley you drop, the skies open and wineries aplenty are in eyeshot. The valley is no more than 15 miles long, best known for its warm, sunny days and cool, foggy nights.
Anderson Valley might easily remind some of an earlier Napa Valley. It is rural and uncrowded. The valley is home to 30 wineries and approximately 40 grape growers. Small though it may be, it continually grows in stature.
So now the question is where do you stop, do you have a map or any semblance of a guide. No, of course not. Isn’t this the fun of travel? Being adventurous.
At a pit stop in Boonville, the convenience store clerk, understated and apolitical, when asked, said, “they’re all terrific.” That’s all we needed.
As the afternoon wore on and after a sip here and a sip there, we said let’s make one last stop before the day ends.
Coming up on the right hand side we saw a dirt road, a small shack and a sign which read, Lula Cellars. We said why not, pulled in and met Jeff Hansen, a bear of a man, winemaker and the owner of Lula Cellars.
A fortuitous decision.
Hearing Hansen’s life story of reinvention made for interesting conversation. From the Art Center of Design in Los Angeles, he became a freelance photographer, doing assignments for some of LA’s largest ad agencies.
“In early 1986, I decided to explore the idea of changing vocations. I was doing well and living in Seal Beach but the odd thing was that I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. So I took some time off and went to Napa Valley. I liked the slower pace of life, put my cameras away and moved to St. Helena,” Hansen said.
He found work at Spring Mountain Vineyards, working for Michael Robbins, a noted winemaker whose chardonnay took fourth place in the fabled 1976 Paris Tasting. From there it was on to Flora Springs Winery after which he started his own label, Amici Cellars.
In 2009, Hansen left the sophisticated environment of Napa, moved to Mendocino and laid the groundwork for Lula Cellars. He opened a small tasting room near Philo and started out with 600 cases of Mendocino Pinot Noir.
Today, Lula Cellars is a Gold Medal award-winning winery. His Pinot Noirs have won Gold Medal, Silver Medal and Double Gold Medal.
To make world class wine, Hansen said, “it takes world class grapes. The grapes must be fermented in a way that allows all of their flavors to be revealed. Next, we use just the right amount of oak barrel aging, which helps to marry the fruit flavors and acids in a harmonious blend.”
Lula Cellars is named for Hansen’s maternal grandmother. “She was a remarkable woman, a single mother after my grandfather passed away. She was an inspiration to all who knew her and naming the winery after her is my way of paying tribute to this noble woman,” Hansen said.
Hansen now produces 3,500 cases annually, between Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, dry Gewurztraminer and a dry Rose of Pinot Noir called Rosato.
You can only buy Lula Cellar wines consumer direct. It’s not available in stores.
Hansen’s Pinot Noir is second to none and as Hansen says it is challenging to make because “it only grows well in a few cold climate areas, and you need four to six different “clones” in order to produce world class wines.”
Hansen has mastered the art.
2800 Guntley Road
Philo, CA., 95466
SAN FRANCISCO’s STANFORD COURT
A majestic princess that has gone
By Bob Page
Eons ago I was a traveling man managing large chunks of United Press International’s worldwide operations. A road warrier in a suit and tie. Days long gone.
The gig demanded leaving home Monday, packed suitcase in hand, hop a jet to wherever I was headed and land in a hotel room, ready to conquer whatever challenge lied ahead.
In those heady days of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, hotels were plentiful in number, but style and class were another matter. The usual assortment of Hiltons, Sheratons and Holiday Inns were around every corner, and if the room was clean, the shower worked and there was a spot for a quick morning coffee, you motored out to your day at hand.
But ah, then there was San Francisco!
Fabulous choices from which to choose.
My choice was the Stanford Court. It was majestic and austere, like a regal princess, and situated perfectly on Nob Hill.
Today, on my first return visit in years, I found it as dignified and magnificent as ever.
The changes, however, are dramatic. It has jump-started itself into the new world of high technology.
Catering to today’s tech-savvy travelers, the Stanford Court had partnered with Powermat, the inventor of the popular wireless charging paltforms. The Powermat augments the hotel’s existing progressive tech amenities. There are designated areas in the property’s lobby, bar and front desk where you can wirelessly charge your iOS and Android devices.
There is free ultra-high speed wireless Internet and complimentary Apple iMac computers and iPads in the lobby for guest use. There is access to ZipCar and electric car charging stations as well. Your Tesla will be right at home.
“We want to tell a story whenever possible that we’re catering to the needs of the modern traveler. We offer access to high-tech amenities and fast Wi-Fi,” said Michael Baier, the hotel’s general manager.
To give visitors to the 393-room property a “sense of place,” the Stanford Court promotes local Bay Area artists and musicians within the hotel.
“We offer an authentic San Francisco experience with a modern perspective, featuring partnerships with local purveyors, sweeping city views, and cool, contemporary accommodations in the heart of Nob Hill,” Baier said.
The hotel has a large scale renovation planned for this year in its continuing effort to “reflect the best of the Bay Area,” Baier added.
A very casual atmosphere comprises the hotel’s dining option. The Aurea Café and Lounge is open for breakfast and dinner. The hotel takes great pride is serving 100 percent of sourced California products, most from less than 50 miles away. It is a partnership designed with small farms, artisanal producers and craft brewers and distillers.
Our visit back to The City by the Bay also gave us a chance to renew an acquaintance with Beach Blanket Babylon, San Francisco’s hilarious pop-culture musical revue. It is the world’s longest running musical. I’m not sure you need to see it as many times as we have but nonetheless it makes for a fun evening.
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without at least one Chinese meal. Tommy Toy’s, the city’s iconic and legendary restaurant favored by locals and A-listers, is no more. Options abound and we found Fang, run by Kathy Fang, whose father founded and continues to run the House of Nanking. If you miss Toy’s be sure not to miss Fang.
In a city with more restaurants than days in a year, we’ve latched on to two which we’ve kept etched in our memory bank: The Boulevard, a very classy and contemporary with “high cotton” cuisine near the Embarcadero, and Trattoria Contadina, an amazing little Italian tucked away in North Beach and a short walk from Beach Blanket Babylon.
It’s already time to go back to San Francisco. It’s the most easily missed city in the country, and a large part of the world as well.