Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Your Hotel, Empty the Trunk! Mendocino's Passport Weekend - Oct. 20-21 - Best Budget Priced Organically Grown Wine Sale! (And Free Food)

The scene at McFadden's tasting room (peak moment)
at Passport last year. You can see it's a popular event -
visit yourself to find out why (- i.e. price, quality).
As I've mentioned before, Hopland's Passport weekend is, in my mind, the best tasting AND shopping trip of the year. It's held in the spring and in the fall, and has the highest percentage of any wine event in the state of organic and biodynamically grown wines.

In general, Napa wines contain as much as 100% Mendo grapes, often unattributed to Mendo (Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay and Riesling, for example) - but the growers in Mendo have begun to bottle their own - and sometimes very, very good - wines. Vinification varies so find what you like. BUT - the wines below are all GREAT. (Or I wouldn't have listed them.)

Best of all, Mendo prices are often in the $12-20 range, making them perfect for affordable drinking year round. You cannot find these wines in supermarkets (outside of Mendo, for the most part) with a few exceptions, so find what you like and hit the sales. Markdowns during Passport are 25% or up to 40% or more.

(The most dramatic bargain I've scored - and it was highly unusual -  was $100 for a case - of organically grown Zin at Cesar Toxqui.)

Naughty Boy Cellars, newly located in downtown Hopland, will be showing the fantastic wine documentary Mondovino (Wikipedia listing). Don't miss this. (Or stream it at home online while you relax with a glass of wine.)

I'm posting the link to my 2011 post about the event here.


There are 16 wineries who participate, but most are not organic.

For those who just want the organic highlights and have only one day to spend there (it's only a two hour drive door to door from Oakland, for instance), hit these high points:

Hopland Passport organizer and McFadden tasting room
manager Jon Cesano pours at McFadden

McFadden - Buy at least a case of the sparkling wine. (Join the wine club and just tell them what you want and when -  they are flexible and will work with you on your preferences - totally).

Naughty Boy - Has a new tasting room in Hopland next to McFadden. Get a case or two of their rose. (The pinot used to win awards. The Chardonnay is not organic.) Try the Pinot's very affordable.

Cesar Toxqui Cellars - A very good option, this winery - as the name implies - is run by a Mexican-American vintner with great talent. Some options are organically grown. (Ask which ones). Famed for Zin, but their Pinot was also highly regarded by Hugh Johnson. See what's good this year. Usually has phenomenal sales.

Nearby: Terra Savia - A great place for Chardonnay lovers. Buy a case or two. Get some of their sparkling wine, too.

Rack and Riddle - get the sparkling wine tour and see where the McFadden and Terra Savia sparkers are made. (R&R will be marketing an organically sources wine under their own brand soon but I don't think it's out quite yet. Check at the winery.)


Saracina - Visit the cool caves, find the wine you like best. Doing the Mexican thing with a street truck and Cinco de Mayo dancers. A beautiful spot. Prices a bit on the higher end but beautifully done. Consulting winemaker is the renowned David Ramey.

Jeriko - Wines aren't great but the BBQ might be the thing.


Campovida is getting more organic. Go for a stroll in their spectacular garden, the former site of a famous vegetable garden that got everyone on the organic bandwagon in the 70s and gave rise to organic wine supermarket giant Bonterra nearby (not open to the public). Today the garden is a fantastic ornamental garden. (Taste, but their prices aren't great so I don't usually buy here.)


If you have enough budget to stay in a nice place, the Hopland Inn is no longer an option, but I recommend booking a place on AirBNB or or reserving a spot at Vichy Springs Inn in Ukiah (about 10 minutes from Hopland).

Several organic wineries offer rentals as well including Terra Savia and Testa. (I wouldn't send you to one where there were pesticides). Here's a list of more options.


See the official site here. Don't miss the menus posted there - lots of great free food (for Passport participants).

Local eateries: Bluebird Cafe (folksy, big breakfasts, moose on the menu at lunch and dinner, and those pies) and Campovida's Pizza joint in downtown Hopland, a really great addition to the local scene, with both brews and wines and gourmet pizzas. Sit outside if it's warm enough and enjoy the fine views across the valley from the back of the patio.

If you're up for a gourmet meal and a drive, head over to Anderson Valley (45 min. plus) for a fine meal at the Boonville Inn, or head an easy 30 minutes south on 101 to Geyserville where you can sample the wares at the Italian beauty Di Avola, where they serve organically grown Chiarito wine (Nero d'Avola or Negra Amaro are the best); you may have to ask for the wines by name as they sometimes are not on the wine menu (but they definitely have it behind the counter).

[Though uncertified, Chiarito is making some of the best organically grown wine in the hot interior Mendo region, basing his varietal selection on what's climate-appropriate - southern Italian varietals.]

Check out SIP Mendocino, the local wine bar and wine store, in downtown Hopland to find bottles from wineries that aren't open during Passport including Patianna, Chiarito and others. Wine tastings may be available, on selected bottles. The wine merchant here is intimately acquainted with area organic offerings, so ask if you want help.

1 comment:

  1. Posting a link to your great article on McFadden, Hopland Passport, destination Hopland, and 101 Things To Do in Mendocino County facebook and Twitter sites. We love you Pam, thanks for your support! -John