The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the big daddy of wine competitions, the largest judging of American wines in the world. This year’s competition started on Tuesday and finished today. There were 5,825 wine entries for the judges to taste. The very best wines earned a Gold Medal, a Double (unanimous) Gold Medal, or Best of Class award. There were also Sweepstakes awards for Best red, white, bubbly, dessert, etc.

These best of the best wines will be poured at Ft. Mason in San Francisco at a Public Tasting on Saturday, February 15, 2014 from 1:30-5:00pm. Tickets regularly sell out, click HERE to buy your tickets.

I’ve pulled together a list of all of the wines made from Mendocino County grapes that won a Gold Medal or higher at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – I wonder which of the two Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling wines from Mendocino County I’ll toast the winners with…maybe both!

Best of Class Chardonnay $15.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, Mendocino $15.00

Best of Class Grenache
2012 Campovida Grenache, Dark Horse, Mendocino County $36.00

Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling
NV McFadden Vineyard Cuvée Brut, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley $25.00

Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling
2009 McFadden Vineyard Special Reserve Brut, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley       $40.00

Double Gold Medal All Other White Varietals
2012 Campovida Roussanne, Bonofiglio, Mendocino County $32.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir Up to $19.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $19.50

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $30.00-$34.99
2010 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $32.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2011 Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $50.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2010 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, RSM Vineyard, Anderson Valley $56.00

Double Gold Medal Zinfandel Up to $19.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino $19.50

Double Gold Medal Zinfandel $25.00-$29.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Zinfandel, Old Vines, Mendocino $25.00

Double Gold Medal Merlot $10.00-$14.99
2011 Bliss Family Vineyards Merlot, Estate, Mendocino $13.95

Double Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon $30.00-$34.99
2011 Moniker Wine Estates  Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County $30.00

Double Gold Medal All Red Blends $25.00-$34.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Heritage, Old Vines, Mendocino $28.00

Gold Medal Sauvignon Blanc $14.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino $14.00

Gold Medal Sauvignon Blanc $14.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Renegade, Mendocino $18.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $10.00-$14.99
2012 Kimmel Vineyards Chardonnay, Kimmel Vineyards, Potter Valley $14.99

Gold Medal Chardonnay $10.00-$14.99
2012 Parducci Wine Cellars Chardonnay, Small Lot Blend, Mendocino County $13.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $15.00-$19.99
2012 Naughty Boy Vineyards Chardonnay, Thornton Ranch, Potter Valley $15.50

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2011 Husch Vineyards Chardonnay , Special Reserve, Mendocino $26.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay, Premier Reserve, Anderson Valley $25.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Seebass Family Wines Chardonnay, Seebass Vineyards, Mendocino     $29.99

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Wattle Creek Winery Chardonnay, Yorkville Highlands $25.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $40.00 and over
2011 La Follette Wines Chardonnay, Mendocino Ridge $48.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $40.00 and over
2012 Tom Eddy Wines Chardonnay, Manchester, Mendocino $55.00

Gold Medal Gewurztraminer
2012 Highway 253 Gewurztraminer, Mendocino County $16.99

Gold Medal Riesling RS<1.49
2012 Handley Cellars Riesling, Anderson Valley $22.00

Gold Medal Riesling RS<1.49
2012 Navarro Vineyards Riesling, Anderson Valley $19.50

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Handley Cellars Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley $20.00

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley $19.50

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Marguerite Vineyard, Anderson Valley $21.00

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Klindt Vineyard, Anderson Valley $20.00

Gold Medal All Other White Varietals
2012 Campovida Arneis, Spirit Canyon, Mendocino County $36.00

Gold Medal Dry Rose RS<1
2012 Campovida Rose di Grenache, Riserva, Mendocino County $34.00

Gold Medal Grenache
2012 Navarro Vineyards Grenache, Mendocino $29.00

Gold Medal Pinot Noir Up to $19.99
2011 Bliss Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Estate, Mendocino $14.99

Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2011 Tom Eddy Wines Pinot Noir, Manchester, Mendocino $60.00

Gold Medal Zinfandel $20.00-$24.99
2010 Brutocao Cellars Zinfandel, Hopland Estate, Mendocino $22.00

Gold Medal Merlot $15.00-$19.99
2011 Bonterra Vineyards Merlot, Mendocino County $15.99

Gold Medal Merlot $25.00-$29.99
2010 Byrd Vineyard Merlot, Byrd Vineyard, Mendocino County $29.00

Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon $30.00-$34.99
2010 Parducci Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, True Grit Reserve, Mendocino County $30.00

Gold Medal Bordeaux Blends $30.00-$39.99
2009 Alder Springs Vineyard Estate 13 Tasks, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino $39.00

Gold Medal All Other Red Varietals
2012 Campovida Negroamaro, Chiarito, Mendocino County $36.00

Gold Medal All Red Blends Up to $14.99
2012 Kimmel Vineyards Redessence, Kimmel Vineyards, Potter Valley $14.99

Gold Medal All Red Blends $15.00-$24.99
NV Cesar Toxqui Cellars Heirloom IV, Mendocino $24.99

Gold Medal White Dessert RS>4
2011 McFadden Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley $18.00

Gold Medal White Dessert RS>4
2012 Stephen & Walker Chardonnay Botrytis, Mendocino Ridge $65.00

Mendocino County is a farm county. We grow grapes that are often sold and blended into Sonoma and Napa county wines to make them better. It is really nice to see so many wines held separate, made from Mendocino County grapes, and recognized for their excellence. Congratulations to the grape growers, winemakers, winery owners who made these wines possible; and thanks to the terrific crew of judges at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. We consumers, tasters, and folks working in the tasting rooms are grateful to you all.

Today, the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition announced the medals that judges awarded the wines that were submitted this year. The SFCWC is the “big daddy” of wine competitions, and today’s announcement was highly anticipated by the wineries competing for awards.

I am concentrating on the wineries and tasting rooms along Highway 101 in Mendocino county’s inland corridor this year, from Hopland to Redwood Valley and Ukiah to Potter Valley. Some folks call this the Upper Russian River wine area, and is quieter than Mendocino County’s more heavily promoted wine area, the Anderson Valley. With a greater variety of micro-climates, Mendocino County’s inland corridor wineries produce medal winning wines across a greater number of wine varietals.

This is the list of awards earned by Mendocino County’s inland corridor wineries, where the wine label indicated the wine was made from the county’s grapes. There were many wines from inland corridor wineries that I did not list here; although they were excellent award winning wines, they were made with grapes from a neighboring county, or were self-identified as North Coast or California wine.

