Check out our Mendocino County wine map!
It used to be that when wine connoisseurs spoke about great California wines, they were usually referring to those produced in the prolific wine-growing regions of Napa and Sonoma, just north of San Francisco. These days, however, a new region is coming into play - offering Napa and Sonoma some serious competition. Mendocino wineries are among the most-highly acclaimed new wine producers of the past decade and the popularity of wines produced in this Northern California region continues to grow.
There are nearly 50 wineries located throughout Mendocino County, ranging from new "boutique" wineries to large establishments that have called Mendocino home for a number of years. Visitors are welcome at a large majority of the wineries, so be sure to include a little Mendocino wine tasting on your itinerary while you're visiting the county.
The Wine-Growing Regions
Generally, Mendocino vineyards are separated into three regions: Anderson Valley, Redwood Valley/Ukiah, and Hopland. Each is forging a reputation of their own.
The 15-mile-long inland Anderson Valley is probably the most well-known of the three regions. Anderson Valley is a designated Region 1 growing area, which means that it's the coolest climate in which grapes may be commercially grown with any success. Experts not that "the combination of warm sunny days and cool foggy nights and mornings allow the grapes from this region to mature slowly and to develop to the height of their varietal character."
Anderson Valley wineries grow most Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and White Riesling varietals. You might also find a few vineyards that grow Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel.
The very first Mendocino wineries were established in the Russian River valley by Italian immigrants who arrived in the 1870s. This region runs from north of Ukiah to the Redwood and Potter Valleys. Though winemaking here dates back more than a century, the region wasn't recognized by wine-growing experts until about 10 years ago.
The Redwood Valley is becoming well-known for producing excellent chardonnay, hillside reds, and cognac-quality brandy. Berry-spiced zinfandels, fragrant merlot, and rich cabernet sauvignon round out the menu of fine wines produced by dedicated winemakers at the dozen or so Redwood Valley wineries.
Located on Highway 101, the tiny town of Hopland is home to a healthy handful of excellent wineries that are slowly but steadily making a name for themselves in the wine-growing industry. This area produces zinfandel, cabernet, petite syrah, and wines representing heritage Italian and Rhone varietals.
There are also a few wineries on the Mendocino coast, located between the towns of Mendocino and Westport. They produce a small crop each year; less than their inland neighbors due to the chillier weather.
If beer is your thing, you'll want to include stops at a few Mendocino breweries. Four brew pubs are scattered throughout the county - one each in Anderson Valley (Boonville), Hopland, Fort Bragg, and Ukiah. Each boast a number of different brews and many have won awards for their excellent quality and unique flavor.
What better way to sample the fruits of the county than by embarking upon a Mendocino wine tour? Some wine fanatics choose to visit all the wineries in the county, taking several days to complete the "wine driving loop", a 140-mile journey that will take you to more than two dozen wineries and through some of the county's most breathtaking scenery. Others choose one particular wine-growing region - Anderson Valley, Redwood Valley, or Hopland - and concentrate on visiting the vineyards of that particular area.
Most of the wineries have tasting rooms, offering a wide selection of various wines for your enjoyment. Many visitors choose a guided wine tasting tour via a luxury vehicle, eliminating the need to drive themselves and risk driving while intoxicated. These package tours are often combined with meals and even sightseeing, providing guests with an enjoyable day (or more) in Mendocino County.
Wine & Beer Related Festivals
Mendocino County loves festivals and many of them are linked with the excellent Mendocino wineries located here.
The annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is held each May and it includes a technical conference for winegrowers, meals, tastings, and much more. The Hopland Passport is held twice a year - in May and October. This event draws wine aficionados from far and wide, with two days of tastings, food, fun, and musical entertainment.
The Wine Tasting Championships, for both novice and expert tasters, are held in Boonville each July and the annual Winesong! charity auction and wine tasting is held each September near the village of Mendocino, raising funds for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital. Wine and Crab Days, taking place in January, lets you sample pairings of delectable crab dishes with some of the finest vintages available from many Mendocino wineries.