So I got this email from an editor way back east asking for a story about a brand new AVA in Mendocino, called “Dos Rios.” He wanted a description of the whole area and all the wineries in it, and suggested it could be a launching point for a story about the whole county. I read and re-read the message, wondering if he was pulling my leg.
The thing is, Dos Rios is a tiny town in white-water rafting country, rugged lumberjack country, ain’t-no-one-out-here-but-us-critters country. It’s beautiful, but has got to be one of the last places in California you would put a wine region. Wineries there would be well north of any others I’ve seen in Mendocino. Or California for that matter.
But hey – if there are a bunch of winery estates somewhere that I’ve never heard of, with a shiny new appellation that captures their commonality, let me at ‘em.
An hour later, I put down the phone after a conversation with Steve DeTevis, co-owner (with his wife Carol) of Vin DeTevis: the one and only vineyard and winery in the Dos Rios appellation. Solamente uno, amigos.
I had already looked at the application that wine regions have to make to the federal bureaucracy in order to get an appellation approved, and knew that the DeTevises' names were not on it. So for my first question, I asked Steve if he was involved in the new AVA anyway.
“Oh heck no!” he laughed. “The guy who applied for Covelo [a small valley in northern Mendocino] did Dos Rios at the same time.” I asked why. Another laugh. “Beats me.”
I asked if the appellation approval was going to be a boon for Vin DeTevis. A chuckle this time. “I doubt it. We’re just up here by ourselves, having fun.” Wouldn’t a flood of visitors to his tasting room be a good thing? Another laugh. (I wish all interviewees found me so amusing.) “It’s not like we’re doing this for money!”
Turns out the Steve and Carol found a patch of paradise at the junction of the Eel River and its Middle fork, where the water moderates the temperature and the hillsides catch the afternoon sun. They grow mostly reds and some Chardonnay. They taught themselves the wine business, and do pretty much all the vineyard and winery work themselves. “We wave at the kayakers,” Steve said, “but they don’t stop in to taste. One rafting outfit did put us on its website, though.”
I felt myself falling in love. Then I went to the Vin DeTevis website (www.vindetevis.com) and looked at the wine lineup. My heart jumped up in my chest. Cabernet Sauvignon for $15. Zinfandel for $12. Chardonnay for $8. Pinot Noir for $8. Eight bucks! I challenge you to find Pinot Noir by the glass for that price!
I remembered that Steve had called the DeTevis Cabernet Franc “killer,” and I was fully prepared to believe it from someone so genuine. It was priced at $15 for the 2000 vintage, which means it probably has enough bottle age to hit Cab Franc’s late-arriving sweet spot. Next time I’m in Dos Rios (or anywhere within 20 miles of it), I’m stopping in.
So my hat’s off to that cagey, ear-to-the-rail editor way back east. Goes to show you that your next winery discovery can come from just about anywhere --- and be just about anywhere.
- Thom Elkjer
Check out my regular wine coverage at www.winecountry.com.