BEST OF CLASS – White Dessert RS>4.0
McFadden Vineyard 2011 Potter Valley McFadden Farm Riesling $18.00

DOUBLE GOLD – Chardonnay – $15.00 to $19.99
McFadden Vineyard 2011 Potter Valley McFadden Farm $16.00
DOUBLE GOLD – Grenache
Jaxon Keys Winery 2010 Mendocino Jon Vinecent $15.00

GOLD – Chardonnay – $15.00 to $19.99
Kimmel Vineyards 2011 Potter Valley Kimmel Vineyards $19.00
GOLD – Chardonnay – $30.00 to $34.99
Kimmel Vineyards 2010 Potter Valley Kimmel Vineyards $32.00
GOLD – Pinot Blanc
Girasole Vineyards 2011 Mendocino $13.00
GOLD – Pinot Noir – up to $19.99
Weibel Vineyards & Winery 2010 Potter Valley Weibel Family $16.95
GOLD – Merlot- $15.00 to $19.99
Bonterra Vineyards 2010 Mendocino County $15.99
GOLD – Cabernet Sauvignon – $40.00 to $49.99
Kimmel Vineyards 2010 Potter Valley Kimmel Vineyards $48.00
GOLD – Petit Verdot
Terra Savia 2009 Mendocino Sanel Valley Vineyards $22.00
GOLD – Red Dessert – RS>4.0
Jaxon Keys Winery 2010 Mendocino Port Dessert Wine $25.00

SILVER – Dry Sparkling
McFadden Vineyard NV Potter Valley McFadden Farm Sparkling Brut Cuvee $25.00
SILVER – Sauvignon Blanc or Fume – up to $13.99
Bonterra Vineyards 2011 Mendocino County $13.99
Brutocao Cellars 2011 Mendocino Feliz Estate $12.99
SILVER – Sauvignon Blanc or Fume – $14.00 to $19.99
Fetzer Vineyards 2011 Mendocino County Mendo $15.99
Patianna Organic Vineyards 2011 Mendocino Estate Organic Grapes $16.99
SILVER – Chardonnay – $10.00 to $14.99
Bonterra Vineyards 2011 Mendocino County $13.99
Naughty Boy Vineyards 2011 Potter Valley Thornton Ranch $14.50
SILVER – Chardonnay – $15.00 to $19.99
Brutocao Cellars 2011 Mendocino Bliss Estate $16.00
SILVER – Gewurztraminer
McFadden Vineyard 2011 Potter Valley McFadden Farm $16.00
McFadden Vineyard 2009 Potter Valley McFadden Farm $16.00
SILVER – Viognier – Up to $19.99
Bonterra Vineyards 2011 Mendocino County $13.99
SILVER – Viognier – $20.00 & Over
Campovida 2011 Mendocino County Campovida Estate $36.00
SILVER – White Blends Over $15.00
Jaxon Keys Winery 2011 Mendocino Farmhouse White $15.00
SILVER – Dry Rose – RS<1%
Naughty Boy Vineyards 2011 Potter Valley Naughty Boy Vnyds Dry Rose of Zinfandel $16.00
SILVER – Pinot Noir – up to $19.99
Fetzer Vineyards 2011 Mendocino County $19.99
SILVER – Pinot Noir – $20.00 to $24.99
Barra of Mendocino 2010 Mendocino $20.00
SILVER – Pinot Noir – $40.00 to $49.99
Jeriko Estate 2011 Mendocino Estate $48.00
SILVER – Zinfandel – up to $19.99
Bliss Family Vineyards 2009 Mendocino Estate $12.99
Bonterra Vineyards 2010 Mendocino County $15.99
Jaxon Keys Winery 2010 Mendocino $18.00
Weibel Vineyards & Winery 2009 Mendocino Weibel Family $16.95
SILVER – Zinfandel – $20.00 to $24.99
Jaxon Keys Winery 2010 Mendocino Maes Block $24.00
Jaxon Keys Winery 2009 Mendocino Ettas Block $20.00
SILVER – Zinfandel – $25.00 to $29.99
McNab Ridge Winery 2009 Mendocino Cononiah Vineyards $26.00
SILVER – Syrah/Shiraz- $20.00 to $24.99
Jaxon Keys Winery 2010 Mendocino Anna Mac $20.00
SILVER – Petite Sirah – Up to $19.99
McNab Ridge Winery 2010 Mendocino County $18.00
SILVER – Petite Sirah – $20.00 & Over
Parducci Wine Cellars 2008 Mendocino County $28.99
SILVER – Merlot – $10.00 to $ 14.99
Parducci Wine Cellars 2010 Mendocino County $10.99
SILVER – Cabernet Sauvignon – up to $14.99
Bliss Family Vineyards 2010 Mendocino Estate $12.99
Parducci Wine Cellars 2009 Mendocino County $10.99
SILVER – Cabernet Sauvignon – $15.00 to $19.99
Weibel Vineyards & Winery 2009 Redwood Valley Weibel Family $18.95
SILVER – Cabernet Sauvignon – $20.00 to $24.99
Brutocao Cellars 2009 Mendocino Contento Estate $22.00
SILVER – Cabernet Sauvignon – $25.00 to $29.99
Kimmel Vineyards 2010 Potter Valley Four Blocks $26.00
SILVER – Cabernet Sauvignon – $40.00 to $49.99
McNab Ridge Winery 2009 Mendo, Napa, Sonoma $40.00
SILVER – Cabernet Franc
Albertina Wine Cellars 2009 Mendocino Zamarzly Family Vineyards $24.00
SILVER – Bordeaux Blends – up to $19.99
Terra Savia 2009 Mendocino Sanel Valley Vineyards Meritage $18.00
SILVER – All Red Blends – Up to $14.99
Bliss Family Vineyards NV Mendocino Schoolhouse Red $12.00

BRONZE – Semi Dry Sparkling
Terra Savia 2011 Mendocino Sanel Valley Vineyards Brut Rouge $23.00
Weibel Vineyards & Winery NV Mendocino County Weibel Family Brut $16.95
BRONZE – Sauvignon Blanc or Fume – $14.00 to $19.99
Jaxon Keys Winery 2011 Mendocino Cecil Keys $16.00
Paul Dolan Vineyards 2011 Potter Valley $17.99
BRONZE – Chardonnay – $10.00 to $14.99
Parducci Wine Cellars 2010 Mendocino County $10.99
BRONZE – Chardonnay – $15.00 to $19.99
Cesar Toxqui Cellars 2010 Mendocino Immigrant $18.00
Patianna Organic Vineyards 2010 Mendocino Estate Organic Grapes $16.99
BRONZE – Chardonnay – $20.00 to $24.99
Rivino Winery 2010 Mendocino Schrader Ranch Estate $22.00
BRONZE – Riesling – RS<1.49
Bonterra Vineyards 2010 Mendocino County White $13.99
McFadden Vineyard 2010 Potter Valley McFadden Farm $18.00
BRONZE – Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio – $15.00 & Over
McFadden Vineyard 2011 Potter Valley McFadden Farm Pinot Gris $16.00
BRONZE – Pinot Noir – up to $19.99
Bliss Family Vineyards 2010 Mendocino Estate $15.99
Bonterra Vineyards 2011 Mendocino County $15.99
BRONZE – Pinot Noir – $25.00 to $29.99
Naughty Boy Vineyards 2009 Potter Valley Naughty Boy Vineyards $26.00
BRONZE – Zinfandel – up to $19.99
Patianna Organic Vineyards 2011 Mendocino Old Vine $19.99
BRONZE – Primitivo
Brutocao Cellars 2009 Mendocino Contento Estate $22.00
BRONZE – Italian Blends – Up to $24.99
Brutocao Cellars 2009 Mendocino Hopland Estate Quadriga $24.00
BRONZE – Syrah/Shiraz – up to $19.99
Jaxon Keys Winery 2010 Mendocino Sandra Syrah $18.00
BRONZE – Merlot – $10.00 to $ 14.99
Terra Savia 2009 Mendocino Sanel Valley Vineyards $13.50
BRONZE – Cabernet Sauvignon – $25.00 to $29.99
Parducci Wine Cellars 2010 Mendocino County $29.99
Yokayo 2010 Mendocino County $25.00
BRONZE – Bordeaux Blends – $20.00 to $29.99
Cesar Toxqui Cellars NV Mendocino Heirloom IV $24.00
BRONZE – Bordeaux Blends – $30.00 to $39.99
Milano Family Winery 2007 Mendocino Bells Echo Vineyard Echo $37.00
BRONZE – All Red Blends – Up to $14.99
Frey 2011 Redwood Valley Frey Field Blend $14.99
Weibel Vineyards & Winery NV Mendocino Road I Red Red Table Wine $9.95
BRONZE – All Red Blends – $25.00 – $34.99
Jaxon Keys Winery 2010 Mendocino Assemblage $28.00

Two things I noted: the winery I manage the tasting room for took the highest honors and, while many will rightly feel like winners, it seems to me that Potter Valley was the big winner with a nice haul of Best Of Class, Double Gold, and Gold Medals.

