Day trip to Mendocino town nearer than you think entices with easy-going hospitality, varied experiences.
Let’s get the logistics out of the way first: a half-hour drive from Healdsburg and a 90-minute straight shot north from the Golden Gate Bridge, Hopland hides in plain sight along U.S. 101. The pace slows in this southern Mendocino County town, population about 900, and not just because its section of the highway narrows to one undivided lane in each direction and the speed limit drops to 35 mph. (Watch out for pedestrians and sometimes the cops.)
Anchor a day trip of touring with tastings at three wineries – Saracina, Alta Orsa, and either Campovida or Terra Sávia – all known for easy-going hospitality and striking views. Saracina and Alta Orsa allow guests to bring picnics, or you can eat (suggestions below) in the small “downtown” business district, where a few restaurants and cafés, half a dozen tasting rooms, a cannabis dispensary, and a shop or three straddle the highway.
Best Time to Go
This itinerary is best done from Thursday through Sunday, when most of the wineries are open. Orsa and Campovida always require a reservation. It’s good to make one for Saracina, though the winery usually can accommodate weekday walk-ins. Terra Sávia is open Monday–Thursday by appointment only; calling ahead on Fridays and weekends is wise.
Best Hopland Wine Tasting
Saracina Vineyards is a must-do stop for its landscaped grounds, hospitable staff, and masterful winemaker. Alex MacGregor has fashioned Saracina’s wines for more than two decades – he knows this land and its grapes well. Tastings often start with a white or two like the Unoaked Chardonnay and the Lolonis Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (from the nation’s oldest Sauvignon Blanc vines, per Alex). Among the reds, the Pick and Shovel Zinfandel (unfined, unfiltered, with some Petite Sirah) impresses with its back-palate spice, elegance, and mild tannic kick, and the Malbec seduces with dark-fruit flavors and herbal/savory notes. The Winter’s Edge, a red blend of old-vine Carignane, newer Grenache, French Colombard, and a “mystery grape” that might be Cabernet Sauvignon, all cofermented and aged together, is lively, unique, and perfectly balanced.
Note: If you can’t get a reservation at Saracina, try Nelson Family Vineyards, about 6 miles north in southern Ukiah. Run by the same family since the early 1950s, it’s got a large patio and a redwood grove, both with vineyard views.
If you won’t be picnicking at a winery, head to downtown’s The Golden Pig or across the street to Hopland Tap and Grill. When it’s open, the Thatcher Hotel’s Café Poppy serves bakery items and light fare.
Alta Orsa Winery
A nearly 2-mile-long gravel driveway winds past oaks, manzanitas, pines, and firs to the steep, stunning 160-acre estate of Alta Orsa Winery. Winemaker Martin Bernal-Hafner, who hails from Colombia and has done wine work on three continents (his mentors include Paul Hobbs), conducts some of the tastings here. Except when the weather doesn’t cooperate, sessions take place under a decades-old cork tree, usually after a vineyard walk if you’re up for it. Bernal-Hafner specializes in single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma County fruit and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hopland estate, where Merlot, Petit Verdot, and a few other varieties also grow. While sipping gracefully made wines, you’ll learn about Alta Orsa’s commitment to holistic, organic, regenerative farming practices.
Campovida or Terra Sávia
Close the day with a tasting at Campovida or Terra Sávia, two wineries less than a mile from downtown Hopland.
The owners of Campovida hipped up Hopland by refurbishing the Thatcher Hotel, which sits next door to their seven-room Stock Farm Inn, home to a restaurant and a bar. Campovida pours its sensitively crafted wines about a mile outside town at its ranch. Wines of note include Rhône-style whites and reds, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Italian varietals like Tocai Friulano and Nero d’Avola. The Sangiovese is also good. After a tasting, guests can stroll through the property’s 6-acre organic garden.
There’s a lot to unpack at the day’s throwback winery, a sheer delight that’s a window into Hopland’s soul. In addition to organically farming 35 acres of grapes, the winery’s owners, Swiss-born Jurg Fischer and Dominican Republic native Yvonne Hall, cultivate 24 acres of olive trees, tend to a slew of rescue animals, sell nursery plants, and exhibit art. Some Terra Sávia guests come just to sample the olive oils, but the wines, crafted by longtime Hopland-area winemaker Jim Milone, whose great-grandfather operated a pre-Prohibition winery in these parts, are worth seeking out. Enjoy them by the flight in the tasting room, or purchase a glass and wander the grounds. Milone’s style trends old school, but his wines come from good soil and have plenty of soul. As noted above, you’ll need an appointment Monday–Thursday.
Also in Mendocino County
This itinerary first appeared in mid-2022 and was updated in late 2023. Lead photo shows Cabernet vines at Alta Orsa.