SPARKLING WINE TREK
Spring means sparkling in Mendocino County and the perfect time to grab a glass and go! For lovers of all things sparkling, the ultimate escape lies two hours north of San Francisco where edge-pushing vintners are crafting a cache of sparkling wines perfectly suited to spring. From Toulouse Goose Bubbles to Pét-Nat and classic French-style L’Ermitage, the bubble brigade is in full force. In an easy loop you can link the dots to more than 25 producers including key outposts in Hopland, Ukiah and wine-centric Anderson Valley. Ideal for a three-day getaway, the new Sparkling Wine Trek tweaks all the senses with an overlay of 24 redwood-laced state and national parks, 90 miles of pristine coastline, 12 diverse AVAs and two real-deal natural hot springs. Pop the cork and let the adventure begin!
BRUT ROUGE & SCANDALOUS CUVÉE
Just up Highway 101 lies the gateway to Mendocino County, Hopland, and an easy launch pad into the county’s interior mixing old California charm with upscale wineries, contemporary lodgings, and miles of rolling vineyards. Pack some friends and kick things off at Campovida, featuring a 10-room farmhouse inn, alfresco pavilion, top-notch tasting room and 13 acres of gardens flush with organic herbs and vegetables. Here you can saddle up for a glass of the Cuvée Brut, produced in the Method Champenoise style. This crisp and lively sparkling is crafted from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and French Colombard. Take one to-go as an ideal pairing with a craft pizza at sister property The Stock Farm.
Cross over to the rural side of town for a flight at Terra Savia. Tucked up Mountain House Road, this is the stop for organically grown estate wines, olive oil, wildflower honey and two unique offerings: Blanc de Blanc, a bone dry, fine-bubbled wine graced with four year’s bottle fermentation, and Brut Rouge Sparkling Rosé, crafted from Merlot — a wild and beautiful creature. You can take a casual tour of the olive milling facility or plan a picnic on the deck of the rustic tea shack round out a lazy afternoon. www.campovida.com | www.terrasavia.com
Now it’s time to hit the hamlet of Hopland properly with a pit stop at Graziano Family of Wines and McFadden Family Vineyard & Farm tasting rooms, set conveniently next to each other in a small building fronting the main street. You can dive into McFadden’s delicious NV Sparkling Brut and Cuvee Brut Rosé — a 60/40 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend of tight bubble celebration — then slip next door for a crisp Brut Scandalous Cuvee under Graziano’s Saint Gregory brand. Like the great wines of France, the base wine is barrel fermented with a unique blend of 35 percent Pinot Gris, 31 percent Arneis and 34 percent Pinot Blanc, then laid to rest for a scandalous eight years! Pop and drink immediately. www.bluequail.com | www.grazianofamilyofwines.com
The 14-mile stretch from Hopland to Ukiah is a drive affording seamless vineyards backed with rugged mountains and seasonal bursts of spring wildflowers. Depending upon your palate, a variety of wineries line the path due north including two last bubble stops: Nelson Family Vineyards and RIVINO Estate Vineyard & Winery. Arriving at Nelson Family is truly a step back in time to classic California ranching. Family owned since 1951, the land speaks true Mendocino with 2,000 prime acres of vineyards, pear trees, olive orchards, Christmas trees and resident farm animals. All wines are ranch grown, certified sustainable and ready for their close up. The Blanc de Blanc is just what it should be, elegant and lively. You can also cash in on some offbeat wines including an inviting Ice Riesling and Petite Verdot.
