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Mendocino Ridge
The Mendocino Ridge AVA is one of the most unique in all of America for several reasons. First, the appellation is based on elevation (as with some in Napa Valley); plantings start at the 1200 foot level. The vineyards are planted among peaks in the coastal ridges in Mendocino County, not far from the Pacific ocean, some two hours' drive from San Francisco. There are currently only seventeen vineyards planted to 233 acres in the appellation, which represents less than one-tenth the total area. As these vineyards are not adjacent to each other, Mendocino Ridge is a non-contiguous AVA, the only one in the United States. The principal variety is Pinot Noir, although the best known wine from here is Zinfandel; some of the vines were planted more than 100 years ago by Italian immigrants. Other varieties include Syrah, Merlot, Primitivo (another Italian) variety and a bit of Chardonnay, Riesling and even a touch of Grüner Veltliner. The typical Mendocino Ridge Zinfandel is deeply colored with intense blackberry and bramble flavors, alcohols are regularly 16% or higher. (Wine/Appellations)