Inland Mendocino County Wineries, from Hopland to Ukiah and Calpella to Potter Valley, won 20 GOLD Medals, 7 DOUBLE GOLD MEDALS, 4 of the 5 BEST OF CLASS awards, and 1 SWEEPSTAKES Award on August 3, 2012 at Friday night’s 36th Annual Mendocino County Wine Competition Awards Dinner.
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BELLS ECHO VINEYARD
3580 Feliz Creek Road, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD – 2009 Syrah, Mendocino County $24
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BLISS FAMILY VINEYARDS
13500 S Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD – NV Schoolhouse Red Blend, Mendocino County $12
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BONTERRA VINEYARDS
2231 McNab Ridge Road, HOPLAND, CA
DOUBLE GOLD and SWEEPSTAKES RED – 2009 The McNab Red Blend, Mendocino County $36
DOUBLE GOLD and BEST OF CLASS CHARDONNAY – 2010 Chardonnay, Mendocino County $14
GOLD – 2010 Viognier, Mendocino County $14
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CHIARITO VINEYARD
2651 Mill Creek Rd, UKIAH, CA
DOUBLE GOLD – 2009 Nero D’Avola, Mendocino County $32
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GIRASOLE VINEYARDS
7051 N. State Street,  REDWOOD VALLEY, CA
GOLD – 2011 Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County $13
GOLD – 2010 Pinot Noir, Mendocino County $16
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GRAZIANO FAMILY OF WINES
13275 Hwy 101 Suite 3, HOPLAND, CA
DOUBLE GOLD – 2010 Graziano Chenin Blanc, Mendocino County $15
GOLD – 2009 Monte Volpe Sangiovese, Mendocino County $18
GOLD – 2009 Saint Gregory Pinotage, Mendocino County $18
GOLD – 2011 Saint Gregory Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County $15
GOLD – 2009 Saint Gregory Pinot Noir, Mendocino County $19
GOLD – 2010 Saint Gregory Pinot Meunier, Mendocino County $20
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JAXON KEYS WINERY
10400 Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD and BEST OF CLASS ZINFANDEL 2010 Mae’s Block Zinfandel, Mendocino County, Ravazzi Vineyard $24
GOLD- 2009 Petite Sirah Mendocino County, Allie Keys Vineyard $24
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McFADDEN VINEYARD
13275 Hwy 101 Suite 5, HOPLAND, CA
DOUBLE GOLD- NV Sparkling Brut, Potter Valley, McFadden Farm $25
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PARDUCCI WINE CELLARS

501 Parducci Road, UKIAH, CA
and the Solar Living Center, 13771 S Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
DOUBLE GOLD – 2009 Petite Sirah, Mendico County $11
GOLD and BEST OF CLASS CABERNET SAUVIGNON – 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County $11
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PATIANNA ORGANIC VINEYARDS
Old River Road, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD- 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County $17
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PAUL DOLAN VINEYARDS
501 Parducci Road, UKIAH, CA
and the Solar Living Center, 13771 S Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD and BEST OF CLASS SAUVIGNON BLANC – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Potter Valley $18
GOLD – 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, $25
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SARACINA
11684 S Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County $22
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TESTA VINEYARDS
6400 North State Steet, CALPELLA, CA
DOUBLE GOLD – 2010 Carignane, Mendocino County $25
GOLD – 2011 Rose of Carignane, Mendocino County $18
GOLD – 2010 Charbono, Mendocino County $40
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WEIBEL FAMILY VINEYARDS
13275 S Hwy 101 Suite 1, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD – 2010 Orange Muscat, Mendocino County $15
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Mendocino County’s HIGHWAY 101 Wineries – EASY TO VISIT, EASY TO LOVE.

The town of Hopland in California’s Mendocino county is on Highway 101, 101 miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

The town is rural, with a small town charm comprised in part by a measure of genuineness that city people who work and live in cubicles flee to find.

Hopland, named long ago for the hops grown and kilned to make the area’s beers, is now a town better associated with wines.

16 winery tasting rooms are located in or near the center of Hopland, and wineries from 15 miles north in larger Ukiah, Mendocino county’s county seat, are trying to join Hopland’s tourism group and be considered Hopland wineries and take part in Hopland wine events.

Wine is made from grapes and grapes are grown by farmers. It is the growing of grapes, the farming in the area, that best gives Hopland the down home character visitors perceive. Unlike the amusement park environment of boutiques and high end restaurants found in the counties to the south, Hopland has a few basic eateries, filled with real working men and women.

Hopland’s grapes are grown in an area also known as the Sanel Valley. There is no monolithically thought of grape grown in Hopland’s Sanel Valley, because the area is as diverse as the roughly individualistic farmers who make their living off the land.

With vineyards on the rocky slopes of Duncan Peak to vineyards on the bank of the upper Russian River, head pruned and trellised, irrigated and dry farmed, organically grown or raised biodynamically, planted to field blends or single varietal, the myriad grapes that are grown and the multitude of styles of wine produced from each of these different varietals makes for the greatest concentrated diverse wine tasting experience in the United States.

Of note is the greenness of the offerings in and around Hopland. In an industry where many supermarket brands of wine are made from plastic fertilizers, toxic pesticides, and poisonous insecticides, mass produced in environmentally hazardous monocultures, where only 2 percent of wineries produce wines made from certified organically grown or certified biodynamically raised grapes, roughly 25% of all the wines poured in Hopland’s tasting rooms are genuinely green.

As Pam Strayer wrote on Organic Wine Uncorked, “Wines made with pesticides contribute more than 450,000+ pounds of Roundup to California each year. That just can’t be a good thing for an ecosystem.”

I’m biased, working for McFadden Vineyard, but here’s the way all wineries should strive to be: McFadden Farm up in nearby Potter Valley not only grows 750 tons of grapes organically every year but is a family farm, growing and air drying organic herbs, raising organic grass fed beef, selling 100% pure wild rice, and more green, healthy, farm treats. With both solar panels and a hydroelectric plant on property, McFadden Farm has to look behind them to find the wineries that brag about being carbon neutral.

Okay, stepping off my soapbox, I have to say that McFadden Farm produces fewer than 5,000 cases of wine and the efforts of a million case winery to be carbon neutral are substantially more involved than for what is more a Farm than a winery.

Parducci Wine Cellars, a Ukiah winery with a satellite tasting room in Hopland at the Solar Living Institute, has a commitment to the environment, a passion that is palpable, and is a shining example that doing things green, the right way, can actually end up saving money as the focus on reuse, reduce, and recycle ends up costing less than wasteful use and unnecessary spending.

Parducci is a huge winery. Their wines are uniformly delicious. They are carbon neutral. Relying on natural compost has allowed better tasting wines from healthier vineyards as unnatural fertilizers have been eliminated, and at a substantial cost savings. Similarly, reclaiming and naturally filtering all run off water from operations has made for a healthy ecologically diverse biome in the midst of their home vineyards, while reducing consumption of water – again, generating a cost savings.

Fetzer Vineyards is the 800 pound gorilla of Hopland area wineries, and was recently bought by Concha y Toro, a Chilean wine company demonstrating terrific green business sense with Fetzer. Fetzer produces millions of cases of wine, and this year I saw more organic grapes headed to Fetzer from local family vineyards than ever before. Of course, I believe that certified organic grapes make great wine, but the energy savings in sourcing as much of your needed grapes locally for a giant winery like Fetzer, as trucks travel shorter distances and use less fuel, is enormous.

