Lake County & Mendocino County Wine Tours
Two northern California areas well worth visiting for good wine, friendly small towns and scenic beauty are Lake and Mendocino counties.
Any California winery tour guide would be incomplete without mention of these areas. Although not as well known as Napa or Sonoma, vineyards have been growing in Lake County since the 1870’s and recent investment has spurred interest and growth in the region. Mendocino County’s wine grape growing tradition dates back to the 1850s and boasts ten AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).
Bordering Napa County to the south, Lake County’s climate is strongly influenced by Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the state of California. The small resort towns that surround the lake offer a variety of tourist amenities and roughly 20 wineries or tasting rooms. Many important Lake County vineyard sites are owned by large wineries outside of the area including Beringer and Kendall-Jackson.
Most wineries in Lake County are small, family-owned and have limited tasting room schedules. Some are open by appointment only. Recommended wineries in this area include Langtry Estate (Guenoc), Steele Winery and Stella D’Oro.
In the southern part of Mendocino County, driving north on Highway 128 will take you through the Anderson Valley towns of Yorkville, Boonville, Philo and Navarro. This area is noted for excellent Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wines, but many other varietals do well here. Excellent winery visits in the region include Goldeneye for stellar Pinot Noir along with Roederer Estates and Scharffenberger Cellars for sparkling wines. Zina Hyde Cunningham, Navarro and many other fine producers are located on either side of the highway.
Another interesting cluster of wineries are located near the town of Ukiah including Parducci Wine Cellars. Founded in 1932, it is the oldest winery in the county. Near the town of Hopland is another small group of wineries. It’s also home to a larger producer, Fetzer Vineyards. Nearly 25% of all the vineyards in Mendocino are certified organic, including Fetzer. Nearby Brutocao Cellars offers a pleasant stop for tasting, dining, bocce ball and shopping in an old restored schoolhouse.
Heading north and west toward the Pacific coast and the town of Mendocino there are very few wineries but the towering redwood forests and winding mountain roads that lead toward the coast will appeal to visitors. The coast near Mendocino will also provide travelers with a wide range of dining and lodging options. So, if your tour doesn’t allow time to visit all the wineries, extensive local wine lists can be found at many of Mendocino’s superb fine-dining establishments.