When looking at California’s wine regions, one thing is clear: Size really doesn’t matter. Some of the best grapes and wines come from smaller places, as evidenced by today’s two stops on our journey through California Wine Country: Mendocino and Marin counties.
Located on the Northern California coast, north of Sonoma County and above San Francisco, Mendocino County is home to some of the finest wines made from some of the best grapes of their types. Here, wine connoisseurs will be favored with a variety of wines from Cabernets to Zinfandels, from Gewürztraminers to Sauvignons.
Mendocino County has nearly 300,000 acres dedicated to its viticultural practices and is listed as an approved viticultural area. The total acreage devoted to vineyards is approximately 15,500. Approximately 4,400 acres are dedicated to Chardonnay, nearly 2,500 to Cabernet Sauvignon, and about 1,900 to Pinot Noir. About a quarter of the acreage devoted to vineyards in Mendocino County is certified as organic.
There are 10 wine-growing regions in Mendocino County, eight of which have been named as American Viticultural Areas. The remaining two have been proposed, but not named as such. The county is currently home to 56 wineries and more than 250 growers. Close to 56,000 tons of wine grapes are harvested here annually – about 2 percent of the total tonnage for the state.
The Mendocino wine region’s boundaries are the Coastal Mountain Range of California to the east, the Pacific Ocean and the Redwood forests to the west. It is a particularly mountainous region that is seismically active, being the point where the San Andreas Fault meets the Pacific.
Nearly 60 percent of Mendocino County is coniferous forest. Most vineyards are situated in the inland valleys in the region’s southern and eastern areas. Vineyards that grow white wine grape varietals are set on alluvium and floodplains along the Russian and Navarro rivers. Most red varieties are planted above on the bench lands.
Marin County features a scant 87 acres of vineyards with just 13 wineries. It is bordered on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which tends to keep growing conditions relatively cool. This area is known for growing Pinot Noir predominantly, along with a few acres devoted to Chardonnay. Marin’s northeastern half is officially situated within the North Coast AVA.
The wines and vineyards of Marin County and those throughout California’s North Coast are world-renowned for their wonderful diversity and unwavering quality. The work of winemakers throughout the region echoes the pioneer spirit that has been with the area since the days of the California Gold Rush in 1849. Today, the same level of innovation and energy is evident in each artfully crafted glass of wine as well as in the meticulous care taken to produce the best crop of grapes possible. Though small, Marin County is a notable jewel in California’s winemaking crown.