We recommend capping the day with an alfresco lounge chair perched above the 250-acre Rivino Ranch, flush with a hiking trail to the lake, expansive views and the Boujee party tent set for Friday funday. Here, it’s all about Boujee Bubbly — two zero dosage, Brut natural style sparkling wines, 100 percent estate grown and produced. These are fun wines crafted to drink now, bright, dry and the ideal finish to a day of chasing corks. You can tap into the Blanc de Blanc for a fervent palate cleanser and pack home the Boujee Rosé for a party by the Bay. www.nelsonfamilyvineyards.com | www.rivino.com
Farther north nirvana hits a high note at Mendocino mile marker 27.16 when the valley cuts loose along the Russian River. If you have time, Parducci Wine Cellars (1932) – the world’s first carbon-neutral winery – steps up with a Reserve Brut NV worthy of the drive. www.mendocinowinecompany.com
CHECK IN: California Landmark No. 980 – better known as the champagne mineral baths – sits a few miles east of Ukiah offering the perfect full-body sparkling splurge. Your room awaits at Vichy Springs Resort and Spa, a 700-acre facility boasting America’s only warm and naturally carbonated Vichy mineral baths (and Olympic-size pool). Established in 1854, the laidback resort was a favorite of John Muir, Mark Twain, and Teddy Roosevelt. Day rates available. www.vichysprings.info
L’ERMITAGE & GOOSE BUBBLES
Day two you’ll loop around and drop into Anderson Valley AVA for a perfect finish. Pack your birthday suit and hiking boots and head east on Orr Springs Road for a grounding hike through five massive virgin redwood groves at Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve. One of Mendocino Counties top gems, this ancient site with a stunning fern forest and rambling stream sets the tone for a sojourn next door at Orr Hot Spring Resort. You can check in (reservations required) for a soak in one of the natural springs – including a large rock pool, private claw baths or communal springs – followed by a massage. www.parks.ca.gov | www.orrhotsprings.org
Continue west to Comptche and loop left on Flynn Creek Road to Navarro, the “deep end” of Anderson Valley’s wine region. Things get interesting as the odometer hits 36 miles and Handley Cellars steps forward with a seamless estate vineyard 100 percent Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc followed by a stellar Brut Rosé, crafted with 30 percent Pinot Noir, the region’s top juice! As the beauty of Anderson Valley unfolds so does the palate at the next stop, the California outpost of Champagne Louis Roederer – Roederer Estate. This is the house that created Cristal, set in an understated rustic building on 580 prime acres overlooking the valley. You can expect top pours here, including an oak-aged, multi-vintage Brut Cuvée and flawless estate L’Ermitage Tête de Cuvée, as well as their rosé. Great finesse and depth of flavor set these wines apart, as does the French heritage and quality standards that underscore the brand. We recommend elevating your visit with the Nosh menu, complete with duck rillettes, smoked salmon or Tsar Nicoulai Caviar prepared by the in-house chef. Stay awhile. Please. www.handleycellars.com | www.roedererestate.com
As you continue down Highway 128, vineyards flecked with grazing sheep, rustic barns and apple groves start to reshape your mind. This is old California, when vintners poured at tasting rooms and people favored living off the land. A quick left lands you at Navarro Vineyards, a small family-owned outpost offering a clean estate-grown Blanc de Noir. This is a lively alfresco setting, ideal for packing a picnic and lounging about. Here you can belly up to the “wine cask” without the need of a reservation. Nearby, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards is the stop for a laid-back pour, set in a unique octagonal tasting room designed by Aaron G. Green, longtime associate and architect of Frank Lloyd Wright (crafted from a single 400-year old redwood). It’s time for you to lounge on the wrap-around deck overlooking the pond or relax in the garden patio by a fire pit for a swirl of the Kenneth Carl Sparkling Brut. www.navarrowine.com | www.greenwoodridge.com
If you’re ready to mix it up, take a pit stop at Gowan’s Cider Orchard – a sixth generation family operation since 1876. The new alfresco “living museum orchard” tasting room features five hard ciders among the resident 100+ year old apple trees. Sustainable, organic and all-natural, the line-up includes Gravenstein to Sierra Beauty varietals on tap as well as a Rose Applewine Cider served “froze” style. You can grab a bench and relax with the scent of apple blossoms wafting in the air. www.gowansheirloomcider.com
