Stop in at any of the many friendly tasting rooms along the Highway 128 Wine Road to experience some of the finest wines of Mendocino County, along with exceptional hospitality.
Yorkville & the Yorkville Highlands
Fifteen serpentine miles beyond Cloverdale, and you’re now in the picturesque Yorkville Highlands, an appellation that consists of approximately 40,000 acres straddling Highway 128 between the Alexander Valley to the southeast and the Anderson Valley to the northwest. The area is home to three tasting rooms open to the public, as well as some by prior appointment. Load up your supplies at Yorkville Market, stocked with local wines, picnic supplies, and made-to-order sandwiches.
Yorkville, a tiny dot on the map, is home to Yorkville Cellars, a small family-run winery that grows organic grapes, and is the only known winery that grows all eight of the main Bordeaux grapes and then bottles each individually as a varietal each vintage. A couple of miles farther on is Artevino/Maple Creek Winery where Tom Rodrigues grows Chardonnay, Merlot and Symphony grapes on his 180-acre ranch. Stop in at the tasting room, which lies at the top of a winding road, where Tom’s art adorns the walls as well as the labels on the bottles. The third stop in the Highlands is at Meyer Family Cellars, another family-run operation that, in addition to a wide variety of award-winning wines, offers a picnic area, bocce and childrens’ playground.
Known for its folk language, Boontling, Boonville is a great place to get out of the car and relax. On the way into town, Pennyroyal Farm & Creamery and Anderson Valley Brewing Company are both worth a stop and a tour. The creamery produces handcrafted cheese exclusively from the farms’ goats and sheep and tours are offered daily at 10AM and 2PM. The Brewery is renowned for its uncommonly good beer and seasonal releases only found at the Tap Room. Founded in 2006, Foursight Wines’ goal is to produce 100% estate wines in the French monopole model, with grapes sourced only from their own Charles Vineyard. Just a short distance is the historic Live Oak Building, where Maryetta Wines makes its home. Their organic Pinot Noir wines are sourced from some of the finest vineyards in the Anderson Valley AVA. Make a beeline for Bee Hunter Wine, which shares the Live Oak building tasting room. Sourcing grapes from “secret garden” vineyards, Bee Hunter produces a variety of reds, whites, and a rosé. The only 100% wind and solar powered winery in the county, Philo Ridge Vineyards maintains a tasting room in downtown Boonville, just a stroll away from restaurants and shops. Seebass Vineyards opened their doors in the summer of 2014. Their wines are created from their hand-harvested, hand-pruned, sustainably farmed and estate-grown fruit, which is grown “over the hill” in Talmage.
Half-way between Boonville and Philo is the 203-acre Lichen Estate, which produces exquisite still and sparkling wines including Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, and a unique blend that will stump your wine aficionado friends!
At the heart of Anderson Valley, Philo and the surrounding area are chock-a-block with tasting rooms with wines that will appeal to every palate. On the way in to Philo, the first winery stop is Goldeneye Winery, specializing in Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs – a spectacular place to stop and taste with its background of Confluence Vineyard (the main photo on this post!). Just across the highway is the house of Domaine Anderson. Owned by the family that stewards the Roederer brand, this 50 acres of family-owned vineyards is dedicated exclusively to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A hop, skip and a jump away is Balo Vineyards with two competition-grade bocce courts, a dog recreation area, outdoor tables and, of course, their “killer” Pinot Noirs! The Mullins Family and Boo the dog love to welcome visitors.
