Parlez-vous Boontling?

I was recently in the Anderson Valley. Never heard of it? You're not alone. Napa Valley gets most of the wine country love in Northern California. But Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, about 100 miles from San Francisco, deserves some affection. Take the 101 and exit at Cloverdale. Once through town, hang a left on highway 128. This 60-mile, twisty two lane lollygag will take you all the way to the mighty Pacific Ocean. Along the way you'll see gnarly oaks and redwood trees, soak up some small town charm, and pass plenty of wineries. The "big city" in these parts is Boonville (population roughly 1,000) with its four whole blocks of cafes, wine tasting rooms, shops, a hotel, and general smalltowness. More interesting for me, however, was the discovery of its language--- Boontling.

Anderson Valley is known for its Pinot Noir and Alsatian grape varieties

Anderson Valley is known for its Pinot Noir and Alsatian grape varieties

Don't worry---you won't need a dictionary to visit the 30+ wineries sprinkled over the 10 miles between Boonville to the east and Navarro to the west. The 'language' is more folkloric than pragmatic. Still, as a native Californian, I enjoyed learning that such a thing existed. And it's not at all like, OMG, Valley Girl talk (gag me with a spoon!).

Based on English (with Scottish, Gaelic, Spanish, Irish and Pomoan influences), Boontling was invented in Boonville in the late 19th century when it was an isolated logging and agricultural town. Apparently, it had quite a following by the turn of the 20th century. Now Boontling, if it is spoken at all, is the habit of a few aging native Anderson Valley-ites or young wine tasting room hosts hoping to impress visitors (speaking from experience). Despite its trajectory into oblivion, the jargon has over a thousand unique words and phrases. That's a richer vocabulary than some presidents have, heh? Ahem.

So, do you want to harp? Here are a few words you brightlighers can try out on your apple heads during your next visit to California's OTHER wine country.

Brightligher: city dweller

Apple head: girlfriend

Boont: Boonville

Bahl hornin: cheers!

Fratty: wine

Fratty shams: vineyard

Harp: to speak Boontling

Zeese: coffee

The Boonville General Store serves breakfast and lunch.

The Boonville General Store serves breakfast and lunch.

Navarro is just one of the many wineries open to the public, and where I happened to learn a few words of Boontling

Navarro is just one of the many wineries open to the public, and where I happened to learn a few words of Boontling

Comment

Kimberley Lovato

Kimberley Lovato has written about travel, lifestyle and food for national and international publications and websites including National Geographic Traveler, Executive Travel, American Way, AFAR, Condé Nast Traveller (UK), Ryan Air, b.there, Easy Jet Traveller, leitesculinaria.com and frommers.com, among others. She is the author of a Michelin Guidebook on Brussels, where she lived for six years Her culinary travel book, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, about the Dordogne region of France, won the "Best Travel Book" nod in 2012 from the Society of American Travel Writers, as did her personal essay, "Lost and Liberated," which also appeared in Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8. When she's not plotting her next trip or her annual pilgrimage to France, she resides in San Francisco where she is a correspondent for BBC's Passport Blog, a student in Stanford University's Creative Writing Certificate program, and a brave mother of a teenaged girl.