If your idea of wine tasting is sampling quality wine while having a great time, then look no further than Lula Cellars.
Lula, a winery located on the eastern of edge of Philo in the Anderson Valley, is the last winery in the valley before hitting the coast, or as winemaker/owner Jeff Hansen says, “The first winery when you’re coming from the coast.”
Hansen, along with tasting room manager Dan Reed, make it a mission for their guests to have a memorable experience. From the time you arrive and are greeted by Lula’s official greeter – Honey, the winery dog – the fun doesn’t seem to end.
“It’s all about having fun with the wines and having fun with the people,” said Hansen. “We need this to be a good time.”
Hansen is responsible for all wine making as well as overseeing the 20 acres of vineyards that Lula Cellars farms. He has been making wine for more than 25 years, the last five at Lula Cellars. After being born and raised in Los Angeles, Hansen left a career in commercial photography in Los Angeles to pursue a career in the wine industry in Napa Valley.
In Napa he worked at Spring Mountain Vineyards and Flora Springs Winery and he left Napa to start Lula, which is named for his Grandmother.
“It was something I wanted to do to give her recognition for all she has done,” explained Hansen. “That she was a teetotaler is somewhat ironic.”
Lula sells its wine “Direct to the Customer (DTC)”, something not done by many other wineries. If you want the wine – and plenty do – then you buy it at the winery or through the web site.
“We sell it right out the tasting room – no wine shops, nothing,” explained Hansen, who makes around 3,000 cases per year. “We have sold out for six straight years.”
It is easy to see why. In the time we were at the tasting room, people who stopped by stayed for a while, laughed a lot and all walked out after purchasing wine. There were no tastes without buying and you had the feeling it a normal day.
For the most part, it is Reed, a former golf instructor at the Little River Inn, who drives the frivolity in the tasting room.
“Dan is the most amazing person I have ever known,” said Hansen. “Right away he is making friends with the customers and making everyone feel at ease.”
Hansen is hoping to get Lula up to 5,000 cases a year and with the new tasting room open and the new construction on the property to include a wedding area, he is likely to realize his goal.
Lula produces Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Dry Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Rosato, all grown from vineyards in the Mendocino County. The main wine is the Pinot Noir and the wine produced from the temperamental grape is off the charts.
The Peterson Vineyard and Costa Vineyard Pinot Noirs are recent medal winners in competitions, but I will put the Mendocino Pinot right there as well. The Mariah Vineyard Zinfandel also is award winner and a high quality wine I enjoyed.
Lula is about more than tasting great wine. It is a relaxing and laugh-filled experience that makes Lula a must-stop every time you are in the Anderson Valley.
And it’s easy to see why fun is the main point when the directive to enjoy starts at the top.
“We have two rules here,” said Hansen. “One, have fun and two, you’re not breaking rule number 1.”
For more information or to order wine go to www.lulacellars.com
By Dennis Miller