By Celia Strong
Okey dokey. Here we are again. More new wines. All with the upcoming holidays in mind. Have to love it!
Mendocino is our wine area for this week. This is a county that stretches across the northern borders of both Napa and Sonoma counties. Wine-wise, the Mendocino wine appellation is part of the much larger North Coast AVA. It is also one of California’s largest wine areas with some of the most diverse climates in its vineyards. There are 10 AVAs within Mendocino.
As a whole, Mendocino is one of the leading wine regions for organically grown grapes; about 25 percent of the 15,000 acres of vineyards.
The name “Mendocino” comes from the family name of a 16th century
Spanish explorer, Lorenzo Suárez de Mendoza, who explored the coast of this region.
The first vineyards in Mendocino date back to the 1850s, in the Redwood Valley. Farmers chose planting vines as a second choice after not being successful in California gold mines. (Seems to me that maybe they didn’t know a gold mine when they saw one, what with the price of vineyards today.)
The range of climates in Mendocino make it a good source for a variety of grapes. The Anderson Valley is one of the coolest growing areas in the United States.
There were a handful of wineries there, by the 1980s, but it was Roederer from the Champagne region of France that showed the potential for great sparkling wines. That means the Champagne varieties – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – do well in Anderson Valley.
Around Ukiah, in the center of the Mendocino AVA, where the weather is warmer, Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Sirah and Zinfandel do really well.
Just north of Lake Mendocino, the Redwood and Potter Valleys face each other. This is where the first vineyards in Mendocino were planted, within reach of the great redwood forest. Zinfandels do well here.
The oldest commercial vineyard in Mendocino County is Parducci Wines, our winery this week.
Parducci (par-dew-chee) was founded in 1931 during Prohibition. Until the late 1960s, Parducci was the only commercial winery in Mendocino. In part, this was because San Francisco was more than 100 miles away. Napa and Sonoma wines benefited from their proximity to the city where their new American wines were showcased in shops and restaurants.
In May, Parducci celebrated its 85th year. With the release of a new wine, “85,” a special cuvée in honor of John Parducci.
Parducci is based in Ukiah and owned and operated by the Thornhill family. This family continues the traditions started by the Parduccis with its award-winning wines and sustainable grape growing. Three times, in 2007, 2009 and 2014, the state of California has awarded Parducci Wine Cellars with the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award. (This is California’s highest environmental award.)
Like other producers, Parducci offers several tiers of wines. Ours, today, are from their Small Lot series. We are only discussing two, because these two are more suitable for holiday dinners. But, look out for and try others.
With this series, they blend grapes from several select sites (lots). By blending they are able to produce more complex wines at really affordable prices.
Parducci Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc is our white. This wine is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, all from Mendocino County. It is full of lemon and tropical fruit (mangos, pineapple, peaches) aromas and flavors. Plus melons, and a subtle creamy texture along side the crisp, bright acidity. It’s terrific with vegetables, white pizzas, salads, and, yes, holiday turkey dinners.
The Parducci Small Lot Pinot Noir is a treasure. When you start looking at Mendocino County Pinot Noirs, there can be some price shock. The exact point of the Small Lot Series.
This wine is all Pinot Noir, all from Mendocino County. It is aged for 12 months in oak barrels – 20 percent new French oak and 80 percent neutral oak. Each lot of grapes is fermented separately and then the blend is done.
Juicy raspberry and strawberry aromas jump from your glass. And, then, you taste the berries and coffee and vanilla and black pepper and truffles and cedar. Just proves how parts of Mendocino are so well-suited for this variety.
Try it with salmon, grilled poultry, pork and red meats. And turkey.
So, seems Parducci does rule. From Small Lots on up.
Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.