Wine Region Profile: Mendocino Ridge AVA

Want to try great red wine from one of the most unique California appellations, with a lengthy winemaking history?

There is one American Viticultural Area in the US that does not share a feature with any other AVA. Mendocino Ridge is the only non-contiguous AVA in America. Only vineyards on elevations of 1200 ft. or higher are included and any grapes grown lower than that fall into the surrounding Mendocino County or Anderson Valley appellations.

What is Unique About the Mendocino Ridge AVA?

Coastal, cool climate and high altitude Mendocino Ridge’s boundaries encompass the coastal elevations near the Pacific Ocean and extending inland toward the Anderson Valley. The Sonoma County line is the southern boundary, the Navarro River is the northern boundary.  This AVA shares a lot of features with the Sonoma Coast, but its vineyard sites are often sitting above the fog that travels inland from the Pacific Ocean, making the tips of the mountains look like islands in the sea of fog. It’s only the ridge tops that are planted with grapes, which has a tradition tied to Italian immigrant settlers. Each vineyard (and winery) is on its own, and conditions can be somewhat harsh, including significant wind. This results in lower vigor but higher concentration in the grapes, which feature thicker skins typical to such “mountain fruit.”

In comparison with lower elevations in Anderson Valley, Monterey Ridge is cooler and with less diurnal variation, which makes sense because the daytime temperatures do not rise as much as lower elevations. Soils have very good drainage, in part because of the extreme surrounding slopes. Average annual rainfall average is 58 inches, which allows for dry farming. Just 75 acres of the entire viticultural area are planted. Although Mendocino Ridge was only approved as an AVA in 1997, it has some of the oldest vineyards in the region, very often panted to Zinfandel, following the pattern of the Italians who first created homes here. The legacy of the these “mountain vignerons” is honored today, as Mendocino Ridge is as acclaimed as producing some of the very best, most distinctive, concentrated Zinfandel red wines anywhere in California.

What is a Great Zinfandel from Mendocino Ridge?

A perfect example, made using natural wine techniques, is 2019 Spider Chase 'Gianoli Ranch' Zinfandel, Mendocino Ridge. This wine has a typical Mendocino Ridge story behind it. The Gianoli family immigrated from Prata, Italy to Mendocino in 1882 and soon after planted 20 acres of Zinfandel vines in typical soils derived from broken-down sandstone, which are nutrient-poor but very deep and allow the vines to absorb abundant minerality. These vines are own-rooted and dry farmed.

This red wine to buy online features a classic Zinfandel with aromas of allspice, red cherry, and red & black berry compote. Medium weight on the palate it presents cherry and raspberry flavors with striking acidity. This rare California red wine from a very unique appellation can be easily ordered and shipped across the USA!

Written By: - Charlie Leary

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