Next Gen Mendo

These vintners are putting Mendocino back on the California wine map.

Published on Aug 22, 2012
Gen Mendo

To get to some of the most beautiful vineyards in Mendocino, it can take driving a solid 30 minutes from a main road, winding through redwoods and forestry operations, past homesteads and along dirt roads. And that’s considered accessible. There are other vineyards that are even more remote.

As a result, the people committed to growing grapes and making wine here look at the world differently. For them, it’s not about the showcase winery, hanging out with wine glitterati or dining with celebrity chefs at the latest hot spot.

It’s almost exclusively about the wine.

Some have grown up in the area, and it’s what they know. Others left and came back to restore a family legacy. And then there are those who made wine elsewhere and ruled out other suitors, putting down deep stakes in Mendocino, a vast county of hot and cold climates, old and new vines and a reputation in the wine world that’s still theirs to shape.

This is Mendocino, a region already famous for Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but one that also excels with cool-climate white wines, old-vine Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Syrah.

The county encompasses 2.4 million acres. Just 16,400 acres produce wine grapes, spread among 11 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). According to the Mendocino Winegrape & Wine Commission, Mendocino also boasts the highest percentage of certified-organic and biodynamic grapes in the nation.

Heirloom apples and pears still grow here, as do trees for the logging industry and, albeit clandestinely, marijuana—an underground business that has kept many in Mendocino afloat during tough economic times.

While established wineries like Fetzer and its offspring, Bonterra, continue to evolve and innovate, here are some of Mendocino’s new wave of wine producers worth checking out.

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