One of the original counties of the state, Mendocino lies around two-hundred-and-fifty kilometres north of San Francisco - far from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, but not so far that the distance deters day trippers and tourists from hopping into their hire car and heading north to experience a unique area which retains so much of its rural charm. A dramatic rugged coastline, unspoilt natural landscapes and enchanting forests of redwoods that cover such a large proportion of the county’s ten-thousand square kilometres, along with some of the state’s most acclaimed wine producers make Mendocino an intriguing stop on any tour of the west coast.
Winemaking has been a part of the landscape here since the gold rush and nowadays there are six-thousand hectares under vine with the southern half of the county seeing a much higher concentration of vineyards, largely on account of its climate. There is however considerable diversity in microclimate between each of Mendocino’s eleven sub-appellations with inland AVAs experiencing a much wider diurnal temperature range and coastal vineyards being more exposed to the moderating effects of the ocean breeze and its cooling fog. Anderson Valley AVA - to the east of Mendocino - ranks amongst the coolest Californian regions and has attracted attention not only from consumers and critics enamoured with the area’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varietals, but also from the French Champagne house Louis Roederer, who have now established vineyards here.
Non-surprisingly, conditions in Mendocino enable a wide range of red and white varieties to thrive. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are amongst the dark skinned grapes grown across the county’s AVAs, whilst Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer are whites which have also proven to flourish in this part of Northern California.
The pace here is slower than in some of the state’s more famous viticultural areas such as Napa or Sonoma, but the seemingly casual demeanour of Mendocino’s growers and winemakers masks a very serious group of professionals whose amiability is matched by their passion for producing good value, high quality wines. From sleek Pinot Noir varietals with generous character to wonderfully balanced Rieslings and traditional, complex, sparkling wines, the estates of Mendocino find perfect pitch with every note.