Saturday, September 8, 2018

Oct. 20 - Head to Hopland, in Wine's Organic Heartland, to Fill Up Your Trunk

When I first got into organically grown wine, Hopland was a great awakening for me - here were wines I could afford to drink that were better (for $10-15) than what I could find in any supermarket or wine shop in Berkeley ($20 and up). (Sadly it continues to be that way.)

 The gateway to the Ukiah Valley in inland Mendo (and thus only a half hour north of Healdsburg), this little burg becomes a bustling hub twice a year as winemakers open their doors. Only this year it's different. They'll be opening their bottles all in one big central location, which is now called Harvest Days.

So no more driving from winery to can get your comparative tasting and try all the wines under one big tent.

And there's more to drink - choose from locally made cider and beer. So you can have all three. And local bites from produce, meat and cheesemakers. Plus a food truck.

Spend the night there too and plan to visit the wineries on Sunday, when you shop and save (they usually have weekend specials - good deals). There'll be live music both days.

Here's a list of the participating organic producers - almost all of the wines (Frey is the one exception) are "Made with Organic Grapes" from local growers. Alas, you won't find these wines at your local wine shop or at Whole Foods (mostly not) and only Bonterra at Safeway. So get thee to the countryside where the getting is good.


• Bonterra (all)*
They sell 25% of all the organically grown wine purchased in stores in the U.S. For a reason. Taste and price. (You can also find them at Costco for about $10, but Costco carries just the most popular varieties they make; you'll probably find a broader selection at the event.)

• Campovida (most wines)
Try the Filigreen Farm grown Pinot Gris (from coveted Biodynamic grapes - this is a very special grower in the Anderson Valley)...and the Dark Horse Primitivo.  

• Terra Savia (all)*
They are specialists in Chardonnay and sparkling wine. And also make fine, organic olive oils in their own mills in Hopland. (Put them on your to visit list).

• Yorkville Cellars (all)
Try all the Bordeaux varieties - they make bottlings of each and every one.

It's a whole different kind of wine country - where you can find wines are $20 and under! (* wineries with $20 and under wines).

And don't miss McFadden Vineyards and Blue Quail* in the downtown Hopland (about 1 block long). Best wine club to join if you're looking for a winner. You may be able to customize your shipment, too.

The event web site is here.

Tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the door. Get tickets here.


If you're going to tour around on Sunday, you'll want to visit Testa, which has organically grown wine, but more exciting from a touring point of view - a picturesque old barn and gorgeous old vines. These are the real Italian immigrant planted vineyards. (Come back in November for the event where the nonas - the Italian grandmothers - cook. One of my favorite wine country experiences - the real down home stuff!)

Campovida is also a spot not to be missed - it's a luxurious and gorgeous farm, vineyard and retreat center...a dream place. Their winery makes small lots of wines - very boutique and artisanal wines. (They also have a great tasting room in Oakland in a brick warehouse district - hip, yes.)


It's a bit pricy, but VIchy Hot Springs is the best place if you're looking for more than just a hotel room. It has a nice pool and bubbly (though not hot) springs plus a jacuzzi (hot) - all in a sprawling, natural setting outside of Ukiah.


Two spots merit a stop for wine shopping. One is SIP Mendocino which specializes in a wide variety of wines from both the inland valley and the Pinot-centric Anderson Valley. The proprietress is a great resource and knows all the wines quite intimately. Finer wines can be found there.

For everyday wines, I love to visit the Ukiah Natural Foods Coop which has, hands down, the best collection and selection of high quality table wines from organic grapes. Mendocino is roughly 25% organic (in the vineyards) and many locals who grew for Bonterra began their own small labels which you can find here. Go wild. (You won't see this selection again when you go home.)

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