Find out what makes Mendocino County’s Potter Valley appellation special at winery’s Hopland tasting room.
Below are some quick impressions of several Blue Quail wines sipped in mid-2021 at the winery’s downtown Hopland tasting room. The wines’ Potter Valley AVA grapes come from McFadden Vineyard, organically farmed since Guinness McFadden established it in 1970 and certified organic since 1991.
2020 Chardonnay. With no oak or malolactic fermentation, this wine comes off drier and more acidic than many California Chardonnays, light and low-key with apple and mineral notes. It’s sweet in only one way: the price ($16).
2017 Dry Riesling / 2019 Dry Gewürztraminer. My notes describe the Dry Riesling as “daringly dry,” which also applied to the next offering, a Dry Gewürztraminer. Serena, the tasting room’s manager, says the Riesling pairs well with mussels at the Noyo River Grill in Fort Bragg, where it’s on the wine list.
2019 Pinot Noir. The restraint shown in the whites also plays out in the reds, most notably the 2019 Pinot Noir. Whole-cluster pressed and fermented in oak, the wine recalls Humboldt County more than nearer Anderson Valley in its woodsy earthiness.
2013 Old Vine Zinfandel / 2018 Old Vine Zinfandel. We ended with two wines from the initial plantings, the 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel and the current-release 2018. The older wine’s Pinot-like wisp of forest floor on the nose and integration of red fruit, savory herbs, and peppery spice hint at the newer one’s middle maturity.
“Where in the Hell Is Potter Valley?”
A hat for sale in the tasting room asks the above question. The answer? In central Mendocino County at about the same latitude as Mendocino village, 40 miles east of the Pacific as the crow flies (72 winding miles by car). At elevation 1,000 feet, McFadden Vineyard has a daily summertime temperature shift as great as 50℉ – afternoon readings can be in the mid-90s (sometimes higher), but by midnight the temperature might drop into the 40s, the nighttime cooling helpful in maintaining acidity.
McFadden Vineyard only opens to the public for a few special events each year. The McFadden Blue Quail Tasting Room, in Hopland on U.S. 101 about 32 miles north of Healdsburg and 14 miles south of the Mendocino County seat, Ukiah, is open from Thursday through Sunday.
Why go: wines from organic grapes; unusual history; on a cool strip in Hopland.