Tired of all that fancy wine country stuff? Get thee to Hopland, for an unpretentious, good time and a lot of great wine - some at fabulous discounts during the event. Those discounts would more than pay for the $50 attendance fee (covers two days).
Hopland's Passport weekend is this weekend May 2-3, and the town's wineries put on quite a show. Holland's a mecca for organic vine lovers, with many small family run wineries with certified vines and wines.
No need to study wine history here - Hopland's alive with second, third and fourth generation vintners (including some who've never used chemicals) and down home folks.
The organically grown wines are all worthy of your attention - some more than others, but find out for yourself which ones you're drawn to. I'd say don't miss the three sparkling wines at McFadden (award winners all around) and the wines at Campovida are very fine indeed, made by Italian born Sebastian Donoso. Don't miss the garden tour at Campovida either - it's famous for many reasons. Master gardener Ken Boek will explain why.
If you're in the area, I'd also recommend visiting Saracina, another good spot for fine wines. They're not participating in this event, but are just next to Jeriko, and well worth experiencing. A little further to the north, you can also visit Barra of Mendocino and sample their wares, too (although they're not in Hopland per se; they're in Ukiah and so therefore cannot participate in the Passport program). I always appreciate a stop at the Ukiah Natural Foods market in Ukiah, too, which has one of the largest selections of organically grown wines in the country, reflecting the wealth of grapes nearby.
In addition to Passport, the Hopland Volunteer Fire Dept. and Beckstoffer Vineyards are putting on a the fire dept.'s annual BBQ dinner and dance Saturday night. Dinner is $20 for adults and $10 for kids over 6 with beer and wine on sale. The dinner gets started at 5; the dancing to live music begins at 8. Details here.
Here are a few of the vintners to put on your bucket list:
Wineries with Only Organically Grown Estate Wines
Specializes in Pinot Noir; the vines and wines are Biodynamic
For Passport: usually puts on a great BBQ; this year's description calls for "mixed meats, cheeses and condiments" to pair with Pinot Noir and Sangiovese
Also features: barrel sampling, music and special wine prices
Great table wines, and a standout for sparkling wines
For Passport: serves up organic grass fed beef, from its estate, with a red wine reduction of mushroom demo-glaze, assorted salads and sliced baguettes
Also features: 40% off sale for wine club members (the club is fully customizable so you can decide what you want to buy)
Specializes in Chardonnay and sparkling wine; also has organic olive oil
For Passport: grilled Tri-tip in a Pinot Noir sauce, with roasted beets and toasted walnuts, bowtie pasta and kale with pine nuts and goat cheese
Also features: dessert assortment from Pacific Cookie Company (chocolate cranberry, lemon and more)
Wineries With Some Organically Grown Wines
A gorgeous retreat center featuring beautiful vegetable and ornamental gardens
For Passport: wine and olive oil tasting, live music and pizza pairings
Also features: special garden tour with master gardener Ken Boek (don't miss this; I've been on it - and it's great)
Organically grown wines here: Cabernet Sauvignon-Heart Arrow Ranch, Grenache-Dark Horse Ranch, White Bordeaux Blend-Campo di Stelle, Viognier-Campo Dos Robles
For Passport: Cesar Toxqui is a Mexican-American vintner who married a Filipino wife; hence, the winery will be serving traditional Filipino roasted pig and lumpia
Organically grown wines here: Zinfandel-Split Rock Ranch ($34)
Nelson Family Vineyards
A family of growers who also make a number of wines from their own vines
Organically grown wines here: Chardonnay, Orange Muscat, Pinot Grigio, Viognier