Mendocino County

Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County Pinot Noir

Nearly 160 years ago, Charles Oppenlander, a trailblazing Danish immigrant, cleared a redwood forest near the hamlet of Comptche, about as far away as anyone could get in northern Mendocino County. There, he built a timbered house, logged the nearly 2,750-acre property, raised cattle, gardens, and a family. Five generations later, little has changed, save for an impressive accumulation of rusty heavy equipment, junker cars and trucks, and a vineyard that has earned the toasts of cool climate pinot lovers.

Bill and Norman Shandel, Oppenlander’s great grandsons, occupy the land now along with their wives, Kitty and Wanda, some cattle, and immense blackberry bushes that turn out jams with flavors that rival their wines. The 20-acre vineyard, first planted more than 100 years ago and more recently replanted in 1998, is hosted in heavy, clay loam, surrounded by redwoods. Set 8 miles from the coast, well north of the Anderson Valley, the scalloped property holds cool marine air that fosters long hang time and slow ripening. The results are assertive but supple wines featuring oceanic acidity with aromas of smoked meats morphing into cool forest floor and bramble with raspberry and wild strawberry on the palate.

Pinot clones are Pommard, Dijon 114, 115

AVA: Mendocino County

Haiku Vineyard, Sanel Valley, Mendocino County Chardonnay

Russian River pastoral

Russian River pastoral – (photo Tyler Rodrigue}

Tucked into a bend of the Russian River beneath the Mayacamas Mountains in the Sanel Valley of Mendocino County lie 141 acres of prime Chardonnay plants hosted by Haiku Vineyards. The cobbled and stony soil is the result of centuries of floods. Every block has been organically farmed since they were planted more than 25 years ago. Working with the venerable wine-growing Fetzer family since 2005, Greg has encouraged Haiku’s practices of integrated farming using canopy management, water management, organic compost and natural habitats that encourage raptors for rodent control and songbirds for insect control. Cover crops that attract beneficial insects are utilized instead of pesticides. Cover crops also prevent erosion, retain moisture, and add organic matter to the soil. Weeds are mowed rather than killed by herbicides. The resulting fruit expresses terroir rather than altering it.

Sunrise over the Mayacamas

Sunrise over the Mayacamas – (photo Tyler Rodrigue)

Haiku chardonnay manifests this practice in its purity and cleanliness, allowing itself to reveal indelibly layered, curling aromas and flavors that arrive individually, merge and then leave accented calling cards on the palate.

Clones are UC Davis 4

AVA: Mendocino County

Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Late afternoon on the ridge

Late afternoon on the ridge

As about as far from anywhere, Manchester Ridge lies about one hour west of Boonville up a tortuous, narrow, winding road toward the Mendocino coast. The torture gets worse as you turn onto a rutted dirt road and bump along for more than eight miles ascending ravines and ridges before you can go no farther. You have come to the edge of the land 2000 feet above Point Arena and the Pacific. Here, sharing the land with chestnut orchards, is Manchester Ridge, 30 acres of breathtakingly beautiful, enigmatic and hardscrabble vines. No other vineyard endures what vicissitudes nature throws at it in the way of wind, rain, elevation, temperature mood swings, and weathered soil. And yet Manchester Ridge’s extremes allow its Pinot noir and chardonnay fruit to hang longer, nurturing phenological ripeness and complexity without giving up acidity and freshness. Since the late 1990s Greg has collaborated with vineyard manager Martin Mochizuki to protect and coax Manchester Ridge vines into producing rich, opulent wines featuring ethereal qualities that reach beyond classic Burgundian and California pinots and chardonnays, all the while revealing a purity and grace achieved from turning adversity into overachievement. Pinot clones are Dijon 115, 114, 777 Chardonnay clones Old Wente, 76, 809 AVA: Mendocino Ridge
The romance of winemaking

The romance of winemaking

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