Marvelous Mendocino County + Delightful Lake County

This week we took a deeper look into the Mendocino and Lake County Regions of California.  If you missed it and wish you could have seen our faces, you’re in luck!  This week was our first Facebook Live…and that means it’s recorded! Check out the full episode of What We’re Drinking: Sunday Edition:

A special thanks to those who joined us for Sunday Edition AND Tuesday Trivia, you’re amazing! And whether or not you joined us, we wanted to provide you with a bit more context for the questions and their correct answers. Dig in, Friends! 

  • Which of the following counties is not a part of the larger North Coast AVA? Humboldt County
    While Humboldt and Trinity Counties are in Northern California, they are not counties in the North Coast AVA.  The counties that make up the North Coast AVA are Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Napa, Marin, and Solano counties.
  • What were the main crops planted during Prohibition that replaced vines?  Pear and Nuts
    After Prohibition the vines planted in the region were all replanted to pear and nut trees.  It wasn’t till after the 60’s that vines really began to make a comeback.  Now, grapes and cannibus are the most widely planted crops in Mendocino.
  • What was the only winery in Mendocino in 1967? Parducci 
  • When was that winery established? 1932
    Parducci Winery was established in 1932, during Prohibition, interestingly enough. In 1967 it was the only winery in Mendocino, but the next year Fetzer Vineyards was established, and with that a wave of organically farmed vines were planted and innovative winemaking began.
  • 35% of Mendocino County is organically farmed. False
    Mendocino does have the largest percent of organic vineyards, however, only about 25%. Over 70% of all California wine is sustainably farmed (we talked about this last week in our California Edition), which means there is as little negative impact on the environment as possible. On a related note, organic farming is a practice that calls for no pesticides in or around the vines.
  • When did Mendocino County ban the use of GMO’s? 2004
    In 2004, Mendocino passed a bill banning the use of GMO’s, genetically modified organisms.  Mendocino has a truly remarkable desire to allow nature to “do its thing.”
  • What two mountain regions are encompassed in Mendocino County? Mayacamas Mountains and Mendocino Mountains
    Mendocino is encompassed by the Pacific Ocean to the west, then the Mendocino Ridge pretty much dividing the county, with the Mayacamas Mountains farther to the east.  This gives the AVA’s (Anderson Valley, Yorkville Highlands and Mendocino Ridge AVA) a cooler, maritime climate. The rest of the AVAs in Mendocino are found between the Mendocino Ridge and the Mayacamas Mountains, giving them a warmer, more mediterranean climate for growing grapes.
  • If a wine is labeled Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, what percentage of the grapes in the bottle must be Pinot Noir? 75%
    According to California wine laws, an AVA specified bottle of wine must contain at least 85% of the grapes from that AVA, while a varietally labeled wine must be only 75% of the variety.
  • How many AVAs are there in California? 139
    The United States has 246 AVAs and California has over half of those with 139.
  • How many AVAs are in Mendocino County? 12
    Mendocino has 12 AVAs.  They are as follows : Anderson Valley AVA, Cole Ranch AVA, Covelo AVA, Dios Rios AVA, Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA, McDowell Valley AVA, Mendocino AVA, Mendocino Ridge AVA, Potter Valley AVA, Redwood Valley AVA, Yorkville Highlands AVA, and Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak AVA (which is actually shared with Sonoma County)
  • What is the smallest AVA in California? Cole Ranch AVA
  • Cole Ranch AVA is located in Mendocino. True
    Cole Ranch AVA is located in Mendocino county and is the smallest AVA, not only in California, but in the United States.  It is approximately 150 acres, with 56 acres of vines.  There is one winery within the Cole Ranch AVA and it is called Rootdown Cellars.
  • Pinot Noir is the most widely planted grape in Mendocino. False
    Actually, Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape in Mendocino with almost twice as many vines planted as Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon is also more widely planted than Pinot Noir.
  • Lake County is essentially a smaller, denser, drier version of Mendocino. True
    Lake County has traditionally been a place where grapes are grown, and then sold to larger producers.  When we talk about California being able to add up to 15% grapes from other areas – Lake County is often one of those areas.
  • There are roughly how many wineries in Lake County?30
    Lake County was first planted in the 1880s by actress and entrepreneur Lillie Langtry in a desire to make Bordeaux style Claret.  Post Prohibition nearly all the vines were gone.  It wasn’t until the 1980s and Jed Steele, of Steele Wines, that Lake County became a recognized AVA.  Now there are roughly 30 wineries in Lake County.
  • What was the first AVA in Lake County? Guenoc Valley AVA
    Guenoc Valley AVA was established in 1981, while Lake County AVA wasn’t established till 1983.  There are 7 AVAs in Lake County and they are as follows : Benmore Valley AVA, Big Valley District AVA, Clear Lake AVA, Guenoc Valley AVA, High Valley AVA, Kelsey Bench AVA, and Red Hills AVA.
  • Lake County vines are in some of the highest elevations in California. True
    Lake County is surrounded by mountain ranges- to the west they share the Mayacamas Mountains, to the east the Vaca Range.  Roughly 95% of all the vines planted are growing at over 1000ft above sea level.  This makes for very porous, mineral rich, volcanic soils.
  • Clear Lake is the oldest, warm water body in the United States, but not in North America. False
    This is false because Clear Lake is the oldest, warm body of water in ALL of North America.  Between Clear Lake and Mount Konocti Lake County also has the cleanest air in California.
  • Which two AVA’s do not border Clear Lake in Lake County? Benmore Valley AVA and Guenoc Valley AVA
    The other 5 AVAs in Lake County all surround Clear Lake while Benmore is further to the north and Guenco almost shares a border with Napa.
  • What is the most widely planted grape varietal in Lake County? Cabernet Sauvignon
    Roughly 50% of all the vines in Lake County are Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly in Red HIlls AVA where the elevation is higher and it is rich in red volcanic soils.. Sauvignon Blanc is the other main variety at 21% of the plantings.
  • Who was the first woman winemaker and owner in California to have her own name on a winery label? Milla Handley

