Just north of Sonoma County in Northern California lies Mendocino—a rugged, coastal terrain with striking landscapes and agricultural areas long used for winegrowing.
"Mendocino County, in fact, has been a stealth wine-producing region going back to vineyards planted by immigrants in the 1800s," says Sara Schneider of the Robb Report, "It’s a well-kept secret that much Mendo fruit goes into pricy wines to the south, in Sonoma and Napa Counties (it’s legal to splash in a percentage of wine from outside the named appellation, to keep the cost of goods down); the ringing endorsement in that is that Mendocino fruit is good enough for those wines."
The Mendocino AVA (American Viticultural Area) itself has a dozen other AVAs within it including Anderson Valley, Yorkville Highlands and Mendocino Ridge. Each excels at different varietals due to their slightly different microclimate and soils, though across the board you will find Pinot Noir, Alsatian whites, Chardonnay, Syrah and Zinfandel. And compared to their neighbors to the south, the value is clear.
"Mendocino is like the favorite first cousin to our beloved Sonoma County wines," explains Bottle Barn wine buyer, Barry Herbst, "The wines have many of the finest traits found in our region, bright fruit complex and deep flavors and tremendous consistency. For Pinot Noir in particular, it provides the strongest competition to Sonoma's supremacy with this grape. Pound for pound it is hard to beat from quality and price."
So good, in fact, in recent months there has been a strong push for conjunctive labeling, or requiring wines that list one of the county's appellations to also include "Mendocino County". That way, the county can become better known as a whole for the quality wines being made there.
How's the 2019 vintage shaping up? “We’ve had sufficient water all season thanks to the late rains, so the soils and vegetation in our organic vineyards are looking great, and premature raisining is not a big concern at the moment,” says Joseph Brinkley, Bonterra's director of organic and biodynamic vineyards in the county.
Have you tried any Mendocino County wines before? Let us know your favorites in the comments!
1. 2016 Zinfandelic Mendocino Zinfandel ($12.99)
2. 2018 Husch Anderson Valley Dry Gewurztraminer ($13.49)
3. 2018 Idlewild The Bird Flora & Fauna Red Wine ($20.99)
4. 2016 Drew The Orbaun Mendocino Ridge Syrah ($28.99)
5. 2016 Rhys Vineyards Alesia Anderson Valley Chardonnay ($38.99)
Mobley, E. (2019). An early look at California's 2019 wine harvest.
Schneider, S. (2019). The Next Best Weekend Wine Tour: Mendocino. Robb Report.
Quackenbush, J. (2019). Mendocino County wine business seeks 'conjunctive labeling' for its appellations.