Saturday, December 5, 2009

Reflections in a Goldeneye

Am just back from a few days in Mendocino (the city) and Mendocino (the county) with memories of amazing scenery and wonderful wine-tastings. The entire visit was a revelation to me since I have never seen such small towns (many are composed of 3-4 buildings) or cared so much about the price of apples.

This is the Anderson Valley, famous for its pinot noir grapes and its apple farms. The first stop was Goldeneye, which is owned by Duckhorn (in Napa County)and has five different estate bottled pinots. Unlike the mothership, where a tasting is expensive and does not make a down payment on a liquid souvenir, at Goldeneye tastings cost either $5 or $10, which does indeed count toward a purchase.

What counts even more is the tasting room and its location within a crescent of vines, with picnic tables outside and arm chairs inside and plenty of comfort for just sipping and daydreaming. It's hard to pull yourself away, but when you realize that just up the road a few miles there's two famous apple farms, well, it's time to see if there's an apple in your eye.

Gowan's is a huge farm with a small, well-stocked roadside stand selling much more than apples. They even make their own apple pies, which are sold in a frozen state-- $14. About one dozen varieties of apples are for sale. I held out for the Apple Farm, another mile or two ahead, where the shed is run on the honor system and most apple varieties cost $2.50 a pound. As the days passed, I learned this is very expensive-- but at that point I didn't know, and was totally charmed by the rustic farm, it's stand, the fact that they have cottages as well as cooking classes and that the family at one point owned the building that became the French Laundry in Yountville. Both of these orchards and apple ops are just passed the town of Philo, which isn't too much of a town. Never mind.

Within the town of Philo itself, there's a new tasting room about the size of my bedroom, all in a perfectly restored tiny cottage, created to introduce the Phillips-Hill wines. They offer five pinots from two different appelations; the tasting costs $5. There's also a few bottles of pinot rose-- not often found in stores or online--that are perfect for summer time.

Philo is also home to the Lemon Market, a small but rather well-stocked mini-mart which is better than the market in nearby Boonville and is the best you'll find until you get to the town of Mendocino.

After that, you pass a few more vineyards and then head through a forest of redwood trees before you hit the Navarro River and then the ocean. It's all magical, made more so if there's fog and/or mist and you've stopped at the Navarro Winery for a free (!!!) tasting and some of their $11 non-fermented grape juice.

There are some sparkling wines made in this area-- as well as in Hopland (closer to Ukiah)-- and there is a $6 tasting at Roederer. I prefer mine to be Cristal and bought in France, but Roederer is one of the better known French firms with US vineyards.

When we got to the town of Mendocino, we checked into our hotel-- the famed MacCallum House, a stunning Victorian house and barn-- and then went to assorted stores and markets in town. That's where we found even more apples-- all for a lot less moolah. Oh well... all's fair in love, war and farming.

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