Join us next week for What We’re Drinking: North Coast – Sonoma County! We’ll be going live on Facebook at 4:00p on Sunday, May 31.

What We’re Drinking

We love wine. 

No really…we LOVE it. 

We love talking about it… learning about it… sharing a glass (or bottle) with friends… pairing food with it… Honestly, we love everything about it. 

We started What We’re Drinking as a way of sharing our love of wine with you! Wine is exciting, and tasting together makes it even more enjoyable! Each week, we’ll spend a little time looking at a particular wine region – a brief history (don’t worry, memorization not required, there are no tests), the geography and climate surrounding the vines, and a couple of important grape varietals.  We’ll cap off our time together by sharing a glass… or at least a few tastes. 

Join us each Sunday at 4:00p on Zoom and explore! Take-home taster packs are available each week on Thursdays during curbside pickup hours.

Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 843 2515 5843
Password: WineTime

But really, who are we, and why do we get to teach you anything?

Alexandra Henkelman is the co-winemaker and co-owner of Omega Road Winery – a boutique winery and tasting room in the beautiful and historic Livermore Valley. Over a decade ago, she developed an appreciation for wine that led to her becoming a Level I Sommelier. In addition, she started making wine as a hobby, but it quickly became a passion project, and the doors to Omega Road opened to the public in June 2017. She loves crafting unique wines and blends, as well as discovering interesting varietals from amazing places. Beyond making wine, Alex also loves food…not surprising, right? She holds a Master’s Degree in Food Studies, and, when not at the winery, can usually be found cooking something up in her kitchen. At the core, she believes that wine has a super power – bringing people together to connect and create memories.  

Shannon Tesseyre is a Jane of all trades – food, wine, service, education, mom…the list goes on. She began her journey into the world of food and wine post college as a means of facilitating connection with family, roommates, and friends. Jobs in restaurants, bars, tasting rooms, and more provided a well-rounded perspective of the industry that quickly turned into a passion for the wine itself. A spontaneous decision to move to France led to new opportunities, including starting a small business in Lyon teaching French wine to tourists. A few years following her return to the US, Shannon was introduced to Omega Road Winery and found a family with the same love of good wine. She is now our Wine Assistant and Educator – helping in the cellar, tasting room, and with various events. She is a level one Sommelier, French Wine Scholar, and is currently working on her Spanish Wine Scholar certification. 

Lovely Livermore Valley

Our first What We’re Drinking – Sunday Edition was amazing! We are going to dive into Livermore Valley and chat about why we are such an important and amazing wine region. We looked at a brief history of the Livermore Valley, the geography and climate that contribute to the beautiful vines we grow, as well as dive into some of the specific grape varietals… and of course, we’ll be sipping some wine in the process!

Did you know…

-Livermore Valley is responsible for the creation of the Chardonnay grape most widely planted in California?

-It was a Livermore wine that first beat a French wine in international competition?

-Durif is the parent of Petite Sirah – a varietal put on the California map by Livermore Valley?