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Travel Tip: Mendocino Wineries

A guide to the region's highlights

Tim Fish
Posted: June 24, 2013

Note: This is an excerpt of an article, "A Wine and Food Tour of Mendocino," that originally appeared in the June 15, 2013 issue of Wine Spectator.

Located 100 miles north of San Francisco, Mendocino County terrain is rugged and mountainous. The landscape is striking, with the Coast Ranges covered in dense redwoods that rise up from the Pacific Coast. Mendo, as locals call it, has a distinctive vibe. Artisanal food producers are increasingly calling it home, and cutting-edge viticulture exists side by side with stubborn, old-school Italian growers who count every dime. About 25 percent of the vineyards are certified organic, and most of the 100-plus wineries are small and family-owned. Here are the winery highlights.

11001 Highway 128, Boonville
Telephone: (707) 895-9589
Website: www.breggo.com
Open: Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Tastings $5; tours free

One of the newest wineries on the scene in Anderson Valley, Breggo opened in 2005 but has already made its mark with a consistent lineup of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs. Winemaker Ryan Hodgins also makes aromatic and elegant bottlings of Anderson Valley Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The small, modern tasting room, located between Boonville and Philo, has big windows and a large porch, with comfortable Adirondack chairs from which to soak in the scenery. Breggo means "sheep" in Boontling, the insider dialect spoken by Anderson Valley locals.

9200 Highway 128, Philo
Telephone: (800) 208-0438
Website: www.goldeneyewinery.com
Open: Daily, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; tastings and tours by appointment
Cost: Tastings and tours $10-$30

This tasting room follows the successful formula founders Dan and Margaret Duckhorn employed for their Napa property—striking a balance between classy and comfortable. Like a large, airy living room, it has huge windows that showcase the view of the vineyards in back. That view is even better enjoyed from a perch outside on the patio, where there is plenty of seating. The focus here is on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and flights are served in sit-down tastings. Goldeneye also offers food-and-wine pairings, and a chance to check out several different single-vineyard bottlings.

3151 Highway 128, Philo
Telephone: (800) 733-3151
Website: www.handleycellars.com
Open: May to October, daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; November to April, daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Tastings free

Milla Handley was a pioneer in Anderson Valley, founding her winery in 1982 and planting Pinot Noir in 1986. In addition to a consistently elegant Pinot, the Handley lineup includes reasonably priced Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The tasting room is one of the most interesting in the area—decorated with the family's international folk art pieces and featuring the work of local artists, it exudes a cool, gallerylike vibe. There's also a shaded terrace and terrific views, as well as an extremely friendly staff.

5601 Highway 128, Philo
Telephone: (800) 537-9463
Website: www.navarrowine.com
Open: Daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; winter, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; tours by appointment
Cost: Tastings and tours free

If there is one must-visit tasting room on your trip to Anderson Valley, it's Navarro. One of the oldest and most successful wineries in the valley, it remains popular for good reason. Its roster of wines celebrates Mendocino's diversity, offering everything from Pinot Noir to Zinfandel on the red side and a spectrum of white wines that includes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Navarro's prices have always been affordable, and the tasting room is welcoming, with beautiful gardens, a dog run and plenty of places to picnic. The tasting room sells picnic supplies, including the local Pennyroyal Farm artisanal sheep and goat cheeses.

4501 Highway 128, Philo
Telephone: (707) 895-2288
Website: www.roedererestate.com
Open: Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; tours by appointment
Cost: Tastings $6; tours free

Founded by Champagne house Louis Roederer, Roederer Estate is one of the top sparkling wine producers in the country, taking advantage of Anderson Valley's cool, foggy climate to produce elegant bubblies. The tasting room is modern and sophisticated, yet very comfortable, featuring couches in a loungelike atmosphere inside and an open terrace outside. Roederer offers flights of wines, including a chance to taste the same wine poured side by side from a standard size (750ml) bottle and a magnum, respectively. Picnicking is encouraged, so consider calling ahead to order the picnic for two that the winery prepares, which features a selection of cheese, salami and other treats from the local Boont Berry Farm.

11684 S. Highway 101, Hopland
Telephone: (707) 670-0199
Website: www.saracina.com
Open: Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; tours by appointment
Cost: Tastings and tours $5-$15

The past and future of Mendocino meet here, in one of the newest and most modern tasting rooms in town. John Fetzer was at the helm of Fetzer Vineyards when it grew to be one of the largest wineries in California in the 1980s and 1990s. Fetzer has since been sold, and Saracina is John's second act, this time tapping the talents of winemaker Alex MacGregor and consultant David Ramey. Formerly the Sundial ranch, Saracina ranch comprises 300 acres of vineyards divided into more than 20 blocks. It's a visual treat to drive up to the stylish tasting room, taking in the old cork trees and Italian red willows. Saracina also has the only wine cave in Mendocino. and it's worth a tour. Atrea The Choir, a white Rhône blend, and Atrea Old Soul Red, a Zinfandel-based mix, are among the strengths.

8001 Highway 128, Philo
Telephone: (707) 895-2828
Website: www.toulousevineyards.com
Open: Daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Tastings $5

Look for the geese signs along the road to point the way up the hill to Toulouse, which hosts one of the most popular tasting rooms in Anderson Valley. You're likely to meet the owners, Vern and Maxine Boltz, in the tasting room, pouring their wines for visitors and swapping stories. The furniture is made out of recycled wine barrels, and the atmosphere here is very informal. Views of the valley from the wood deck will entice you to stick around. Don't let the casual feeling fool you, however—the wines here are seriously good, particularly the Pinot Noirs.

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