Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wines of Mendocino

First a digression to explain why I was so excited to attend this tasting. If you are just here for wine thoughts feel free to skip this paragraph. I had always assumed that I would drink while I was pregnant. Not nightly, but one glass of wine each Saturday night with some sort of decadent dinner. However, it turned out that wine both smelled and tasted awful to me. Which, given life circumstances, was probably a very, very good thing. So instead of my weekly glass of wine, I wanted something else to enjoy. I tried soda and lemonade but both made me feel like a child at the adults table. Silly I know, but honest. Finally at Chez Panisse one night I discovered the joy of Navarro grape juices. Served in a wine glass, I could almost imagine I was having wine. Which, life circumstances again, was very important to me. I had enjoyed Navarro wines pre-pregnancy, but their juices are what convinced me, post pregnancy, to join their wine club. I have yet to regret that decision. For the record, the first glass of wine post pregnancy was a glass of Tempier Rose at Chez Panisse Cafe, 10 days after giving birth, celebrating my first real outing post c-section with my mother. K slept in her carrier on a chair at the table. Maybe that explains her love of rose?

Anyway, when the invitation to attend the wines of Mendocino arrived in my in box I was eager to attend. Not only was there a seminar attached--my love of seminars being well-known, but I've realized over the years that despite my love affair with Navarro, I drink little wine from their neighbors.

First off, the seminar. I have said this too many times to count, but I love a wine tasting with a seminar. Having concluded at some point that I attend tasting more to talk than to taste, a seminar is perfect for me. Educational! Often amusing! Easier to justify to suspicious coworkers when I disappear during the day. Something about saying I am heading to a seminar just goes over better than saying I am off to taste wine. Anyway, Tuesday's seminar was titled "The Grape Grandparents of Mendocino County" and featured numerous speakers including moderator Glenn McGourty and Charlie Barra. From Charlie's delightful look at the beginnings of grape growing in Mendocino through a look at today's green practices in the county it was entertaining and educational- perhaps even all one could ask in a seminar. Highlights included Charlie mentioning that he had been farming organically for 60 years but had only known it for the last 15 and getting a sense of the importance in this region of not just winemakers but of the farmers as well. Given my mother's farming background, I admit to a soft spot for farmers.

I then moved on to the tasting. Usual disclaimer, I made absolutely no attempt to taste everything. I will admit that I left at the end of the day with Navarro remaining at the top of my Mendocino list. But there are more worth seeking out. I'll list a few highlights below:

Chiarito Vineyard 07 Nero D'Avola: As soon as I saw this on the list I had to try it. Turns out that this was the first Nero produced in the US with 03 as the first vintage. At $36 dollars and only 48 cases made, this is not an easy to find everyday wine but worth seeking out.

Demuth Kemos 08 Anderson Valley Chardonnay Indeed, a chardonnay. Another one with limited availability and not one I would drink often. But this was a very well made wine that I would recommend to any CA Chardonnay fans.

Esterlina 07 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Well made, not as overwhelmed with wood as many I tasted.

Foursight Pinots I tasted all three. Of particular interest was the 07 Zero New Oak

Goldeneye I tasted 3 more pinots. My favorite was the 07 Gowan Creek

Londer I liked both the 07 Anderson Valley and the 07 Paraboll pinots.

Navarro Well, I did not taste much of their wine, given that most arrives in my wine club shipments. But, the muscat blanc was lovely and it was really impossible to head home without that bottle of Gewurztraminer.

Phillips Hill More pinots. I liked both the 08 Beeson Tree and the 08 Oppenlander Vineyard.


  1. Thanks for the interesting post. We stayed in Mendocino on our honeymoon last year and were really excited by the quality of wines at Navarro. Despite my expectations, a lot of we had during the rest of the trip was not really to my taste. All these you list are new to me, though, and I'm particularly interested in the Chiarito Nero and the Foursight Zero PN. Thanks for the heads up, as it's always exciting to hear about people in CA trying to break the paradigm.

  2. I was lucky enough to taste John Chiarito's first Nero D'Avola; I was pleased with it and it made a great "bet you don't have one of these in your cellar" gift for my brother.

    This weekend is Hopland Passport weekend, I tasted 59 wines from Mendocino County grapes today, covering about half the wineries, heading back tomorrow.

    Give me a heads up if you come up this way again; I would love to share some of my favorite local wines and wineries with you.


    John Cesano