Hopland Passport

Hopland Passport: Celebrate the Crush

Wine Notes by Heidi Cusick Dickerson

As the grape harvest winds down, Hopland’s wineries celebrate with their semi-annual Hopland Passport next weekend on October 24 and 25. Fourteen wineries showcasing wines made from Italian, Burgundian, Rhone and Bordeaux varietals add food, music, bocce, barrel tastings and new releases to their individual celebrations.

The two-day event takes place on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. You can pick up a ticket which includes a passport and wine glass from any of the wineries on the weekend or online in advance. Those who purchase tickets online will be entered in a special drawing for prizes. Stamped passports can be entered into another drawing at the end of the event.

As a convenience, on Saturday, the Mendocino Transit Authority (MTA) will shuttle attendees in the morning from the Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Best Western on Orchard, and the Vagabond Inn in Ukiah to Hopland and return at the end of the day. During the event the shuttles will run from winery to winery.

For those who choose to drive Hopland Passport offers free admission to the designated driver. It requires zero alcohol consumption but all the food and other activities are included. Here’s a sampling of what the wineries, listed in alphabetical order, are planning.

All organic/Biodynamic Bonterra wines will be featured at SIP! Mendocino in downtown Hopland. As the ultimate purveyor of Mendocino County wines, SIP! is a lively venue anytime. Proprietor Bernadette Byrne, who helped create Hopland Passport fourteen years ago, is a vivacious guide to an educational and fun tasting inside the cozy store or outside in the beautiful garden.

“Gone Fishin’” is the theme at Brutocao Cellars where a myriad of pizzas, both traditional and innovative, will be served. The tasting room is located in the old Schoolhouse Plaza in Hopland right next to the Crushed Grape Restaurant which will be cooking the pizzas int their wood-fired oven. A wide variety of wines made by Brutocao will be opened and paired with the crusty pizza.

“So Italian, so Intense” a slogan I saw on a T-shirt recently is the best way to describe the experience at the Graziano Family of Wine tasting room in downtown Hopland. Authentic prosciutto and aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese are perfect for Greg Graziano’s Monte Volpe Tocai Fruilano and Sangiovese and Enotria Arneis and Dolcetto. Smoky slices of pork tenderloin marinated in Stroh Ranch Marinade will be on hand to taste with Domaine St. Gregory’s Rhone varietals and Graziano Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. In addition, says tasting room manager Bob Meadows, “we always have huge discounts on many of our wines, up to fifty percent off on some.”

The grand opening of the tasting room in the beautifully remodeled Farm House at Jaxon Keys winery and distillery, takes place on the Hopland Passport weekend with a DJ and music with salsa flair. The newest Hopland winery is located in the old Jepson winery north of Hopland on Highway 101. The red carpet will be out on the stone steps and grand wraparound veranda where samplings of estate grown Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Petite Sirah will be served with fajitas. Selected wines will be up to fifty percent off here as well.

Jeriko Estate, the enticing Mediterranean villa just north of Hopland on Highway 101, adds its own trademark entertainment and menu to the weekend. They will be sharing their just released 2005 Brut and Brut Rose sparkling wine as well as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Sangiovese, all grown on the estate.

In downtown Hopland, the one block Center Street on the west side of Highway 101 next to McDowell Valley Vineyards will be closed off for a festive Mexican market-like atmosphere. “Spectacular Mexican food, homemade salsa and Hibiscus tea are part of the fare,” says tasting room manager Richard Paryz. In addition there will be an outdoor sale table for many of the unique items sold in McDowell’s wild west looking tasting room. Rhone style wines such as Syrah and Grenache Noir are joined by McDowell’s signature Coro to accompany their Mexican fare.

Across and up the street McFadden Vineyard Tasting Room celebrates McFadden Farm’s forty years of being organic. Organic wine from McFadden’s organic Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel vineyards will be served with Caesar salad along with barbecued organic beef and wild rice salad. McFadden’s frozen organic beef and boxes of organic wild rice are available in the tasting room along with McFadden’s line of organic herb blends and garlic braids.

At McNab Ridge tasting room in Hopland, the spirit of Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands complete with some “amazing food and wine pairings to match”. Teriyaki Grilled Chicken with Pineapple and Denise's Island Mystery Dip will be featured with the McNab Ridge's award-winning, including a barrel tasting of Grenache.

Milano Winery, located in the converted hop kiln at the south end of Hopland right on Highway 101 hosts a tasting of Ukiah’s own Tres Classique flavored oils, vinegars and sauces. And, as always, tasting winemaker Deanna Starr’s selection of fine wine varietals is entertaining in the picnic area where giant tortoises, chickens, and other animals add their ambience to the music and festivities Hopland Passport always brings.

Nelson Family Vineyard presents music on Saturday in their redwood grove at the family ranch between Hopland and Ukiah. The renowned Brown Chicken Brown Cow String band from West Virginia will play bluegrass and the Nelson family will be on hand “making pulled pork sandwiches and cole slaw,” says Chris Nelson, to accompany their award winning Riesling, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Terra Savia Winery, which shares its spacious venue with Olivino’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, is a fun-filled artisanal and hospitable destination on Mountain House Road, a little south of Hopland’s downtown. Winemaker Jim Milone will release Terra Savia’s first sparkling wine, a blanc de blanc, and Terra Savia Meritage, all made from the adjacent estate grown grapes. In addition to wine, food and music there will be a tasting of Olivino virgin olive oil made right on the premises.

To the east of Hopland on Highway 175 and always worth the short journey is Weibel Family Vineyards and Winery. “We will be introducing our ‘new’ Weibel Family Winery label, which includes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon,” says manager Margaret Pedroni. In addition, new releases of Weibel’s Sparkelle, a fruit flavored sparkling wine, which already integrates raspberry and almond essences, will showcase the new peach and pomegranate flavors. In a magnificent setting surrounded by acres of vineyards, Weibel will also provide music, a selection of artisanal cheeses, specialty breads and handmade sausages along with barrel samples.

More food, music and other surprises await tasters at Dogwood Cellars and newly opened Saracina tasting room. And to top off the first day of Hopland Passport, the Crushed Grape in Hopland will have dinner specials to add to the Hopland Passport merriment.

Tickets are $35 for both days of Hopland Passport. Tickets include a Hopland Passport, logo glass, admission to each of the wineries for both days, and entry in the Passport Prize Giveaway. Each winery contributes magnums of wine and other prizes which are awarded by drawing. They can be purchased at any winery the day of the event or in advance online.

For more information on Hopland Passport contact the Mendocino County Winegrape and Wine Commission at www.truemendocinowine.com or www.hoplandpassport.com

Heidi Cusick Dickerson writes Wine Notes on behalf of the Mendocino County Winegrape and Wine Commission.

Next Week: Mendocino Wine & Mushroom Fest Wine Train

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