It’s quite stimulating to see the personality of an entire California wine area emerge amongst all of its different influences. Mendocino County winemakers have a distinctive quality to make a difference and leave the planet better than they found it. It was not only the first county to sell solar panels and alternative energy products, but the first to ban GMOs. It has something like 5 times the organic acreage of Napa and Sonoma. It’s like all the business people trying to develop a lucrative wine industry didn’t come this far north. The ones who came to this county probably did so to get away from industry and live off the grid.
Mendocino County’s oldest winery had some of the newest ideas of its neighbors to the south. Parducci is 100% off the grid. They reclaim 100% of their water, allow nature to treat it, and feed it to the vines simply by creating a habitat for nature to do what it’s intended to do. They’ve got about a dozen owl boxes on the vineyard that attract barn owls who do natural pest control so they don’t have a rodent problem. Sheep take care of their weeds and chickens manage the insects.
But the best part is their wine. Cash in on these low impact solutions that provide you with higher savings. All are worth trying. But the fave for the day is their True Grit Petite Sirah for its hearty blackberry and plum, dark chocolate, and long lux finish. If you can buy wine just about anywhere, why not get it from a place you feel good about and support these values.
Take a taste of their organic wildflower honey, extra virgin olive oil, or wine and feel confident that you are protecting wildlife that would be endangered if their land was developed. You’re also supporting local farms, small business, and lower carbon emissions. Can you tell yet this place has the right ideas?
But, back to the wine, I guess I don’t have to tell you that they believe proper treatment of the vines rewards you with less work in the cellar. Not that the wine makes itself. But they take a minimalistic approach to say the least. They produce mostly Bordeaux varietals without the high Napa Valley prices. Due to the climate in their unique location at the north end of the Russian River, they are also able to produce Chardonnay and sparkling wine. If you are a Petit Verdot follower, and we know you’re out there, Terra Savia produces one on its own. Usually part of Bordeaux blends, this wine has soft supple tannins with elegant fruit flavor, brilliant deep purple color, and a long finish.
On the second Saturday of each month, several tasting rooms in Hopland celebrate by offering special wine discounts, food pairings, and live music. If you want to get a taste of the town that has the most solar power per capita in the world, visit Hopland on the right bank of the Russian River east of Mendocino. Here, you’ll find a bigger variety of grapes since they are inland from Boonville and can grow lots more than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Here’s where you can get a tasting of three uniquely different reserve cabs from Mendocino, Sonoma, and Napa. Taste side by side, notice how each of them hits your mouth in different parts, and then taste the Trio: a blend of all three. The last one gives that velvet as it wakes up all parts of your mouth.
For a taste of Italian wines in downtown Hopland, check out Graziano. They have more than one label to showcase their different styles. Of course they do Burgundian styled Pinot Noirs from the coastal areas. But also classic Tuscans from a bit inland. Another label covers Piedmonte styled wines like Barbera and Dolcetto. And finally a bit of California from the Redwood Valley to cover famed zin and Petite Sirah. You could really go around the world at this place.
Last Saturday, they were pouring two of those Coro wines that have the ultimate signature characteristics of the county. Both are limited release so not sure how much longer you’ll be able to taste two vintages side by side. But worth the trip if you can get there soon.
Cesar came from Mexico and worked his way through many different vineyards and cellars in the valley. Now, his small family winery is known for their Zinfandel after winning at the ZAP festival (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers). ZAP must be so relieved we don’t call it Primitivo!
Piazza de Campovida
If you are ever in the north end of the Russian River and need a place to stay, look up Campovida. It is a delightfully decorated and exquisitely maintained boutique inn right in downtown Hopland. Their tavern downstairs serves handcrafted beers and Italian pub food that goes with it on a beautiful patio.
Walk across the street or down the street to one of many local tasting rooms. You’ll have a hard time finding a bad wine here.