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