Occasionally, I taste wines at events with other wine writers, and I abhor the elite wine snobbery I too often hear when the wines of Fetzer are discussed. Because Fetzer’s wines are produced in enormous quantities and are widely available throughout the country in stores and restaurants, there is a bias against Fetzer; the assertion being that good wine, wine worthy of tasting, can only come from small hand crafted wines with limited distribution costing an arm and a leg.

Let me call bullshit on that. I will agree that spending five times what you would spend on a bottle of Fetzer’s wines will allow you to select a spectacular bottle of wine – if you know what you are doing. You can easily spend an enormous amount on a not very good bottle of wine if you don’t know what you are doing, but you can’t buy a bad bottle of Fetzer wine and buying affordable wine rocks.

I was sent a six bottle assortment of Fetzer wines last year, and was impressed with the quality of the wines. The Riesling, which I have heard described as cloyingly sweet by people who admitted not having tasted one from Fetzer in over a decade, had the petrol notes I associate with quality collectable Rieslings costing much more and terrific balance between sweet notes and acid. All of the wines were good, well structured, all were drinkable, and all had fantastic QPR, or Quality/Price Ratio – they are great value wines.

The only knock I have with Fetzer, and something I imagine Concha y Toro will address in time, is that they don’t have a Hopland tasting room.

I would love to see a tasting room, right on highway 101 in downtown Hopland, where Fetzer could pour their wines. The wines of their all-organic sister winery Bonterra could be poured in the same location. Allowing people to taste wines regularly lets folks know how good the wines really are.

Another Hopland vineyard and winery without a Hopland tasting room is Topel Winery. Mark and Donnis Topel make some amazingly great wine, but chose to situate their tasting room in a location with greater traffic.

I shared a table with Mark at a wine event last year, and it worked out great, as I poured McFadden’s Sparkling Brut, amazing white wines, and delicious reds, and Mark poured his spectacular reds which are denser than McFadden’s style. The result was pretty nice as there was a compatible flow.

Mark and Donnis saw to it that I had the opportunity to taste their wines last year, dropping off a bottle here and there. I also tasted a half dozen Topel Winery wines during the event we worked together.

I once described the red wines of Topel Winery as being possibly the best from Hopland, but that is unfair to Topel’s wines. Mark and Donnis produce some of the best wines anywhere. Lush, dense, rich, multi noted, yet completely drinkable. Gorgeously balanced wines. I love the Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage, and Estate Blend red wines from Topel Winery.

Every vineyard, every winery, every tasting room in Hopland has a story to tell. I hope to tell a few of those stories this year – better yet, capture the words of the farmers, winemakers, and tasting room managers and pass them on along with some notes on some of the great wines being poured in Hopland.

For decades, Bill Traverso of Traverso’s Gourmet Foods and Liquors has been the man nearly everyone in Santa Rosa trusts when searching out a particular bottle of wine, Sonoma County’s wine merchant above all others. Bill is the chairman of Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine’s Grand Harvest Awards, which makes the awards special enough for me to take notice, but Bill also points at something he feels sets this competition apart from others, “wines are judged by region…[each wine is] terroir ranked against its competitors. GHA recognizes wine entries that best exemplify the terroir of their respective viticultural areas, and acknowledges its influence on wine quality.”

This year the competition, first held in 1990, saw nearly two dozen judges set about tasting around one and a half thousand wines, from about 150 different American Viticultural Areas or other discrete wine appelations.

Of the numerous award winners, these are Mendocino County wineries that won awards, and wineries that won awards using Mendocino County grapes:

California

Gold

Fetzer Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Riesling, $9.99

Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino Wine Co., 09 Sustainable White, $11

Silver

Fetzer Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Chardonnay, $8.99

Five Rivers Wines, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Pinot Noir, $12.99

Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino Wine Co., 09 Chardonnay, $11

Paul Dolan Vineyards, Mendocino Wine Co., 09 Chardonnay, $18

Bronze

Bonterra Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Sauvignon Blanc, 60% Lake County/40% Mendocino, $13.99

Fetzer Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 08 Cabernet Sauvignon, $8.99

Fetzer Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Gewurztraminer, $9.99

Fetzer Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 08 Merlot, $8.99

Fetzer Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Shiraz, $8.99Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino Wine Co., 07 Petite Sirah, $11

Little Black Dress Wines, Brown-Forman Corporation, 08 Cabernet Sauvignon, $10.99

Little Black Dress Wines, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Sauvignon Blanc, $10.99

Little Black Dress Wines, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Chardonnay, $10.99

Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino Wine Co., 07 True Grit, $30

Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino Wine Co., 09 Pinot Noir, $12

Paul Dolan Vineyards, Mendocino Wine Co., 07 Deep Red, $45

Anderson Valley (AVA)

Gold

Handley Cellars, 07 Pinot Noir, $30

V. Sattui Winery, 09 Riesling, $24

Silver

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Riesling, $18

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Gewurztraminer, Late Harvest, $35

Bronze

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Gewurztraminer, Estate Bottled, $19

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Edelzwicker, $13

Navarro Vineyards, 270 Pinot Gris, $19

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Chardonnay, Premigre Reserve, $25

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Pinot Noir, $29

Mendocino (AVA)

Gold

Handley Cellars, 08 Pinot Noir, $25

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Syrah, $25

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Genache, $27

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Zinfandel, $19

Silver

Barra of Mendocino, 07 Cabernet Sauvignon, $20

Girasole vineyards, Barra of Mendocino, 09 Hybrid red, $13

Girasole vineyards, Barra of Mendocino, 09 Pinot Blanc, $13

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Savignon Blanc, Cuvee 128, $18

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Chardonnay, $17

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Pinot Noir, $19

Bronze

Barra of Mendocino, 07 Pinot Noir, $20

CalNaturale, California Natural Products, 09 Chardonnay, Organically Grown, $12.99/liter

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Zinfandel, Old Vine, $25

Navarro Vineyards, 09 Navarrouge, $14

Pacific Redwood, Pacific Redwood Winery, 09 Organic Merlot, $10.5

Mendocino County (County Appellation)

Silver

Bonterra Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Pinot Noir, $19.99

Bronze

Bonterra Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 09 Chardonnay, $13.99

Bonterra Vineyards, Brown-Forman Corporation, 08 Merlot, $15.99

Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery, 06 Chardonnay, Weibel Family, $14.95

Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery, 09 Pinot Noir, Knightsdale, $15.95

Mendocino Ridge (AVA)

Gold

Stephen & Walker, Stephen & Walker, Trust Winery Ltd., 09 Chardonnay Late Harvest, $65

Yorkville Highlands (AVA)

Gold

Route 128 Winery, 09 Viognier, Opatz family Vineyards, $19

Bronze

Route 128 Winery, 07 Syrah, Opatz family Vineyards, $24

 

This is a terrific opportunity to search out a bottle of wine that isn’t just good, but it a good example of what a wine from the area it comes from should taste like.

Cheers and enjoy!

Torrontés is a grape grown widely in Argentina, with 33,000 acres planted between Torrontés Riojano and Torrontés Sanjuanino. Together with my favorite named Torrontés grape, Torrontés Mendocino, Torrontés are crossings of Mission and Muscat of Alexandria, or Muscat of Alexandria and an as yet unidentified grape.

When you hear Torrontés from Argentina, think Zinfandel from California. Both are grapes that grow well in their respective places, both make delicious wines, both have large cult followings, but neither gets the respect they are due.

