The Best Way to Experience Wonderful Mendocino Wine

Perched on a wave-carved bluff, squeezed between dense forests and a restless sea, you will find Mendocino, California. Undeniably, Mendocino is a charming, tranquil little town with breathtaking oceanside views. In truth, the beauty extends outside the city to the whole county. But, Mendocino is known for more than its stunning Pacific Ocean coastline, it also has great wine. Mendocino wine is a lesser-known wine gem. 

medocino wine
Beautiful coastline in Mendocino

Mendocino is part of the North Coast AVA. What makes this area so picturesque is its extraordinarily varied climate. So, Mendocino wines come from California’s most climatically diverse wine-growing regions. What kind of wine is Mendocino known for? We will get to that in a few minutes, but first, let's explore the wine, the charm, and the beauty you will experience in the area.

Artevino, Where Art, Wine, Dreams and Reality Meet

We traveled to Mendocino from San Francisco, and we must say that the road to Mendocino may be as enchanting as the destination itself. Accordingly, we drove through wonderous mountains on winding roads with views ranging from the sea to farms and vineyards.

When you reach Mendocino, our recommendation for the first stop in the area is to visit Maple Creek Ranch and Winery to taste Artevino wine. Tom, the owner, found this place while on a motorcycle trip around Mendocino county. He was a notable artist from Marion County, California looking for a less hectic lifestyle when he found this place in the Anderson Valley.

maple creek winery
Outside at Maple Creek Winery

Tom knew a bit about wine. As a hobby, Tom’s grandfather made wine in his basement. Subsequently, Tom was always interested in his grandfather's winemaking. Later, as an internationally known artist, Tom designed wine labels for Far Niente, Dolce, Nickel & Nickel, EnRoute, and Bella Union.


One of the labels Tom designed

13 Acres of Vines

With 13 acres of vines, Maple Creek Winery grows estate varietals, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Flora, and Symphony, using sustainable practices. Prior to our visit to Maple Creek, we had never heard of Flora and Symphony grape varietals. Thus, these grapes grow best with hot days, cool nights, and rocky soil. Additionally, some Mendocino County Zinfandel grapes are used to complement the estate grapes.

You will love the drive to Maple Creek. You will drive past vineyards and orchards. The country views are so pretty it will be hard to believe you are only a little over three hours north of San Fransico.

Maple creek tasting room
The tasting room

When we arrived at the tasting room, Buster and Posey, the Australian Shepherds winery dogs, greeted us.


For our visit, we tasted wine with Houston Johnson, the tasting room manager. The tasting room adorned with Tom’s artwork is bright, warm, and welcoming. So much so, there were other guests there who we struck up a conversation with us that said this was a great winery and that they were long-time wine club members.

Maple creek winery
Enjoying a glass of wine at Maple Creek winery

Houston was knowledgeable about the wines as well as the surrounding wine county. We enjoyed his company and some great wines.


Lula Cellars, Good Stewards of the Land

After Artevino drive to Lula Cellars. Lula Cellars is another boutique winery located in the revered Anderson Valley. Lula's focus is on estate and Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs and single-vineyard wines from the greater Mendocino County.

Lula cellars
Lula cellars

The vibe at Lula Cellars is very relaxed and lively. Dan, the owner, and Gary will entertain you. Watch our video to see for yourselves. Dan is also a great storyteller of local history.

Mendocino wine lula wine
Owner and tasting room host

Conversely, here, you will find a wine dog, this one named Honey. In fact, at Lula Cellars, they love dogs and encourage you to bring your fur baby with you to taste wine as they are pet-friendly. Their saying is “Pooches and Pinot, what could be better”?

At Lula Cellars, they practice dry farming. Dry farming means they grow their grapes without irrigation. Subsequently, Dan believes this is good for the planet and the wine. Growing vines without added water forces the vines to be more self-sufficient. So the plants must send roots deep into the soil to find the water and nutrients it needs. Dan says this farming method makes his vines more resistant to disease.

Mendocino wine Lula Cellars
Entrance to the tasting room

In addition to the 22-acre Lula Cellars Estate Vineyard, they also have the Costa Vineyard and Peterson Vineyard in the coastal town of Little River.

