After the California Gold Rush in the 1850’s immigrants found other riches in the soil, gold that grew on vines! Returning farmers failing to find riches in solids found it in liquids, starting the first Mendocino County Vineyards in the Redwood Valley! When prohibition struck the burgeoning wine industry was eradicated only to come back stronger than ever. The longest operating Mendocino Vineyard dates back to 1931 by Parducci Wines, that’s still in business to this day!
Mendocino County has a diverse set of climates all suitable to various wines. In the eastern part of the county one can find wines more suitable to warmer climate where the oldest vineyards were established and produce spectacular wines to this day.
There’s too many great wineries to list, but here’s some of our favorites!
You can taste the Campovida wines at the winery’s tasting bar near Jack London Square in Oakland, but if you’re driving north it’s worth stopping at the bucolic winery in Hopland, where you can wander among many acres of trees with a glass of wine in hand. This would be a great place for a picnic. While you’re in the area, consider stopping at the owners’ nearby restaurant and inn, Piazza de Campovida.
Jason and Molly Drew make some of the best wines in Mendocino County, and they’re known — rightfully so — for their gamey, meaty Syrah. Visit their small, storefront tasting room in the Madrones complex in Philo, near the deep end of Anderson Valley, though many of their wines come from outside of this Pinot-centric valley. The Valenti Ranch Syrah is a special treat.
Foursight is a boutique operation specializing in Pinot Noir. The petite tasting room nestled near the vineyards offers a set of single-vineyard Pinots, which fall at the lighter, more delicate end of Anderson Valley examples. The Semillon, a rarity in these parts, is a pleasure. Call ahead if you’d like to arrange for a picnic basket.
Long Meadow Ranch
The newest addition to the Anderson Valley tasting room roster is an old-timer from Napa Valley: Long Meadow Ranch, which purchased a formidable 145-acre estate here in 2015 with the goal of adding cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to its portfolio. Noted winemaker Stephane Vivier makes the wines from this vineyard. (Long Meadow Ranch also bought the Napa Valley Chardonnay winery Stony Hill Vineyard last year.) At the tasting room in the Madrones complex, you can sit at a big communal table and choose either an Anderson Valley-only flight or a flight that includes the Napa Valley wines. Espresso is also available, if you need a pick-me-up. The winery still runs its original St. Helena tasting room too.
Come to Pennyroyal Farm for the wine and cheese, stay for the baby goats. This beautiful winery and dairy is the first sign to welcome you to Anderson Valley if you’re approaching from the south; don’t miss a chance to stop in for a tasting, a bite of lunch or, if you can spare the time, a farm tour. Owned by Sarah Cahn Bennett, whose parents own Navarro Vineyards in Philo, Pennyroyal makes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all of which pair nicely with the fresh, tangy, soft cheeses they craft in house.
For a history buff, Phillips Hill may present Anderson Valley’s most interesting stop: The tasting room is an apple-drying facility from the late 1800s — a time when this part of Mendocino County was full of apple orchards, not vineyards. A visit here, overlooking a peaceful creek, is a great opportunity to taste a set of charming Pinot Noirs and one of the valley’s best Rieslings. Take note of the beautiful wine labels, too; winery owner Toby Hill, an artist, designed them.
Anderson Valley may be known for aromatic white wines and Pinot Noir, but Roederer Estate’s decades of success prove that this coastally influenced valley is a great spot for making sparkling wine too. A laid-back, walk-up tasting bar offers the chance to taste through several sparkling cuvees — and even some still wines, which are tasting room-exclusives. The estate is owned by the French Champagne company Louis Roederer, which owns two additional Anderson Valley wineries: Scharffenberger, another sparkling wine label at a slightly lower price point than Roederer; and Domaine Anderson, a newer winery specializing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as still wines.
In an industrial shack outside of Hopland, Terra Savia is an eclectic spot to visit for wine and olive oil tastings. The space, which includes an art gallery, is adjacent to the organic vineyard, plus gardens, olive trees and a lot of animals. (There’s even an aviary on-site.) Ten dollars gets you tastes of wine and/or olive oil; pay special attention to the Merlot.