Ah the lazy days of summer seem long gone this week, as the cold weather settles in.  Warm hazy days made room for crisp, clear winter days.  Somehow, fall managed to escape us this year.  On one of those last balmy weekends, I headed up to Hopland to do a little winetasting.  Hopland is about 1 1/2 hours north of San Francisco, past Healdsburg and over the next set of hills in to Mendocino County.

There are about a dozen wineries in the town of Hopland itself, with many more just outside the tiny town limits.  Having a main street that is 90% wine tasting rooms has its benefits!  Park the car once, and stroll down the street experiencing the local wine.

I started my weekend off at Rack & Riddle, a custom crush sparkling wine house, that also produces its own label sparkling and still wines.  I skipped right to the sparkling table, and enjoyed three different sparkling wines.  I really like what they do here, and I wasn’t spitting ANY of these wines!  If you get the chance, stop by and say hi.  It’s worth it!

Next up, I headed in to town and started off at Cesar Toxqui Cellars.  It was a bit hard to taste big reds on a day that was over 80, but my favorites here were definitely the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (because I’m a pinot freak) and the Heirloom.  Heirloom is a luscious blend that is primarily Bordeaux varietals, with a dash of Hopland zin thrown in.  You’ll see a theme about that zin soon, as I start to explore the Coro series of wines.

Across the street from Toxqui, there are 6 tasting rooms in a row.  Rough!  First, McFadden Vineyards where my fellow blogger and tasting room mad scientist John was holding court.  The mastermind behind the blogger tour of Hopland, John introduced me to Hopland’s crown jewels, the whites.  Pouring two Rieslings, the current release, which was fresh and full of stone fruit, it was the antithesis of the library selection 2006 Riesling which was all petrol and spice.  This is a classic Riesling, and an exceptional wine.  For a little fun, McFadden also produces a sparkling, which is a great way to have a picnic on the porch!

Right next to McFadden are McNab Ridge Winery and Weibel Family Vineyards.  I didn’t get to pop in there on Saturday because the crowd was a bit…crazy, but I will tell you that at dinner, the McNab Ridge Coro stole my heart.

What is this Coro I keep talking about you ask?  Coro Mendocinio is a wine project that incorporates the best of Mendocino County wine, with a distinct voice by each winery.  In Italian, Coro means chorus, and these wines reflect the collaborative sprit of Mendocino winemakers.  Each participating winery has their own version, and I was fortunate to be in Hopland the weekend when most of the current vintages were open.

Coro Mendocino is made exclusively from Mendocino Country fruit, and must adhere to a particular standard.  Since Zinfandel is such an important grape in Mendocino, each Coro blend must contain at least 40% but no more than 70% Zinfandel.    To further complicate matters, the next largest percentage cannot be more than 5% of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Sangiovese, Grenache, Dolcetto, Charbono, Barbera, or Primitivo.  Phew!  But wait, there is also a free for all blending varietal, since you can add up to 10% of whatever the heck you want to.  Well, as long as they are wine grapes.  You can see all the details here if you are so inclined.

The fun in Coro is that you have what is essentially the same building block, twisted and turned to build any number of Lego castles.  The only limitation is your imagination.  My favorite happened to be the McNab Ridge we had at dinner, but I also enjoyed the Weibel, as well as several vintages that were also being poured at McNab on Saturday.  Unfortunately, it was so hot outside that the wines suffered, so I hope to get a chance to taste them again in a better setting.

Up the road about a mile Jeriko Estate offers an interesting mix of wines.  I’ve had several wines from them before, and on this day, the Sangiovese was tasting beautifully.  They also have a sparkling, and it’s a great place to end up.

Hopland is well worth a visit!  The white wines stood out on this warm summer weekend, but I will certainly return to taste the reds now that the weather has cooled off.  If you go, you can stay in Ukiah, about 20 minutes north, or Cloverdale, about 30 minutes south.  I will certainly go back up there now that the weather is cooler.

Thank you to Destination Hopland for the hospitality!  I look forward to experiencing more soon!


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