Just as California winemakers can point to pre-prohibition century old vine field blend Zinfandels and appropriately call Zinfandel “California’s wine,” while the public searches instead for California Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay; so too can Argentine winemakers point to the Torrontés grapes brought by Spanish missionaries and colonists when describing Torrontés wines as Argentina’s wine, while consumers seek out Argentine Malbec and Bonarda instead.

More than any other wine, Torrontés is Argentina’s wine.

Torrontés makes for Argentina’s most unique white wines, typically possessing a yellowish green color, and spicy floral aromas.

Torrontés plantings are mostly found in La Rioja, Salta, Mendoza, Catamarca, Rio Negro and San Juan.

Recently, I tasted my first Torrontés, Concha y Toro’s Trivento Tribu 2009 Torrontés from Rivadavia, Mendoza in Argentina. Grown in the shadow of snow covered mountain peaks, a gift from a friend, the 2009 Trivento Tribu Torrontés Mendoza Argentina $9 is a lovely shade of yellow with a floral citrusy nose of rose and tangerine, and a fresh, medium light bodied, nice lightly acidic/sweet balanced burst of earthy tropical, orange, apricot and peach stone fruit. Really delicious. seriously drinkable. Amazing QPR (quality/price ratio), this wine costs little and tastes great.

Not the easiest varietal to find, but go to a real wine shop and ask the owner to point you toward the Argentine Torrontés, or have him order you some.

I paired the Torrontés with shell fish, steamed mussels and clams, and used the Torrontés in the pot in place of water for the steaming. So good, one of those makes-you-shudder moments. I would also pair this with any nice white fish, or chicken, or pasta, or how about nothing.

While the 2009 Trivento Tribu Torrontés Mendoza Argentina pairs brilliantly with food, it would also go over well just poured into glasses for a gathering of friends.

Cheers to the folks in Argentina who make Torrontés, a delicious new wine find for me, but a wine as much a part of their heritage as Zinfandel is for me and California’s wine industry.

__________

Writing about a Concha y Toro wine and mentioning the Torrontés Mendocino grape is almost wine blogger’s foreplay.

The big news here in Mendocino County this week is that Fetzer Vineyards, the county’s largest winery with annual sales of 2.2 million cases, has been sold by spirits powerhouse Brown-Forman of Louisville, KY to Concha y Toro, the Chilean wine company with the aim of being “a leading global branded wine company.”

The $238 million purchase, which includes Bonterra, the largest premium organic winery in the US, Five Rivers, Jekel and Sanctuary wine brands, goes a long way to increasing Concha y Toro’s visibility on the global wine scene.

My scheduled tour of Fetzer Vineyards with Ann Thrupp, the Manager of Sustainability and Organic Development for both Fetzer and Bonterra Vineyards in Hopland, was cancelled this morning, awaiting a rescheduling by Ann, due to busyness around the winery owing to the transition.

Ann echoes the universal sentiment surrounding Concha y Toro’s acquisition, “it’s good news…we are all very optimistic. It’s an excellent company, committed to wine.”

It is hopeful that with the purchase of Fetzer by a winecentric company, Concha y Toro, the wish of all at Fetzer Vineyards for a Hopland tasting room will become a reality again sooner than later.

DISCLOSURE: As a promotion to boost awareness of Argentina’s wines, the folks at Wines of Argentina contacted me, and a bunch of other wine bloggers and asked them to write about their wines. This month it was to be an article on Torrantes, with different topics being explored each month – say Malbec, the influence of the Spanish or Italian, a look at San Juan vs Mendoza, whatever. Each month the Wines of Argentina folks choose their favorite piece, winners from 6 or more months will be judged once again, and one blogger will earn a trip to Argentina to taste wines. I acknowledge that there is an element of shill-iness about it all, but my piece was an honest review of a recently tasted wine that I didn’t write up and I tied it back to California, Mendocino County, and an individual local winery before I was finished – so if I’m to be judged a whore, I would like you to consider me a playful whore who would enjoy pairing the cuisine of Argentina’s Cuyo region with the wines of San Luis and San Juan.

Wine writers usually write about wineries and winemakers, tasting rooms and wines, but far too often don’t give full credit to the vineyards, winegrape caretakers, and the land the grapes grow on that shape the wines we enjoy.

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is a pretty big deal in the world of wine competitions. This year, this largest wine competition of American wines saw over 5,000 wines entered into competition from 23 US states. Of course, most of the wines came from California, and many of the wines entered were made with grapes grown in Mendocino County grapes.

All of the wines awarded medals – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Double (unanimous) Gold, Best of Class (best of varietal, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, etc.), and Sweepstakes (Best red, white, bubbly, dessert, etc. of Competition) – will be poured for the public at the SFCWC Public Tasting at the Festival Pavilion at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco on Saturday, February 19, 2011 from 2:00pm – 5:00pm.

I have pulled the 170 wines being poured, made from Mendocino County grapes, by wineries in and out of Mendocino County, so that you can try a Terroir tasting. By planning ahead, preparing a tasting list of Mendocino County wines, there is the opportunity to taste unique varietal characteristics found in Mendocino County’s wines, what makes Chardonnay made from Manchester Ridge grapes so good or how Barbera, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah each find a fullness of expression when grown in Mendocino County. The opportunity to explore and learn the profile of award winning Anderson Valley Pinot Noir or Mendocino Zinfandel by tasting several award winning examples in one place is rare, but well worth the effort – especially when the opportunity presents itself so richly.

I will visit wineries, mostly in Mendocino County, this year and write about the wines they make. I will have less opportunity to write about vineyards, although the sustainable, organic, and biodynamic green-ness of Mendocino County grape growing allows for compelling stories. The individual appellation promotional efforts for the Anderson Valley, Hopland, Redwood Valley, Ukiah, and the overarching Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission will focus their efforts on promotion of the county’s wineries, but not vineyards – it is a tougher story to tell effectively.

The results of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, 170 award winning wines identified as being made from grapes harvested in Mendocino County – plus countless more wines improved by the addition of Mendocino County grapes in wines labelled as coming from North Coast or California – and having a tasting list of of those 170 medal winning Mendocino County wines, allows tasters to experience the land of the county, the area within the county, individual vineyards, as much or more than tasting the winemaker’s art or the winery style imprint.

Regularly, I would suggest folks throughout the San Francisco bay area come north up highway 101 to Mendocino County to visit our vineyards and wineries, taste our wines and olive oils,  join our wine clubs, stay overnight in our lodgings, dine in our restaurants, visit more wineries, a farmer’s market, garden, museum, or hot springs, maybe ride on the Skunk Train, drive through redwood forests, visit our wild coast, and at the end of your visit, return home with a trunk full of delicious Mendocino County bounty.

Saturday, February 19, instead, I would urge you to visit San Francisco’s Fort Mason, and take part in your own exploration of Mendocino County wines at the Public Tasting of SFVWC medal winners.

