You’ve probably noticed the beautifully bucolic white picket fence on your way to or from Mendocino. The Goldeneye regal and elegant building is like a beacon inviting you to stop for a tasting. The tasting room experience is likewise as compelling. You’re first welcomed by a warm intimate seating area instead of the typical wine bar landscape. Then, your wines are paired with petite bites selected to enhance the flavors you experience: aged cheddar, raw almonds, and dried cherries. They are the only ones in the valley to do a wine pairing like this and it elevates your spirit. Everyone knows the hallmark flavors in an exquisitely designed Pinot Noir is cherry. But the salty nutty flavor of almonds combined with dried cherries and rich cheese balances the fruit in these delicious wines leaving just the layers of complexity on your palate.
They start with a lush crisp lightly oaked Chardonnay. Then, their quintessential Pinot Noirs with vivacious red fruit of strawberry, raspberry and cherry just might surprise you. Not because the fruit structure is so delightful but because the crisp acidity and hint of spice balance it so well. While there’s a sense of the earth, it’s not too overwhelmingly barnyard or dusty. Be prepared for some sophisticated wines here.
Special occasion meals at the Boonville Hotel are always at this roadhouse restaurant. This month, it is only open on weekends for a prix fixe dinner but every course served would make Julia proud. Farm-to-table fresh ingredients inspire the cooking staff based on the season. So, check the latest menu upon arrival. Their wine list also changes weekly but always has a wide assortment of local juice and bubbles.
The Drew family photos posted around their tasting room make you wish you were part of their family. The wines make you wish you were part of a family dinner. Drew Family Cellars has the only Albarino in Mendocino County. Albarino lovers have probably just left the building. But, those of you who don’t know about this lively white grape, its juice is an amazing pairing for spicy Indian, Thai, or Chinese as well as rich picnic fare of any cuisine. It’s got great acidity and a sliver of minerality with the round fruit of apple and rich citrus of lemon curd.
Then, the reds. Ah, the reds have it all. It’s like girl meets boy all in one sip. Their soft supple fruit flavors are seductive. Yet, the strong structure stays with ya. This small family winery has a big future.
The newest kid on the block in Philo is Baxter yet they were serving some of the oldest wines. They finish their tasting flight with a full Carignan from a 2006 vintage, a grape most would have used for blending because of its rough tannic nature. Yet, Baxter definitely tamed the chewy chalky beast that can overwhelm Carignan. Theirs has a deep dark blueberry and plum purity with light layers of savory licorice. This is from a dry farm, which means the only water they get is from the sky. Dry farmed fruits are stronger having the fight in them to survive, producing more pronounced flavors and character.
Other Baxter wines show similar strength and character. Their Chardonnay has neutral oak so the rich fruit shines through. Their Pinot Noir’s charm might come from its distinctive history. Baxter heard Roederer was grubbing up some old Pinot Noir vines. Not sure why but they often do this when older vines stop producing as many grapes as they’d like. Even though older vines have more complexity, they produce fewer grapes so winemakers have to weigh the cost/benefits of quality and quantity. Luckily, Baxter saved these old vines, replanting them just north of Boonville with surprising success, losing fewer vines in the transition than expected. These must be survivor vines and they sure taste like it. Their Pinot Noir is strong and vibrant with tremendous finish, leaving you wanting another sip long after you’ve left the tasting room.
You’ve got to love a town where the hippy chick sitting next to you at the bar is the organic farmer who grew the broccoli featured in your risotto. No joke! She told me she’d picked it 2 hours ago and that it’s a rare heirloom variety originating in Italy. Dressed on top of the lovely mound of rich rice is the edible flower from this unique plant.
Arugula Broccoli and Bacon Risotto
Succulent and inventive dishes like this and others like Kale Caesar and Duck Mole Tostadas are available here with a wonderful selection of local wines. People in this kitchen definitely have a flair for flavor. Many restaurants tout service with a smile but who can really say they genuinely put their heart in it.
Creamy Celery Soup
Seems like everywhere I go the vines get older and older. At Edmeades, most of the wines came from 100 year old vines or older and their complexity and structure was characteristic of the wisdom with age. Plus, their Zinfandel vines reach above the fog layer on a sunny hillside so they get wonderfully developed fruit yet the coastal influence ensures they are not jammy. Instead, they have pronounced body with balanced acidity and tannins. Here are my favorites:
Note, this is all of them.
Giants are back! It’s only pre-season but Timmy cut off all his hair for the occasion! Now, he looks like his mom had to drive him to the game but, hopefully, it will change his luck on the mound. Does this mean he’s no longer The Freak?
Best place to watch a Giants game in Boonville is the Buckhorn. Fill your belly with no frills pub-a-licious food and the friendly staff is more than happy to put the game on for you. They’ve also got quite a selection of hand crafted brews and local wine. Don’t quite know how but I’ve already become a VIP there and I’m only on day 19 in this town.