A variety of stops could round out the day, depending upon your stamina and palate fatigue. Sustainable, organic and all about fun, Toulouse Winery & Vineyards sits on an elevated site draped in ancient redwood and oaks encompassing 160 acres. Here you can find the famed Toulouse Goose Bubbles or venture next door to Scharffenberger Cellars offering a variety of Bruts, a Crémant and Black Label NV worth seeking out. Finally, the new Maggy Hawk Winery will showcase a Pét-Nat sparkling wine in a gorgeous new facility. www.toulousevineyards.com | www.scharffengergercellars.com | www.maggiehawk.com
CHECK IN: Time for you to drop anchor in the small hamlet of Philo (pop. 175), an idyllic stop for recharging. The intimate Madrones checks every box with nine contemporary guestrooms, an embracing rose garden and top-notch dining – Wickson – driven by chef duo Alexa Newman (Chez Panisse, Contigo) and Rodney Workman (Chez Panisse, State Bird Provisions). For a romp in the redwoods, you might prefer popping next door the Brambles, set on 12 acres of ancient redwood groves with four guest quarters tucked among nature’s nest. www.themadrones.com
BEES, GOATS & BUBBLY
You can start the day without starting the car at Long Meadow Ranch, a sleek, spacious tasting venue set at the Madrones. Saunter in for a line-up of two top-flight sparkling wines, handcrafted olive oils and a proprietary bloody Mary mix. The staff knows best here, so step up for a tight-knit, well-structured 2017 Brut Rosé Anderson Valley Estate before venturing eastward. Next door, you should plan on parking it for a while at Goldeneye Winery, a Duckhorn Family of Wines offshoot. The alfresco patio, draped in red umbrellas with a view few wineries afford – rolling vineyards backed by enormous ancient redwood groves – screams for a sit back. The new Friday Fun with Fondue tasting is worthy of a few hours as are the other elevated experiences: A Toast to Bubbles and Caviar, top shelf Estate Wine and Cheese Pairing and the Fly with Goldeneye helicopter adventure out of Santa Rosa Airport.
www.longmeadowranch.com | www.goldeneyewinery.com
As you roll through the afternoon, consider a casual pull-in to Lichen Estate, one of the region’s top handcrafted wineries putting out a sharp portfolio of sparklers including a Grand Cuvée, Blanc de Noir and unique Blanc de Gris, crafted from 100 percent Pinot Gris. Set in a small roadside cottage fronting Highway 128, Lichen offers the real-deal for guests seeking a true Mendo fix, one sip at a time. www.lichenestate.com
As the quaint town of Boonville comes into focus three final wineries step up offering you a variety of bubbles worthy of a day trip. The new Bee Hunter Wines, set in a cheerful refurbished 1926 building, is fun-forward with a variety of sparkling options. This is a hot spot for classic whites as well as the organic and biodynamically grown Pinot Noir Brut Natural, crafted with a powerful dose of love and zero dosage. Nearby, Foursight Wines is launching its first sparkling wine, a Brut Nature NV, this spring. Set in an unassuming building just off Highway 128, this winery speaks to the rich heritage of Mendocino’s family farmed and operated vineyards. You can expect an owner pouring and a second working the nearby vines.
www.beehunterwine.com | www.foursightwines.com
Why not cap the day with a close encounter with goats, sheep and a superb line-up of cheese, with farm tours and plenty of open space to wind down at Pennyroyal Farm? This dream project of sister Navarro Vineyards is nothing short of outstanding with spacious architecture, a spirited alfresco tasting venue and two top talents running the show. You can slide in for a tour and one of two 100 percent estate Pinot Noir sparklers – the Blanc de Noir and Brut Rosé. Stay for the goats and pack home a cache of cheeses including Bollie’s Mollies, Velvet Sister and rich Boonter’s Blue. Santé! www.pennyroyalfarm.com
Pet Nat, from the French Petillent Naturel, is a growing trend and one of the first producers was Fathers+Daughters Cellars with their effervescent Sarah’s Rustic Bubbles. These Chardonnay grapes from Anderson Valley ferment in-bottle without disgorgement, dosage or secondary fermentation. The result…a fabulous naturally sparkling wine, ideal for brunch, backyard gatherings or just because. This multigenerational endeavor can be purchased online. www.fanddcellars.com