This list is a celebration of Mendocino County’s Winegrape growers, congratulations on having your excellence recognized and awarded:

39 North Wine Company 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County $30 SILVER

39 North Wine Company 2007 Petite Sirah Mendocino County $30 SILVER

Albertina Wine Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino Zamarzly Family Vineyards $20 GOLD

Amorosa Bella NV Dry Sparkling Brut Mendocino County Amorosa Balla $30 BRONZE

Artevino 2009 Chardonnay Yorkville Highlands Mendocino County $30 GOLD

Artezin Wines 2009 Zinfandel Mendocino County $18 SILVER

Artezin Wines 2007 Petite Sirah Mendocino County $25 BRONZE

Balance by Heath Dolan 2007 Red Field Blend Mendocino $24 SILVER

Barra of Mendocino 2007 Pinot Noir Mendocino $20 SILVER

Barra of Mendocino 2006 Sangiovese Mendocino $18 BRONZE

Baxter 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Run Dog Vineyard $45 SILVER

Baxter 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Toulouse Vineyard $45 SILVER

Baxter 2007 Pinot Noir Mendocino Oppenlander Vineyard $60 DOUBLE GOLD

Baxter 2006 Carignane Mendocino Caballo Blanco $32 SILVER

Black Goose Wines 2006 Zinfandel Mendocino County Bartoloma Vineyards $26 BRONZE

Bliss Family Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino Estate Bottled $10 SILVER

Bliss Family Vineyards 2009 Merlot Mendocino Estate Bottled $10 SILVER

Bliss Family Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino Estate Bottled $10 SILVER

Blooms Winery on Whidbey 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County Blooms Vineyard $30 SILVER

Bonterra Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino County Bonterra $14 SILVER

Bonterra Vineyards NV White Table Blend Mendocino County Bonterra $10 SILVER

Bonterra Vineyards 2009 Rosé Mendocino Bonterra $14 DOUBLE GOLD

Bonterra Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir Mendocino County Bonterra $20 GOLD

Bonterra Vineyards 2008 Zinfandel Mendocino County Bonterra $16 GOLD

Bonterra Vineyards 2008 Merlot Mendocino County Bonterra $16 SILVER

Bonterra Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino Bonterra $16 SILVER

Bonterra Vineyards NV Red Table Blend Mendocino County Bonterra $10 GOLD

Brutocao 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino Feliz Vineyard Estate Bottled $14 BRONZE

Brutocao 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino Bliss Vineyard Estate Bottled $16 SILVER

Brutocao 2008 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Estate Bottled $28 BRONZE

Brutocao 2007 Quadriga Mendocino Hopland Ranch Estate Bottled $24 SILVER

Brutocao 2007 Merlot Mendocino Bliss Vineyard Estate Bottled $20 SILVER

Brutocao 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino Hopland Ranch Estate Bottled $22 GOLD

Cahill Winery 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Cole Ranch $20 BRONZE

Calstar Cellars 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino Ridge Manchester Ridge $35 BEST OF CLASS

Calstar Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Londer Estate $50 BRONZE

Cameron Hughes Wine 2007 Syrah Mendocino County Yorkville Highlands $12 GOLD

Carol Shelton Wines 2007 Zinfandel Mendocino County Cox Vineyard $24 BRONZE

Castle Rock Winery 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino County $10 SILVER

Claudia Springs Winery 2009 Viognier Redwood Valley Lolonis Vineyard $24 SILVER

Claudia Springs Winery 2009 Pinot Gris Anderson Valley Klindt Vineyard $18 BRONZE

Claudia Springs Winery 2007 Zinfandel Mendocino $24 SILVER

DeLoach Vineyard 2007 Pinot Noir Redwood Valley Masut $45 BRONZE

Edmeades 2008 Zinfandel Mendocino County $18 BRONZE

Esterlina 2009 Riesling Cole Ranch $20 SILVER

Esterlina 2009 White Dessert Cole Ranch $28 BRONZE

Foursight Wines 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Anderson Valley Charles Vineyard $20 SILVER

Foursight Wines 2009 Gewurtztraminer Anderson Valley $20 GOLD

Foursight Wines 2008 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Charles Vineyard Zero New Oak $25 BRONZE

Foursight Wines 2008 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley All In Charles Vineyard $35 BRONZE

Frey Vineyards Ltd 2009 Chardonnay Redwood Valley Biodynamic $14 BRONZE

Frey Vineyards Ltd 2009 Sangiovese Mendocino Organic $13 BRONZE

Frey Vineyards Ltd 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino Organic $15 SILVER

Girasole Vineyards 2009 Merlot Mendocino $13 SILVER

Girasole Vineyards 2009 Hybrid Red Mendocino $13 GOLD

Greenwood Ridge Vineyards 2008 White riesling Mendocino Ridge Estate Bottled $18 SILVER

Handley Cellars 2009 Gewurtztraminer Anderson Valley $18 SILVER

Handley Cellars 2009 Pinot Gris Anderson Valley $18 SILVER

Handley Cellars 2008 Pinot Noir Mendocino County $25 SILVER

Handley Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir Mendocino $25 BRONZE

Handley Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $30 GOLD

Harmonique 2006 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley The Noble One $50 SILVER

Harmonique 2006 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Elegance $53 SILVER

Harmonique 2006 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Delicace $55 SILVER

Harmonique 2006 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Oppenlander $55 SILVER

Heron Wines 2009 Cabernet sauvignon Mendocino $14 BRONZE

Husch Vineyards 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino $14 BRONZE

Husch Vineyards 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino Renegade $18 SILVER

Husch Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Anderson Valley Vine One $18 BRONZE

Husch Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino $15 BRONZE

Husch Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay Mendocino Special Reserve $25 SILVER

Husch Vineyards 2009 Gewurtztraminer Anderson Valley $14 SILVER

Husch Vineyards 2009 Muscat Canelli Mendocino $15 SILVER

Husch Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Knoll $38 SILVER

Husch Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Reserve $35 GOLD

Husch Vineyards 2009 Zinfandel Mendocino Old Vines $25 GOLD

Husch Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino $21 SILVER

Husch Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino Reserve $35 SILVER

Husch Vineyards 2009 Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer Anderson Valley $20 SILVER

J. Keverson 2007 Sangiovese Mendocino $20 GOLD

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards 2009 Barbera Mendocino County $17 BEST OF CLASS

Jaxon Keys Winery 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino $15 GOLD

Jazz Cellars 2007 Petite Sirah Mendocino Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard $40 SILVER

JK Estates 2008 Pinot Noir Mendocino $13 SILVER

Kendall-Jackson 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino Grand Reserve $20 SILVER

Kimmel Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay Potter Valley Kimmel Vineyards $32 SILVER

Kimmel Vineyards 2007 Merlot Mendocino Kimmel Vineyards $38 SILVER

La Follette Wines 2008 Chardonnay Mendocino Ridge Manchester Ridge $48 SILVER

Le Vin Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County Le Vin Vineyards $36 BRONZE

Ledson Winery & Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $60 SILVER

Martella Wine 2007 Petite Sirah Mendocino Heart Arrow Ranch $35 SILVER

Martella Wine 2007 Cabernet sauvignon Mendocino Heart Arrow Ranch $55 BRONZE

Maysie Cellars Rosé of Sangiovese Mendocino County $13 SILVER

McFadden Vineyard NV Brut Potter Valley McFadden Vineyard $25 SILVER

McFadden Vineyard 2009 Gewurtztraminer Potter Valley McFadden Vineyard $15 BRONZE

McFadden Vineyard 2008 Pinot Gris Valley McFadden Vineyard $15 BRONZE

McFadden Vineyard 2007 Zinfandel Potter Valley McFadden Vineyard $19 SILVER

McNab Ridge Winery 2009 Roussanne Mendocino Shadow Brook Farms $15 SILVER

McNab Ridge Winery 2007 Petite Sirah Mendocino $18 BRONZE

McNab Ridge Winery 2009 Pinotage Mendocino Napoli Estate $20 SILVER

Mendielle Vertu 2007 Merlot Mendocino Destination Valley Vineyard $27 SILVER

Meyer Family Cellars 2009 Chardonnay Anderson Valley $22 BRONZE

Meyer Family Cellars 2006 Syrah Yorkville Highlands $28 BRONZE

Milano Family Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino Queirolo Vineyard $29 BRONZE

Milano Family Winery 2006 Echo Bordeaux Blend Mendocino Rells Echo Vineyard $37 SILVER

