Beautiful Mendocino: Our Hidden Wine Country
A couple of hours north of San Francisco sits one of our most intriguing and diverse wine growing regions in California. Mendocino contains 10 separate appellations, from the majestic Navarro Redwoods on the coast, the golden, oak spotted hills of inland Mendocino, the still bucolic Anderson Valley, and the ‘island in the sky’ mountain tops that hover above the fog line.
This is one of the few spots left in California that boasts small, family run-wineries with tastings for free. This is the place with the highest concentration of organically grown and dry farmed grapes. This is also the place that supplied grapes to the more well known AVAs such as Sonoma and Napa Valley to beef up their wines and production for many years without credit for the grape sourcing.
The wines reflect the nature of the folks that thrive here: unpretentious, laid back, and vibrantly fresh and honest. This is also the place that’s at the forefront of the next generation wine movement, which involves experimenting with different and unique wine varieties, many of which were the original vines brought here by our earliest immigrants.
I was lucky to spend over fifteen years up in and around this special part of the world, and it influenced my love of wines quite a bit. I dream of the beauty of this place often, and I highly suggest you find the time to visit this magical spot! Until then, I invite you to join me Friday night, February 2nd at 7:30pm for a delightful taste through the incredible diversity of this up-and-coming region.
We’ll start with a toast:
This extremely rare and highly sought after bubbly is sure to get us off to a proper start. This perfectly situated property in the heart of the valley is mostly planted to Pinot Noir, and this little gem has been a labor of love and one of the most sought after bottlings among the northern California wine scene. This is not to be missed!
Then I will be pouring:
Chris Brockway crafts pure and true wines from unique varieties with minimal intervention at his urban winery in Berkeley. Counoise is usually used as a blending grape in it’s native southern Rhone valley, France, and there is very little planted in the U.S. The patch up at 1800 ft. in the Mayacamas Mtns. at Eaglepoint Ranch is special though, and Chris rightly bottles it on its own. Fresh and vibrant strawberry with delicate carnation flowers mix with heady and savory heather, subtle thyme and pink peppercorn. Absolutely delicious!
$23.99 per bottle
This has always been one of my favorite producers from my years up north. This is a tiny family operation with just 12 meticulously farmed acres, and Jeff Gaffner is an amazing winemaker. The Winery is named for the endangered black-shouldered Kite that can frequently be seen flying over the vineyard. This vintage was perfect in the cool, ocean influenced Anderson Valley, and the Kite’s Rest shows dark cherry fruit and sweet brown spice aromatics with coffee and cream notes. Bright Bing cherry and wild berry are supported by fine grained tannins with incense and leather on the palate. Great with braised beef and Porcini mushrooms.
$46.99 per bottle
2014 Navarro, Pinot Noir, Methode L’Ancienne, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, CA
The Cahn Bennett family has been producing wines from this beautiful valley since 1974. Most of their wine is sold directly to their customers, so we are especially lucky to have their flagship Pinot Noir here at The Wine Country. This is quintessential Anderson Valley Pinot and a great reflection of the warm and dry vintage: pure black cherry and juicy mountain raspberry, freshly turned potting soil, soft cinnamon and nutmeg with hints of lavender lure you in. The texture is velvety and the finish goes on and on. This is the family’s flagship Pinot and a perfect example of the best of Anderson Valley.
This has always been one of my favorite vineyards for Pinot. Tucked away in the small hamlet of Comptche just inland from the rugged coast and surrounded by stately redwoods, this family owned plot has been farmed with care for 3 generations. Dark and brooding, with warm sage, sous bois, wild mushroom and worn leather, then turning to rich black cherry and raspberry. The palate is smooth and unctuous, a satisfying blend of fruits and earth, and lingers for minutes with hints of dried herbs and rose petal. This is the perfect match for venison or wild boar with soft polenta and wild forest mushrooms.
$42.99 per bottle
Mike and Kendall Officer built this winery from the ground up, making wine for years in their garage, before Carlisle. They make meticulously crafted single vineyard old vine Zinfandel from special sites throughout the state. The Dupratt Vineyard sits high above the Anderson Valley up in Mendocino on the ridge line right next to the great Pacific ocean. This AVA is special in that it is defined by elevation. The sites that qualify peak out above the daily fog that evelopes this coast, so that from the air, the patches of vineyard look like islands in the fog. This Zinfandel represents one of the oldest planted plots up in this area first settled by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s, and is a unique expression of the grape with ripe and juicy mixed forest berry, but also clear notes of fresh conifer forest that surround the vineyard.
$43.99 per bottle
The crew at Lioco always manage to coax out the elegant side of things, and that’s especially important when dealing with this burly grape variety! These old vines give very little fruit, but with such intense concentration. They take that flavor and make a wine that’s light and crisp with juicy Montmorency cherries as well as pomegranate and smoked meaty notes with a nice touch of sage and rosemary. This is such a cool wine, and definitely worth a try if you want to be wowed by Carignan! Pair with roast pork dishes as well as crispy skin chicken thighs for a real treat.
$26.99 per bottle
Carol Shelton is one of the best known Zin producers on the North coast, and for good reason! Her Zins are expressive, aromatic and downright delicious. This Zin is named for the wild yeast fermentation which Carol helped discover back in the 80’s as contributing to different flavors coming through. This lovely Zin is from very old vines and is a field blend with a little Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Alicante Bouschet lending support. It exhibits a pretty nose of ripe strawberry, mixed mountain berries, violet and a spicy mineral note. On the palate, this wine is smooth and creamy, with a long finish. It pairs perfectly with Carol’s Zin braised duck with mascarpone polenta or Moroccan pork stew.
$18.99 per bottle $11.99 per half bottle
2014 Navarro Vineyards, Late Harvest Riesling, Cluster Select,
Anderson Valley, Mendocino, CA
This Riesling is extremely rare, tiny production stuff and is purely a labor of love for the hardworking folks at Navarro: handpicked in several tries through the vineyard waiting for the noble botrytis to take hold and pressed ever so gently with an antique basket press. This is nectar for the gods! Not available anywhere else, we are so lucky and thankful to get a little of this sweet juice to share with you. Unctuous and luscious with juicy acidity, the flavors unfold with apricot jam, ginger marmalade, honey, chamomile, and quince. This is gorgeous now, but will age 15+ years!
Plus, quite a few more special wine selections, so don’t miss this opportunity for a tasting adventure you won’t forget!
Beautiful Mendocino: Our Hidden Wine Country
Seminar, Friday, February 2nd, 7:30pm, Just $40 per person
at The Wine Country Signal Hill Call (562) 597-8303 for Reservations.