11/29/06 – Mendocino / Lake County (pt. 1)

By Jesse on November 27, 2006


The meetings this week and next week will be our last California regional explorations.  I’m pleased to say that after several months, we’ve finally reached the last significant regions in California that we’ve yet to taste.  Mendocino and Lake County are the northernmost of the major wine regions in the state.  They are the original homes of both Fetzer and Kendall-Jackson, two of California’s most recognizable labels (although these producers now source grapes from all over the state, not just Mendocino or Lake County).  Lake County is named after Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California.  Mendocino is the more varied of the two appellations, with more wineries and several smaller AVAs within it: Anderson Valley, Redwood Valley, and McDowell Valley.  Of these, Anderson Valley is the most distinctive; it slices inward from the cold sea and is one of the chilliest grape-growing areas in California.

We’ll do the whites this week, and there should be a lot of good ones to choose from.  The most widely planted grape in both Mendocino County and Lake County is Chardonnay.  Also, because of the cool climate, it’s typical to find some excellent examples of those two crisp white grapes that we encountered when we were tasting Alsace and Germany: Riesling and Gewurztraminer.  Any of those three grapes (or any other white you can find) would be great.  As always, feel free to bring a $10 donation instead of wine.

*For those who are interested in perhaps pairing up and buying a more expensive bottle, Roederer Estate in Mendocino County is one of California’s top producers of excellent sparkling wines… it would be great to taste one of those.  Also, if you look hard, you may find a “late harvest” Riesling called a White Riesling.  Leaving the grapes on the vine beyond the normal harvest can cause them to be attacked by noble rot, the process that produces the French dessert wines from Sauternes.  The Navarro Vineyards White Riesling is supposed to be one of the best dessert wines in California.

We’ll be meeting at Jason’s house in Brentwood. Chill those Mendocino or Lake County whites and be there by 9 PM.  We’re having a party on Saturday night and I want to give you all the requisite details.  Until then, my loves—