Muscardini Cellars 2009 Barbera Redway Valley Pauli Ranch $38 SILVER

Naughty Boy 2009 Chardonnay Potter Valley Thornton Ranch $13 GOLD

Naughty Boy 2007 Pinot Noir Potter Valley NB Vineyard $24 SILVER

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino Cuvee 128 $18 BEST OF CLASS

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino  $13 BRONZE

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Anderson Valley Premiere Reserve $25 SILVER

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Gewurtztraminer Anderson Valley Estate Bottled  $19 SILVER

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Muscat Blanc Anderson Valley $19 SILVER

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris Anderson Valley $19 GOLD

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir Mendocino $19 SILVER

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Methode a l’Ancienne $29 SILVER

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Zinfandel Mendocino $19 GOLD

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Zinfandel Mendocino Old Vine $25 SILVER

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Syrah Mendocino $25 BEST OF CLASS

Navarro Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino $35 SILVER

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Navarrouge Mendocino $14 BRONZE

Navarro Vineyards 2009 Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer Anderson Valley $35 SILVER

Oak Cliff Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir Mendocino County $35 SILVER

Oak Cliff Cellars 2008 Zinfandel Mendocino County Curtis Ranch $28 BRONZE

Parducci Wine Cellars 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino County $11 GOLD

Parducci Wine Cellars 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino County $11 GOLD

Parducci Wine Cellars 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino County $11 GOLD

Parducci Wine Cellars 2009 Sustainable White Mendocino County $11 BRONZE

Parducci Wine Cellars 2007 Petite Sirah Mendocino County $11 BRONZE

Parducci Wine Cellars 2007 Petite Sirah (True Grit) Mendocino $30 SILVER

Parducci Wine Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County $11 BRONZE

Patianna 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino Estate Grown Organic Grapes $16 GOLD

Patianna 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino Estate Grown Organic Grapes $16 BRONZE

Patianna 2007 Pinot Noir Mendocino Made With Organic Grapes $20 BRONZE

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino County $18 GOLD

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino County $18 BRONZE

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Mendocino County $30 SILVER

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County $25 SILVER

Phillips Hill 2009 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Wiley $40 BRONZE

Philo Ridge Vineyards 2009 Gewurtztraminer Anderson Valley Ferrington Vineyards $18 BRONZE

Philo Ridge Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris Anderson Valley Klindt Vineyards $18 BRONZE

Philo Ridge Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $24 GOLD

Rock Wall Wine Co 2009 Viognier Mendocino $18 SILVER

Rock Wall Wine Co 2008 Petite Sirah Mendocino $22 BRONZE

Rosa D’Oro Vineyards 2009 Tocai Friulano Mendocino County $16 BRONZE

Route 128 Winery 2007 Syrah Torkville Highlands Opatz Family $24 SILVER

Scharffenberger Cellars NV Brut Mendocino $19 SILVER

Stephen & Walker 2009 Late Harvest Chardonnay Mendocino Ridge $65 BRONZE

Stonehedge Winery 2007 Malbec Mendocino Terroir select $15 SILVER

Terra Savia 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino $14 DOUBLE GOLD

Terra Savia 2009 Chardonnay Mendocino Sanel Valley Vineyard Reserve $18 SILVER

Terra Savia 2009 Meritage Mendocino Sanel Valley Vineyards $18 BRONZE

Trinitas Cellars 2007 Zinfandel Mendocino JMR & Comrado Old Vine $25 GOLD

Trinitas Cellars 2007 Rhone Cuvee Mendocino JMR & Comrado Old Vine $20 GOLD

Truett Hurst Winery 2009 Rhone Blend Mendocino Dark Horse $40 SILVER

VJB Vineyards & Cellars 2009 Tocai Friulano Mendocino County $22 GOLD

Volante Vineyards 2006 Petite Sirah Redwood Valley Thompson Vineyards $18 BRONZE

Williamson Wines 2009 Viognier Mendocino County Frolic $34 SILVER

Willowbrook Cellars 2008 Chardonnay Mendocino Ridge Manchester Ridge $34 DOUBLE GOLD

Windsor Vineyards 2007 Petite Sirah Mendocino County $10 SILVER

Windsor Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County $18 SILVER

Yorkville Cellars 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Yorkville Highlands Randle Hill $17 SILVER

Yorkville Cellars 2009 Eleanor of Aquitaine Yorkville Highlands Randle Hill $25 SILVER

Yorkville Cellars 2009 Semillon Yorkville Highlands Randle Hill $20 SILVER

Yorkville Cellars 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Yorkville Highlands Rennie Vineyard $28 SILVER

Yorkville Cellars 2008 Cabernet Franc Yorkville Highlands Rennie Vineyard $25 SILVER

Yorkville Cellars 2008 Petit Perdot Yorkville Highlands Rennie Vineyard $28 SILVER

Yorkville Cellars 2008 Hi-Roller Red Mendocino County $18 SILVER

Zina Hyde Cunningham 2009 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Reserve $60 SILVER

White Zinfandel is the gateway wine for many wine drinkers, an introduction to wine through the light, pink, and delicious accident of winemaking often leads people to try the harder stuff; Gewurtztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, that other Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In a future article, I’ll talk about that path to the hard stuff, to Cabernet Sauvignon, but today is all about White Zinfandel.

Zinfandel is a red grape and is used to make the red wine Zinfandel. Squeezing almost any red grape, including the Zinfandel grape produces a clear juice. It is by putting the skins back in contact with the juice during fermentation, sometimes aided by punching the skins down into the juice or pumping the juice over the skins, that the color from the skins is imparted to the juice. This is, in short, how red wine becomes red.

Although there is some evidence that Zinfandel may have been made into a White Zinfandel as early as 1869 in Lodi, CA; Sutter Home Winery in the  Napa Valley is generally credited with making the White Zinfandel you are familiar with in the 1970′s, quite by accident.

Sutter Home had already been making a clear juice white wine from Zinfandel grapes, fermented to dryness in the early 1970′s, which tasted nothing like what you are familiar with today, but was called white Zinfandel.

Alcohol occurs during the fermentation of grape juice into wine when yeasts consume and convert sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol.

In 1975, Sutter Home has some Zinfandel juice experience a stuck fermentation, where the yeast just stopped consuming sugar. The result was considered to be defective, sweeter and lower in alcohol than desired. The odd wine was put aside for possible blending into other wines later. Before blending, a winemaker tasted the sweet, lower alcohol, pink wine and liked the taste. Thus was born the White Zinfandel everyone is familiar with today.

Sutter Home Winery is the creator of White Zinfandel…by accident.

Now wineries can stop the fermentation cold, literally; freezing the outside of the tank can stop the fermentation process inside the tank. White Zinfandels can be made with very high sugar and low alcohol or very low sugar and high alcohol, or any point in between.

I drink Zinfandel, the original red wine. I do not drink White Zinfandel with much frequency. The reason I drink Zinfandel instead of White Zinfandel is a matter of preference. I prefer all dry red wines to all sweet white and rosé wines. But I do drink sweet white, rosé and White Zinfandel on occasion – often because they are the perfect wine for a pairing.

I found a video with a wine knowledgeable gal spouting some of the most foolishly snobby declarations; she actually spent time to create a video dedicated to putting down White Zinfandel and people who enjoy White Zinfandel. I am saddened to say that she is not alone in her superior attitude. I have written before of my disappointment with the job the wine industry does marketing its product and with the wine writers writing for each other, out snobbing each other, instead of writing for regular folks – there are in fact some very good, unpretentious wine writers out there, but too few make it to print in my opinion.

