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Mendocino County
Mendocino County is one of California's best-kept secrets as far as distinctive wine. It's not that it's a mystery, but after Napa. Sonoma, Monterey and a few other regions, Mendocino doesn't get its fair due. About 90 miles north of San Francisco, Mendocino County is largely unspoiled, and features a relatively cool climate, given its proximity to the Pacific Ocean; forest cover more than half of the land and there are also mountainous areas. As of this writing, there are 10 AVAs within Mendocino County (two more are pending), with the best known being Anderson Valley, best known for its Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer; Potter Valley in the far eastern reaches of the region, known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and Mendocino Ridge, a noncontiguous zone that includes vineyards at 1200 feet or higher; powerful Zinfandels are the specialty of this district. In total, Mendocino County produces about 2% of all California wine.

Along with having numerous micro-climates that favor one type of variety over another, a truly distinctive feature of Mendocino County viticulture is the wide variety of wines from this territory. Not only are the most famous varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon represented, but there are also plantings of Grenache, Tempranillo and Chenin Blanc, as well as a dozen or so Italian varieties. Mendocino has become quite well known for their Cal-Ital wines, produced from varieties such as Arneis, Barbera, Sangiovese and Dolcetto, as well as several others. Surely the cool climate that helps retain natural acidity is one reason for planting these grapes, but it is also the pioneer spirit of the Mendocino farmers that have brought about such great diversity to this area's wine portfolio. (Wine/Appellations)