Directly opposite Balo Vineyards is The Madrones, a Mediterranean-style compound comprised of three wine tasting rooms, the Sun & Cricket store, nine beautifully appointed guest quarters, and the petite Stone & Embers restaurant. With tasting rooms just steps away from each other, this is the place to really slow down and taste the grapes! Drew Wines is a very small production family winery that consistently wins accolades. Drew remains committed to Pinot Noir and Syrah from California’s northern far coastal edge, which includes Mendocino Ridge, Anderson Valley and the Yorkville Highlands. Jason also makes a very small amount of Albariño from their coastal region. Newcomers to the valley are the husband and wife team of Ali Smith and Eric Story who have just opened the doors to their tasting room at Smith Story Wine Cellars. The latest tasting room to open at The Madrones is Long Meadow Ranch, whose Anderson Valley Estate has 69 acres planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. With the Navarro River to the southwest and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, a natural marine layer blankets the vineyards and creates terroir ideal for their estate-grown Burgundian varietals to mature slowly and ripen to the peak of their varietal character.
Head into the heart of Philo and you’ll find Baxter Winery where father and son partners, Phil L Baxter and Phil T G Baxter, produce handcrafted single vineyard wines focusing on the Anderson Valley and surrounding Mendocino appellations. Known primarily for their Pinot Noir, the pair combine over fifty years of experience, producing wines naturally, applying instinct and using old-world techniques. Witching Stick Wines specializes in finding unique vineyards and producing refreshing, food-friendly wines with minerality and crispness. Witching Stick is the team of winemaker Van Williamson and wife Anne. Van brings his unique style of winemaking to this venture. Stop in at Scharffenberger Cellars to sample their lovely bubbly and view the displays of art by local artists. The gardens or porch are just the place to have a picnic, which you can arrange in advance. On your way out of Philo, turn right at the sign of the loose goose and visit Vern and Maxine Boltz, owners of Toulouse Vineyards. Their vineyards are dedicated to growing Pinot Noir but they also produce a range of other wines made from Anderson Valley grapes.
. . . and Beyond
With a long list of wines to sample, Brutocao Cellars is the next stop along the Wine Road. A combination of Italian heritage and northern California agriculture now produce award-winning wines that pair well with food and friends! The folks at Navarro Vineyards have been growing grapes, making wine and producing non-alcoholic grape juices in the Anderson Valley in coastal Mendocino since 1974. You won’t find their wines at your local grocery store, so stop and say hello and pick up some vino to go! With its unique tasting room built from a single redwood tree, since 1980 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards has been producing world class wines in small lots (total annual production is only 1,500 cases). Further into the deep end of the valley, the tasting room at Phillips Hill Winery brings together unexpected elements of natural beauty, fascinating local history, a sensory gallery and a revived authentic antique fruit stand. Join owners Toby Hill and Natacha Durandet for a unique outdoor tasting experience under the apple dryer overlooking the creek, where the apple skins once flew through the chute and into the creek so many years ago.
Newly remodeled, Lazy Creek Vineyards is a pleasant detour along Lazy Creek amid towering redwoods and oak trees, which then opens onto a bucolic setting complete with the new winery building and tasting room, rustic barn, cottages with its menagerie of animals, gardens, fruit trees and vineyards. The oldest winery in Anderson Valley, Husch Vineyards‘ tasting room is located in a converted pony barn dating back to the late 1800s. With their long farming heritage, Husch wines showcase the fruit in each bottle and reflect a true commitment to quality and value.
Roederer Estate Brut is the first California sparkling wine to be produced by Champagne Louis Roederer, further building upon a 200-year tradition of fine winemaking from this family owned company. Barely visible from Highway 128, the rustic exterior emphasizes the natural beauty and relaxed charm of the Anderson Valley. Handley Cellars is a small family-owned winery that was bonded in 1982. Visitors can taste a wide selection of wines and shop in the folk art-inspired tasting room or enjoy a picnic in the shaded sculpture garden. Still standing on the property are the now-refurbished ranch house, barn, and the original water tower. Last, but definitely not least, Lula Cellars is the last tasting room in the valley. Lula produces limited amounts of world class, handcrafted Mendocino Coast Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Dry Gewurztraminer and Dry Rosato. Enjoy a picnic at the tasting room where you’ll be greeted by Honey, the winery dog.
Of course, there are plenty of other wineries that you can visit by appointment only. Enjoy the Wine Road and remember to drink responsibly.