Mendocino county may not match your palm-trees-and-beaches picture of California, but their wine is sure to leave an impression on you. Head north up the California coast, past Sonoma and you’ll find isolated shorelines, towering redwood trees and the ridgelines that make up Mendocino’s rugged terrain. Here small wineries dot the hillsides in a wine region where until recently the good juice was enjoyed by locals only. But, now that the locals are sharing, it’s time you got your swirl on with these fruit-forward, sometimes savory and always interesting wines.
California’s Rugged Wine Country
Mountain ranges, ridgelines, the Pacific Ocean and the Russian River all influence the region’s diverse growing conditions and the wines that they produce. Vineyards closer to the coast, like those in Anderson Valley and Mendocino Ridge tend to be cool and damp, thanks to the Pacific Ocean influence. Here the focus tends to be on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Further east the mountain ranges provide protection from the fog, rain and cool air. These vineyards, like those in Redwood Valley, tend to enjoy a warmer, more Mediterranean climate than their western counterparts. While Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are still popular, winemakers also focus on “warmer climate” grapes, including less common (for California) grapes like Petite Sirah and Sangiovese.
While each vineyard and pocket of Mendocino has its own influence, the region is generally prized for interesting, fruit-forward wines with a luscious texture. Beyond delicious and unique wines, Mendocino has also made a splash in the wine industry as a leader in organic vineyards. and sustainable vineyards. Today, approximately 25% (and growing) of the 17,000 acres of vineyards in the county are certified organic.
Spotlight on: BARRA of Mendocino
Kuvée winery partner, BARRA of Mendocino explains the rustic beauty of Mendocino best. As you walk through their vineyard with founder, Charlie Barra, you’ll find yourself surrounded by 60-year-old grapevines that resemble the sun-baked hands of the farmer that has nurtured them. These hearty, twisted vines are the source of the superior organic fruit that goes into each bottle of BARRA of Mendocino wine.
BARRA of Mendocino, like many other wineries and growers in the region focus on working with mother nature to produce their tasty wines. Their organic vineyard is located near the Russian River, which regulates the climate for hot summer days, averaging 90 degrees, followed by very cool nights. The result is what Charlie Barra calls a long “hang time” for the grapes on the vine. This allows the grapes to reach full maturity in a consistent, un-rushed fashion, resulting in luscious wines.
BARRA of Mendocino founder, Charlie Barra, tending to the vines
Give it a swirl:
Rich, Redwood Valley Chardonnay: BARRA of Mendocino Chardonnay
BARRA of Mendocino brings their fresh style of winemaking to the classic style of Chardonnay. Rich fruit flavors and a smooth texture meet vanilla and baking spice notes from the oak barrels used for fermentation, offering complex flavor and texture.
Warmer, Redwood Valley Pinot Noir: BARRA of Mendocino Pinot Noir
This classic wine, which originated in Burgundy, has been interpreted beautifully by BARRA of Mendocino. Their Pinot Noir is lush and flavorful with rich fruits and spices creating a smooth finish. Always grown organically at BARRA of Mendocino, this Pinot is extremely fresh and bright.
Cooler, Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir: Jim Ball Pinot Noir
Jim Ball Vineyards prides themselves in crafting flavorful Pinot Noir from distinct vineyards. This Kuvée exclusive wine is aromatic, combining layers of fruit and savory flavors to engage each and every taste bud.
Italian wine at home in Mendocino: BARRA of Mendocino Sangiovese
Sangiovese fame is typically associated with Italy, but has found a second home in Mendocino, where Italian descendants, like Charlie Barra, planted the grape. The fresh fruit and savory flavors of this Sangiovese are sure to make it a new favorite varietal.
Bold, hearty red from rugged Redwood Valley: BARRA of Mendocino Petite Sirah
The signature varietal that launched the BARRA of Mendocino brand has only gotten better with age. Now in its 18th vintage, the vineyard has perfected their Petite Sirah. It is a deep, rich wine with flavors of berry and mocha, made even richer by the flavors created by the vineyard itself.