Mendocino WineGrowers Inc (MWI)
Mendocino County - It Doesn't Get Any Greener
Mendocino County’s authentic “green” credentials are unsurpassed by any other wine region in the world. The majority of the region's 570 vineyards remain in the hands of family farmers, many of whom have lived for two or more generations on their land—some tracing their roots to the first settlers in the 1850s. The entire farming community has a rare appreciation of the connection between man and earth. These farmers, grape growers and winemakers among them, were at the forefront of the sustainable, organic, Demeter certified Biodynamic®, and Fish Friendly farming movement long before it gained the attention of the general population. “America’s Greenest Wine Region” is not a marketing slogan: it is the true reflection of all that this vast and varied county offers those who seek healthy foods and beverages and accessible yet pristine travel destinations.
Mendocino County is home to 570vineyards with a typical (median) size of just 14 acres.
28% of Mendocino County’s winegrapes are certified organic or Biodynamic ‐‐ substantially higher than any other region in the United States. In fact, 1/3 of the total organic winegrape acreage in California is in Mendocino County.
An additional 3,500 acres (across 58 vineyards) are certified through the Fish Friendly Program. Within the county, there is currently a higher enrollment in this program than any other green certification. It is interesting to note that many Mendocino winegrowers not only certify their vineyards but include the wilderness lands that they own. In this way the Fish Friendly program protects vast reaches of wilderness adjacent to the vineyards.
- 690 acres of vineyard are Demeter Certified Biodynamic®
- 3950 acres of vineyard are certified organic (24% of total wine grape acreage)
- 50,600 acres of land are certified Fish Friendly. Mendocino County is #1 in America in terms of wilderness acres FFF certified relative to vineyard land.
A Winemaking Tradition
Winemaking has a long history in Mendocino County since the first Italian immigrants settled the green hillsides. Today 108 local wineries continue the tradition. (Over one hundred additional wineries make Mendocino wine outside the County.)
Organic pioneers have found Mendocino to be a natural fit for their passion. The first organic winery in the U.S. -- Frey Vineyards -- was founded in 1980. Frey advanced another first in 1996 when they became the first producer of US biodynamic wine. Bonterra Vineyards is the larger producer of organic wine in the nation. And Parducci Wine Cellars was the first US winery to be certified carbon neutral.
Mendocino has also been a solar center for the winemaking world. The region includes the first solar-powered winery (McDowell Valley Vineyards), a 100% off-grid winery (Philo Ridge Vineyards), and the wine industry’s largest solar array, generating 1.1 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity annually and supplying 80% of the winery’s electricity needs (Fetzer Vineyards)
It's All About The Land
Mendocino County encompasses a total area of 2.4 million acres, of which 18,800 acres have been planted to grapevines. Vineyards account for about 0.8% of the land use in the county, reminding us that much of the region is rugged and untamed.
The diversity of the county leads to numerous winegrowing regions, each with a distinct personality.
Hopland -- 4950 acres/77 vineyards: With a focos on chardonnay and Cabernet, Hopland is the powerhouse of Mendocino viticulture. While most of the vineyards can be found in the flat land surrounding the Russian River, numerous bend and hillside vineyards add diversity to the region. The McDowell Valley, along highwat 175 in the eastern side of the Hopland region, was recognized as an AVA in Feb of 1997.
Ukiah Valley and Calpella -- 2750 acres / 105 vineyards: The battle between asphalt and agricultural land plays out every day in the Ukiah Valley and we are proud to report that ag is holding firm. Dotted with numerous small vineyards (30 of which are 5 acres or smaller), this region has perhaps the deepest grape growing roots in the County. Remnants of wineries abandoned in the prohibition days are still evident and old-timers recount the days of packing the harvest on rail cars.
Redwood Valley -- 2750 acres / 133 vineyards: By acreage Cabernet dominates but more than half of the vineyards still choose Zinfandel. The vibrant red soils that cut through the region are reputed add to the distinctiveness of the "old vine" Zinfandels made from the region's grapes. The Italian heritage of the region is still evident as families such as the NAMES continue their grape growing tradition. Redwood Valley was declared an AVA in Dec 1997.
Talmage -- 2650 acres / 59 vineyards: The Eastern edge of the Ukiah Valley has a long history of agriculture on its hilsside benches and flat lands. Today vineyards share the region with pasture, pears orchards, and 1000s of acres of oak forrest. Zinfandel and Cabernet are found at 2/3 of the vineyards (typically on the benches of the area) while Chardonnay is the king of the plains adjacent to the Russian River.
Anderson Valley -- 2500 acres / 91 vineyards: Mendocino's best known appellation has a tight focus on a single varietal. Pinot Noir claims 70% of all planted acreage and a whopping 95% of all vineyards in the region grow Pinot. The typical vineyard size is small (median=11 acres). Though dominated by Pinot, Alsactian white varietals still retain a significant foothold in the valley with 32 vineyards growing Gewurztraminer, Riesling, or Pinot Gris. The region is a recognized AVA (September 1983).
Potter Valley -- 1750 acres / 41 vineyards: Something special is happening in Potter Valley. Viticulture is somewhat new to the area and the trial-and-error process is starting to zero-in on a suprising result: cool climate varietals. Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling now compliment the region's most commonly planted grape, Chardonnay. Not surprisingly some delicious sparkling wines are now emerging from the region. The region is a recognized AVA (November 1983).
Several of these regions have been recognized as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) see below
AVA Approved Land Area Vineyards
|Approved||Total Land||Vineyard Total|
|Anderson Valley||Sept 1983||58,532 acres||2,050.5 acres|
|Cole Ranch||May 1983||187 acres||60 acres|
|Covelo||March 2006||4,563.2 acres||2 acres|
|Dos Rios||Nov 2005||15,500 acres||6 acres|
|McDowell Valley||Feb 1987||2,225 acres||540 acres|
|Mendocino AVA||July 1984||327,430 acres||136.8 acres*|
|Mendocino Ridge||Dec 1997||87,466 acres||75 acres|
|Potter Valley||Nov 1983||28,805 acres||1,906.2 acres|
|Redwood Valley||Feb 1997||32,046 acres||2,590 acres|
|Yorkville Highlands||June 1998||40,000 acres||401 acres|
|Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak||Nov 2011||4,750 acres||310 acres|
|Eagle Peak, Mendocino County||Oct 2014||26,000 acres||120 acres|
All of Mendocino County is part of the North Coast AVA, which also includes Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Solono, and Lake Counties.
Red grapes represent a majority of the Mendocino grape acreage. Pinot Noir (2672 acres), Cabernet (2613), Zinfandel (1945), Merlot (1546) and Syrah (697) are the most commonly planted red varietals.
White grape plantings total 6348 acres. Chardonnay is the most common (4840 acres) followed by Sauvignon Blanc (722 acres).
In addition to winegrapes, Mendocino is also home to orchards (pears and apples) and several hundred arces of organic vegtables and flowers. Sheep, cattle, buffalo and lammas graze on 371,000 acres of pasture.