Hopland Passport

Hopland Passport: Gustatory Gala 
Wine Notes by Heidi Cusick Dickerson

            Hopland Passport makes me hungry. In addition to tasting wine with roots in France and Italy, wood-fired pizza, tri-tip and lamb sliders, exquisite finger foods, Hawaiian luau fare and chocolate truffles are just the the first course. Add amazing music and art and the upcoming Hopland Passport on Saturday April 30 and Sunday May 1 is the place to be.

            With 17 wineries participating, themes such as the Wild West (Jaxon Keys) and taste of Hawaii (Terra Savia) and the addition of two new venues (Parducci at the Solar Living Institute and Cesar Toxqui’s new tasting room) Hopland Passport celebrates the arrival of spring and it’s just down the road.

            All I need is a “passport” to join the fun. And on Saturday I can leave the driving to the Mendocino Transit Authority or a designated driver, who gets special treatment at the wineries. Here is an appetizing preview of what’s being cooked up along Mendocino’s southern stretch of Highway 101.

            ”We are pairing my wife’s authentic Filipino cuisine with a vertical tasting of our Heirloom Red Wines including Uno Heirloom, Heirloom II and the new release Heirloom III,” says Cesar Toxqui. Each Heirloom is a blend of wine from every Cesar Toxqui vintage, a heritage sampler in one bottle. In addition there will be barrel tasting of Grenache and up to thirty percent off their Zinfandel.

            For the most “green” stop, America’s first carbon neutral winery Parducci Cellars will serve Magruder Ranch’s organic grass fed, grilled and pulled pork, Asian slaw and lamb sliders at Real Goods Solar Living Institute. “We will be pouring our Pinot, Sustainable White, True grit, Cabernet and Chardonnay along with music from the popular Dirt Floor Band starting at noon,” says Spencer Brewer, Parducci’s “Ringmaster.”

          At Milano Winery a tasting of Tres Classique Balsamics and vinegars, Gourmet Jerkeyand grilled tri-tip is planned. Along with music by Marc Hansen Milano is hosting such vendors as Amberina's Traveling Boutique, Massages by Stephanie, Wood bowls by Paul Maurer, Tees Trunk and some “great wine specials going on!”

          Janelle Weaver, the former private chef to the renowned restaurant designer Pat Kuleto, is showcasing her talents at Saracina Vineyards. She is preparing a host of savory appetizers to got with Saracina’s organic varietals and blends. They include gold and red roasted beets adorned with herbed chevre and tender grilled beef filet with béarnaise sauce on toast points.  And the scoop is she will be opening a restaurant in Mendocino County this fall.

          At McFadden Vineyards tasting room a tasting menu of all McFadden Farms organic ingredients takes place through the back door under the tent. Organic cube steak seasoned with McFadden organic Grilling Herbs, Lemon Pepper and Garlic Powder will be served with their renowned McFadden Farm Wild Rice Salad as well as a green salad dressed with McFadden’s Salad Herb Blend in a vinaigrette. Up to  thirty-five percent discounts will be offered on McFadden’s Potter Valley Chardonnay and Zinfandel. In addition there will be twenty-five percent off nonfood merchandise and the pottery of Dick Lumaghi. “All our McFadden Vineyard wines, herbs, and beef are grown or raised organically and come from our CCOF  McFadden Farm in Potter Valley,” says new tasting room director John Cesano.

              “This year marks Campovida's first anniversary being part of Hopland Passport,” says Campovida co-owner Anna Beuselinck. “In celebration, we will be serving artisanal cheeses and appetizers prepared by Branches Chop House that pair nicely with our Magnanimus wines and estate grown and harvested olive oil and honey.” Music by Les Boek and his band features performances from Campovida's “resident” vocal artist, Mara Montiel. Throughout the weekend, Campovida's “Voice of Nature” Ken Boek will guide tours of the extraordinary organic gardens with over 2000 plant varietals. Additionally, for those who want more than a taste, Branches will be offering lunch options at Campovida’s outdoor picnic area near the Bocce Ball courts. 

          Terra Savia, surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, goes Hawaiian for Hopland Passport. Music by the soulful island grooves of Hui Arago’s Hawaiian band sets the scene where  “we will be cooking up some Island fare to entice your appetites,” says Yvonne Hall of Terra Savia winery and Olivino. For those who don “any sort of Hawaiian threads--hula skirts, aloha shirts or those fancy Hawaiian Chief Headdresses” Terra Savia is offering twenty-five percent off all purchases.
             At Jaxon Keys, you can trade your headdress for a cowboy hat where the Wild Wild West comes alive. “We will be serving up tri-tip sliders,” says Vicki Milone, who says staff will be “dressed in our western duds, complete with cowboy hats, boots and spurs!” Winemaker Fred Nickel will be on hand to share a barrel tasting and live music by the locally popular Felt-Tips will play on the veranda.

            Weibel is pulling out all the stops with “gourmet treats” by Fork Catering from Sebastopol. “We will dish up Fork’s critically acclaimed cuisine from their high end food truck,” says Margaret Pedroni, director of Hospitality at Weibel’s new tasting room in downtown Hopland.  Weibel will open their new releases of all Mendocino County grown Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Orange Muscat to pair with Fork Catering’s morsels. Pedroni adds, “We are excited to have new vintages which reflect our new winemaker Owen Smith's talents.” And Weibel will be offering discounts on current releases and substantial priced reductions on close out cases.

            While the beautiful and complimentary bottle painting by local artist Leslie Bartolomei is a draw for many the smorgasbord of delicacies at McNab Ridge tasting room with its beautiful oak bar makes it hard to go anywhere else. This year’s sampling includes Soy Vay marinated chicken thighs with grilled pineapple, jumbo shrimp with zesty horseradish cocktail sauce and “a fabulous selection of dips and spreads.” (It’s true, I enjoyed my share last year.) Winemaker Rich Parducci’s 2009 Cononiah Zinfandel will be “thiefed” from the barrel and McNab is offering a vertical tasting of all five of their Mendocino Coro wines. Add to all of this a handmade chocolate truffle by Mike Miller of Decadence and see if there is any of their Puerto Zinfandel Port to purchase.

            At Nelson Family Vineyards, the popular Mendough is welcomed back again this year with their wood-fired pizza pulled piping hot from a portable brick, sliced and served  oven alongside Nelson Vineyard’s estate-grownwines. Winemaker Chris Nelson and family members will be on hand to pour wine and pair an appropriate dessert with their just released Late Harvest Viognier.   

            “What more could you ask for,” says Nelson, “ breathtaking views, wonderfully crafted wines, organic pizzas, and yummy dessert all at one location!”

            Or how about seventeen locations? The rest of the enticing venues are yet to discover at Hopland Passport. Brutocao’s award winning wines are served in an emporium of shopping with an Italian flair complete with bocce courts. Graziano Famiily of wines features variety of Burgundian, Italian and purely Mendocino wines and special food and discounts. Jeriko Estate presents its compelling Mediterranean setting and appetizing organic wines and cuisine.  At McDowell Valley Vineyards the west meets France at the horseshoe bar where Rhone style wines star. Patianna, known for organic Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel and Rack & Riddle for its sparkling wine and limited supply of still wines are also on the Hopland Passport map.

         Tickets for Hopland Passport at $35 per person (purchased in advance; $45 at any winery the weekend of the event) include a commemorative wine glass plus food and music and all activities both days. For tickets and more Hopland Passport information contact the Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission at www.mendowine.com, visitwww.hoplandpassport.com or call 800-564-2582. The MTA Shuttle pass is $15 and pickup is at participating hotels on Saturday only.

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