This spring I was fortunate to spend a week in Mendocino County, roughly a two-hour drive north of the San Francisco Bay area. If this is not the single most beautiful county in the U.S., it is certainly high on the list.
Although an area frequently overlooked on California tours simply because the Golden State has so many well-known attractions, Mendocino is well worth a multi-night stay. The area is not only sure to reward group travelers with an exceptional vacation experience, but one that is much more “laid back” than found amidst the bustle of the big cities.
As one arrives in Mendocino, one immediately notices that the highway traffic is now substantially reduced, the passing vineyards and wineries appear to be less overtly commercial and the scenic vistas surrounding them have grown substantially more impressive. With 95 winemakers and grape growers, the county bills itself as “America’s Greenest Wine Region.”
The winemakers I met in Mendocino stressed that their industry has now reached the point where Napa and Sonoma were about 25 or 30 years ago with mostly family-owned facilities and recent discovery by wine connoisseurs worldwide. Even though tours and tastings are just as readily available here, the atmosphere greeting the visitor is demonstrably more friendly and less rushed (as well as less expensive) than one finds frequently to the south. In fact, I found that employees at several vineyards, evidently quite proud of Mendocino’s unhurried pace and genuine hospitality, even referred to Napa Valley as the “Disneyland of the Wine Industry” in comparison. Whether or not that is an accurate description, the wineries of Mendocino are without question as attractive and picturesque, if not more so, than any I have seen anywhere in the world.
Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery
Navarro Vineyards & Winery