Wine Country Itinerary: Mendocino

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By Robert P. Farmer
Of California's many options for wine-touring, few match Mendocino for its bucolic aesthetic and for the drama of its natural beauty. Meandering through the verdant hills, twisting along the highways and byways, visitors are presented with a protracted display of wooded hillsides and expansive grassy, sheep-dotted meadows. And stretching toward the coast, the terrain gets steeper, more mountainous, until finally giving way to the never-ending stretch of blue that is the Pacific Ocean.

Mendocino County is unique among California's wine regions for many reasons, not the least of which is its wines. The climate is rainier in these parts, and the moisture combines with rich volcanic Anderson Valley soil to produce outstanding Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays along side unexpected but equally capable Riesling and Gew├╝rtztraminer. There are several great wineries to be discovered along Hwy. 101 in Mendocino County, and more flanking the state routes that serve as tributaries to the Highway.

Stop 1: Jeriko Estate Vineyards

A gorgeous bit of glamour along Hwy 101 built by Dan Fetzer, whose family has amassed quite a reputation in these parts. Jeriko's expansive and graceful grounds are atypical for area wineries, but the wines perfectly embody the region--certified organically grown chardonnays, pinot noir and merlot. The tasting room and marketplace is always bustling and the pouring staff is dependably friendly and knowledgeable. This is a great spot for sampling the wines, buying your favorite varietal, and enjoying it along with a picnic on the beautiful outdoor patio.
Tasting Room: 12141 Hewlitt and Sturtevant Rd., Hopland Open 10am-5pm daily for tours and tasting.
Tasting Fee: $5; fee waived with purchase

Stop 2: Ukiah Brewing Company
In the good chance your appetite is just getting warmed up after Jeriko, continue north on 101 for a worthwhile stop in Ukiah. Mendocino is home to a handful of great microbrew pubs, and Ukiah Brewing is one of the best. Venturing well beyond typical pub grub, this was the nation's first brewpub to be certified organic. The wide ranging menu--from pasta to burgers--offers great nosh for wine country travelers, while the handcrafted beers provide a refreshing change of pace from the day's tasting.
Tasting Room: 102 S. State St., Ukiah (707) 468-5898. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Tasting Fee:n/a

Stop 3: Meyer Family Cellars
Fans of Napa's Silver Oak (and they are legion) will be interested in stopping at this lovely winery along Hwy 128 because its founder earned his stripes as a founder of the cultish cab house, where he served as winemaker for more than 15 years. Here, in Mendocino's Yorkville Highlands, the late Justin Meyer's legacy lives on in the form of beautifully structured, fruit-forward Syrahs and excellent Port, for which the Meyer Family has become known. The winery is charming and pastoral, with peaceful picnic grounds and bocce ball courts. The tasting room is accessed via a meandering road off 129 at mile marker 34.2. Tastings are typically free.
Tasting Room: 19750 Highway 128, Yorkville, Open Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm
Tasting Fee: Complimentary

Stop 4: Maple Creek Winery
ust beyond Yorkville, the simple life can be rediscovered at Maple Creek Winery. With its dialed-back pace and family-style welcome of each visitor, this is a tough place to leave once you make it there. In the small, rustic tasting room, owner's Tom Rodrigues and Linda Stutz themselves are very likely to be pouring samples of their award-winning Artevino wines, named for their two passions, and for which they have become widely known. Tom art is on view throughout the room. Most of the small-yield wines are only available at the winery.
Tasting Room: 20799 State 128, Yorkville, Open daily 10:30am-5pm.
Tasting Fee: $5; fee waived with purchase

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