We enjoyed our visit to Lula Cellars tremendously. But what was even more enjoyable was drinking a bottle of Lula wine back home in Cuenca, Ecuador!

Lula cellars
Enjoying a glass of Lula Cellars at home

Wine Lovers Stay at the Beautiful Brewery Gulch Inn

The Brewery Gulch Inn is a boutique inn that blends seamlessly with its natural surroundings. The elegant inn overlooks Smuggler's Cove.

Brewery gulch inn
The Brewery Gulch Inn

As you walk into the inn, you immediately see the great room with its four-sided glass and steel fireplace. Unlike most lobbies, this gathering place with its overstuffed furniture is almost always in use; it’s the heart of the inn.

Mendocino wine Brewery Gulch Inn
The fireplace and lots of comfy seating

The inn has 11 rooms or suites. Our room was the Raven, a second-floor corner king room with French doors that open to a private balcony and ocean view. There was also a fireplace with two club chairs and a writing desk. Our large bathroom had a two-person soaking tub with a shower, and the toiletries were Molton Brown bath products, which I love. Like we often say, where we stay is as important as where we are visiting. Certainly, we could see coming to Mendocino just to stay at the Brewery Gulch Inn.

Brewery gulch inn
Our room at the Inn
Mendocino wine Brewery Gulch Inn
Flowers on the patio

Throughout the day, a large selection of teas, coffee, along with some fresh pastry and fruit, are always available on the sidebar in the great room. Also. there are books, DVDs, and games for use anytime. Additionally, the great room opens to a beautiful outdoor patio with bird feeders and amazing views. Watching the sunset over the ocean and the birds flitting to and from the feeder on the deck is an experience you won't want to miss.

Mendocino wine Brewery Gulch Inn
Dessert
Mendocino wine Brewery Gulch Inn
View from our room terrace
Mendocino wine Brewery Gulch Inn
Same room view at sunset

Most important all guests enjoy a gourmet, cooked-to-order breakfast, evening wine, and a light dinner buffet. The chef uses organic and locally sourced products for their farm-to-table meals. Thus, the evening wine hour is a great time to get to know other guests and make new friends.

Mendocino wine Brewery Gulch Inn
Delicious avocado toast with potatoes breakfast
Mendocino wine Brewery Gulch Inn
Lite dinner buffet
Mendocino wine Brewery Gulch Inn
Lots of food at the buffet

With its amazing hospitality and wonderful gourmet food, It was hard to leave the Brewery Gulch Inn when our stay was over.

Skunk Train

To really experience the charm of Mendocino Country, take a ride on the Skunk Train. As you board the train, you step back in time. That is because this same train has made its way through the redwood groves of Mendocino since 1885. You will travel over trestle bridges, through spectacular tunnels, and into the heart of the Noyo River canyon. Evidently, locals say the views have remained largely unchanged for well over a century.

skunk train
Skunk Train Depot
Mendocino wine skunk train
The Skunk train locomotive
Mendocino wine skunk train
The old water tower at the depot

The Skunk Train is a heritage railroad, running from the railroad's headquarters in the coastal town of Fort Bragg to the interchange with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad at Willits.

skunk train
Some of the views from the train

Accordingly, the railroad was originally built by the Fort Bragg Redwood Company to bring redwood logs to Ft Bragg.

Skunk train
Our train selfie

Finally, after your ride on the train, you will have complimentary entry into the Model Train Museum located behind the depot.  The Model Train Museum is small, but they have several trains running along intricate tracks through villages throughout. The docents working at the museum are eager to talk and tell the story of each train. 

Model train museum
Model train museum
Mendocino Model Train
Operating model train

Fort Bragg, Spoiler Alert it was Never a Fort

Interestingly, Fort Bragg began before the American Civil War as a military garrison, not a fortification. Fort Bragg, like Mendocino, has picturesque coastal views. There is a charming historic downtown filled with restaurants, boutiques, and galleries that are unpretentious. Fort Bragg has a unique character due to what remains of its historic Victorian-era architecture and traditional downtown buildings of the 1860s to the 1930s.