Snobby wine gal video: http://www.ehow.com/video_2290320_why-avoid-drinking-white-zinfandel.html

Sutter Home claims that 1 in every 10 wine bottles opened in America, a full 10%, is White Zinfandel. Many of the most expensive Champagnes in France are a rosé bubbly. I find the wine snob attitude, a tendency to look down on “lDanesser” wines and the people who enjoy them, is usually from people who think they know wine – but don’t.

People new to wine appreciate the accessibility of White Zinfandel, it is easily enjoyed. People who have been around the industry a long time appreciate that many people would not come to wine at all if it weren’t for White Zinfandel; and take away 1 in 10 wine bottles being opened in America, and you’ll see layoffs in the industry.

It is only the pseudo connoisseur that rushes to judge an entire segment of wine “inferior”. Typical of those who do not have true knowledge or ability, they put something down thinking it builds them up. Neither new to wine, or genuinely wine knowledgeable, these people are asses, plain and simple. Let them sit at home alone fondling their Dana Estates’ 2007 Lotus Vineyard Cab in the dark.

Show me a party with White Zinfandel and I’ll show you a party with some fun people, a party likely to be more animated than a serious consideration of flights from top producers of Pinot Noir. I’m not knocking Pinot Noir, I dearly love it; I’m just saying White Zinfandel is fun. and fun is often too lacking in wine.

White Zinfandel, like any other wine, changes winery to winery, appellation to appellation, and vintage to vintage. Winemaking choices play an even greater role in creating variation between labels. The color varies from a pale golden blush to an orange sunset, from a salmon color, to pink and even a darker purpley pink. White Zinfandel is most often sweet, but again there is variety, with bottles ranging from rather dry to very sweet.

When I worked for Windsor Vineyards, our winemaker Carol Shelton made a White Zinfandel out of 100% Zinfandel grapes, even though she could used just 75% Zinfandel and blended in a much less expensive grape, and still, by law, called it a White Zinfandel. DeLoach Vineyards also made a 100% Zinfandel White Zinfandel at the time. For some wineries, making a quality wine is more important than making an inexpensive wine. Carol Shelton is America’s most awarded winemaker and has been named Winemaker ofthe year on more than one occasion. Carol, who made great white Zinfandel, and an exciting Provence styled rosé, is the epitome of class.

I always enjoyed a crushed strawberries over ice quality when tasting Carol Shelton made Windsor Vineyards White Zinfandel. Other notes you may find when sipping a White Zinfandel include raspberry, cherry, blackberry, and citrus. Lighter in style, this wine pairs well with many of the lighter dishes of summer.

White Zinfandel is the name of one rose or blush wine made from Zinfandel grapes, but the same process of creating a white or rosé wine from red wine grapes can be used to create White Merlot, White Cabernet, White Pinot Noir, or any other white red wine varietal wine.

Put simply, White Zinfandel (and other rosé or blush wine made from red wine grapes) is often the perfect summer sipper, whether at a picnic, a party, or at the table.

Last year, a friend wanted to come out to Sonoma County and spend a week tasting wines together. She does not drink dry red wines and would not have enjoyed a vacation built around tasting Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. She does not drink white wines, so Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc was out. She does enjoy the occasional glass of Beringer White Zinfandel, so I built a vacation throughout the north coast around tasting award winning blush and rosé wines.

White Zinfandel presents many different flavors because there are so many different ways to make a White Zinfandel; blending choices, sweetness levels, and more make for an infinite number of different White Zinfandels. I could suggest pairings, White Zinfandel with Hawaiian pizza, White Zinfandel with pork salad; but the best thing to pair White Zinfandel with is some unpretentious friends.

I would rather drink White Zinfandel from a jelly jar with fun friends with class, than the Lotus Vineyard Cabernet from Riedel stemware with an ass. Just sayin’.

I have not tasted a White Zinfandel, or other blush wine, in too long. In place of personal recommendations, here is a list, by no means complete, of award winning north coast White Zinfandel and other blush or rosé wines:

Adobe Road Winery – www.adoberoadwines.com -2008 Rose, Sonoma Valley $18

Alexander Valley Vineyards – www.avvwine.com - 2008 Rosé of Sangiovese, Wetzel Family Series, Alexander Valley $12.

Balletto Vineyards – www.ballettovineyards.com - 2008 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley $16.

Barefoot Cellars – www.barefootwines.com - NV White Zinfandel, California $7

Beringer – www.beringer.com -  2008 White Zinfandel,California Collection, California $6

Black Stallion Winery – www.blackstallionwinery.com - 2008 Rose, Napa Valley $22

Bonny Doon Vineyard – www.bonnydoonvineyard.com - 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare, California $15.

Bonterra Vineyards – www.bonterra.com - 2008 Rosé, Organic Grapes, Mendocino County $14.

Buena Vista Carneros – www.buenavistacarneros.com - 2008 Rosé of Syrah, Carneros $25.

Charles Creek Vineyard – www.charlescreek.com - 2008 Rose, Napa Valley $16

Dacalier Wine Co. – www.dacalier.com - 2008 Grenache/Carignan, Premier Rose, Lake County $16

Fichtenberg Vineyards – www.fichtenbergvineyards.com - 2008 Pinot Noir Saignee, Carneros $18

Fleur de California – www.fleurdecalifornia.com - 2008 Pinot Noir Rosé, Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, North Coast $13

Folie a Deux – www.folieadeux.com- 2008 Menage a Trois Rose California $12

Forest Glen Winery – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronco_Wine_Company -2007 Shiraz Rose, Magenta Rose, California $9; 2008 White Merlot, Forest Fire, California $9

Gregory Graham – www.ggwines.com - 2008 Estate Rose, Crimson Hill, Red Hills, Lake County $12

D.H. Gustafson Family Vineyards – www.gfvineyard.com - 2008 Rosé of Syrah, Dry Creek Mountain Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley $20

Heitz Wine Cellars – www.heitzcellar.com - 2008 Rosé, Grignolino, Napa Valley $19

Kelley & Young Wines – www.kelleyyoungwines.com - 2008 Kathleen Rose, Alexander Valley, Robert Young Vineyard $24

Kendall-Jackson Winery – www.kj.com - 2008 Malbec Rose, Grand Reserve, Napa Valley $18

Kenwood Vineyards -  www.kenwoodvineyards.com - 2008 Pinot Noir Rose, Russian River Valley $14

McDowell Valley Vineyards – www.mcdowellsyrah.com - 2008 Grenache Rose, McDowell Valley $15

Navarro Vineyards – www.navarrovineyards.com - 2008 Rose, Mendocino County $15

Pedoncelli Winery – www.pedroncelli.com - 2008 Dry Rose of Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $10

Round Hill – www.roundhillwines.com - 2008 White Zinfandel, California $5

Rutherford Hill – www.rutherfordhill.com - 2008 Rose, Napa Valley $20

V. Sattui Winery – www.vsattui.com - 2008 Rosato, North Coast $16; 2008 Gamay Rouge, California $18

Shannon Ridge Winery – www.shannonridge.com - 2008 Wrangler Rose, Ranch Collection, Lake County $16

Sol Rouge – www.solrouge.com - 2008 Rose, Lake County $18

Sutter Home Winery – www.sutterhome.com - 2007 White Zinfandel, The Original, California $4; 2008 White Zinfandel, The Original, California $4; 2008 White Merlot, California $5

Titus Lombardi – www.titusvineyrds.com - 2008 Rose of Syrah, Mendocino $13

Toad Hollow Vineyards – www.toadhollow.com - 2008 Pinot Rose, Eye of the Toad, Sonoma Coast $9

Valley of the Moon Winery – www.valleyofthemoonwinery.com - 2007 Rosato di Sangiovese, Sonoma County $14; 2008 Rosato di Sangiovese, Sonoma County $14

Waterstone Winery – www.waterstonewines.com - 2008 Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $12

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