Lake And Mendocino Counties

Hello Everyone,

This week we continue our examination of California’s most prestigious area, the North Coast. This four-county region north of San Francisco includes the state’s most famous region, Napa Valley, as well as one of its least known (which often means bargains), Lake County.

Try a new wine this week!


Wildhurst Vineyards

Lake and Mendocino counties, the northern tier of California’s North Coast wine appellation, share some similarities with the two counties on their southern border — Napa and Sonoma.

First, Mendocino County borders the Pacific Ocean, just as Sonoma County does. Anderson Valley, in southern Mendocino County just across the county line from Sonoma, is cooled by the same ocean breezes as its neighbor, and also makes great pinot noirs. GoldenEye was one of the early names to achieve national prominence, and others are on their way. Another contribution of those cool breezes is great sparkling wines. Scharffenberger and Roederer Estate are two great producers that are famous nationally. (For our newer readers, sparkling wines tend to do best in cooler areas, where tart acidity levels can remain high. Pinot noir and chardonnay are the two grapes most often associated with sparking wines.). Farther north into Mendocino, the

landscape is varied and beautiful, and warmer in vineyard areas a little removed from the coast, like Potter Valley and Redwood Valley north of Ukiah. Here they grow grapes that prefer warmer weather, like cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel, among others.

Great pinots are rarely inexpensive, but those sparkling wines, cabs and zins can be real bargains.

Even farther inland is Lake County, just north of Napa. And, just as Napa Valley has Mount St. Helena, an extinct volcano at its head, across the county line is Mount Konocti. And not only does Mount Konocti supply the local terrain with minerals and a porous nature (both good for wine), it sits near Clear Lake, California’s largest body of fresh water. This gives the vineyard areas a temperature-controlling “coastal effect” without the cold temperatures often found near the coast.

Sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel do well in parts of Lake County, as do many other varietals. And, while maybe they’re better described as “very good” rather than “great,” the prices are often great indeed, a fraction of the cost of an average Napa cab.

One winery that I’ve liked for a long time, and have been selling a lot of this year, is Wildhurst Vineyards. They’ve been there a long time, and have very well established vineyards in prime areas. Owner Myron Holdenreid has grown grapes in Lake County for 30 years and he’s a fifth generation fruit grower. Wildhurst wines retail for about $15 a bottle.

Categories: Legacy Archive