Fort Bragg
Streets of Fort Bragg

Wild and Untamed Mendocino

After riding the Skunk Train and a visit to Fort Bragg, take a trip to downtown Mendocino. Undoubtedly, with its dramatic setting overlooking a steel-blue sea, the coastal town of Mendocino is breathtaking. You might think of Cape Cod or another New England hamlet when you first visit Mendocino. Maybe this is because many of the early settlers to the town were New Englanders, as was true with many older Northern California logging towns. Amid this dramatic landscape lies the seaside downtown and its many shops and restaurants.

mendocino firehouse
Mendocino Fire Department
Mendocino wine water tower
One of the old wooden water towers

Mendocino has many Victorian homes painted in Easter-egg colors. Also, Mendocino’s Main Street lined with unique shops is a shopper's delight. Hence, there is a one of a kind toy shop, several gift shops, a wine shop, a chocolatier, and a bookstore and much more.

Mendocino hotel
Mendocino hotel
mendocino toy shop
Toy shop

Furthermore, on the seaside of town, there is a visitor's information center with a small museum inside depicting the logging and lumber days of its past.

mendocino welcome center
Visitor Information Center
welcome center
Inside the visitor information center

While walking in Mendocino, we saw this cool vintage 1969 Volkswagen Beetle parked along the road most likely owned by one of the town residents.

mendocino wine bug
VW Bug

Earlier, remember, at the beginning of this post, I ask you what type of wine Mendocino is known? Well, Mendocino is one of the leading wine growing regions for organically produced wine grapes. Thus nearly 25% of the grapes for Mendocino wine are organic.

Awe-Inspiring Mendocino Headlands, State Park

Lining the edge of the town of Mendocino is Mendocino Headlands, State Park. Before leaving Mendocino, we recommend visiting this state park. The wildflowers and scrub of this state park blanket the edges of town, where gentle trails and rugged coastline lead to quiet beaches. Subsequently, Mendocino Headlands State Park surrounds the picturesque Village of Mendocino on three sides.

Mendocino wine
Great place for a walk
Mendocino wine
Small beach

Capturing the scenic wonders of the bright blue skies against the rugged shoreline was a photographer's dream. Undoubtedly, we know you will enjoy it too.

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Beautiful seashore
Mendocino wine
A pair of gulls
Mendocino wine
A sunny day to be outside

Pennyroyal Farm

For something different when it comes to Mendocino wine, visit Pennyroyal Farm. Pennyroyal is a creamery and a winery. The name Pennyroyal comes from the wild mint that thrives in the vineyards.

Pennyroyal entrance
Entrance to the wine tasting room

Pennyroyal Farm is a sustainable farm committed to modern farming practices. Thus, it is designed to minimize fossil fuel use and maximize the symbiotic interactions of diversified crops and animal husbandry. It is a minimum-waste farm. They have solar panels on the barn to use the sun’s energy. And have goats and sheep not only to produce cheese but also to produce enough manure compost for fertilizing the vineyards.

Mendocino wine Pennyroyal
Nice Pinot
Mendocino wine Pennyroyal
Some of their cheese ribbons

The cheeses they produce are seasonal. So, we did a wine tasting paired with the seasonal goat cheese. We chose this winery to see their farm animals. Additionally, they offer a farm tour that includes a visit to the goats and sheep. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were too late for the tour. We did get to see some of the retired goats living out their golden years on the farm.

Mendocino wine Pennyroyal
Our goat cheese pairing
Mendocino wine Pennyroyal
One of the retired goats

Mendocino Wine

Undeniably, Mendocino is full of history, breathtaking coastal views, and wine. We love reds, and we found them in Mendocino wine. Surprisingly, everything from full-bodied reds to Pinot Noir. Each busting with flavor that only extreme weather can produce. We came for the wine but fell in love with the scenery.

To read more of our California wine road trip, see where it started in San Francisco.


QUICK ANSWERS


What was the first county in the United States to ban GMO's?

Mendocino County, California, was the first county in the United States to ban the cultivation, production or distribution of GMO's

Where was Murder She Wrote filmed?

The fictitious town of Cabot Cove is actually Mendocino although it was supposed to be somewhere in Maine.




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About Tina

As far back as I can remember I was adventurous and wanted to see the world. The first time I traveled outside the country was with Keith just after high school graduation. After that, I was hooked. Throughout my career I was just like many of you, I wanted to work less and travel more. Keith and I made early retirement a reality. Now, I am here to help you retire early and find the inspiration to venture out and see the world.

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