Pacific Star Winery (www.pacificstarwinery.com) isn’t at the end of the world, but it’s on the edge, situated about as close to the water as a winery can get.
This tiny winery in Mendocino is located on the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline, on Hwy. 1, a few hundred feet from the rolling waves. It’s well off the beaten path, even by Mendocino standards. You can get there through Fort Bragg, a small city that was founded on its logging and fishing industries. (It's about a four-hour drive from San Francisco.) As I drove to Pacific Star last Saturday, I passed a hotel advertising a lumberjack breakfast, a brew pub, Woody’s Weld-All and a rustic repair yard. I also passed through Inglenook, a hamlet that I’d never heard of. From there, Hwy. 1 moves closer to the sandy beaches, and trees along the road form a tunnel over the pavement.
Pacific Star is one of the most unusual winery sites I’ve seen. Oak barrels of aging wine are stacked outdoors, since the temperature stays a steady 58 degrees, or cooler, year round. A large U.S. flag is situated in the middle of a picnic area of wooden, sun-bleached lunch tables. The bottom level of the two-story facility serves as the winery’s cellar and tasting room.
Owner and winemaker Sally Ottoson is a Mendocino native who has also lived and worked in wine in Napa Valley. She prefers the coast lifestyle, so she built her winery here instead of in the valley. “I wanted people to come here and experience this,” she said, waving her arm in the direction of the ocean. It’s too cool for grapes here, or she’d grow them. Instead she buys her fruit from the inland areas of Mendocino.
Pacific Star’s wines are an eclectic mix of tradition, with Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel, along with Carignane, Viognier, Barbera and Charbono, including a blend of those two grapes (called Charbera), from Mendocino are also produced here. I liked the 2003 Chardonnay Pamela’s Vineyard and the 2004 Coro Mendocino red, a blend that includes most of the aforementioned red grapes. Coro is a group of Mendocino wineries that feature homegrown grapes.
The only wine Ottoson doesn’t make is Cabernet—information she seemed to reveal with satisfaction, knowing I’m from Napa and love Cabernet.
It was fun to stand in Ottoson’s tasting room, watch her pour her wines and listen to visitors taste and describe what they were drinking. Many of the visitors wandered over to the picnic tables for lunch, with a calm, glassy sea and waves crashing up against the rocks.
It’s quite an experience, one that lovers of exotic or eccentric winery locations will surely enjoy.
Roy Piper — Napa, CA. — August 20, 2007 9:50pm ET
Jo Diaz — Windsor, CA — August 29, 2007 3:04pm ET
Wayne Humphreys — Orlando Fl — April 23, 2012 9:50pm ET
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