Mendocino Ridge in California is a relatively young American Viticultural Area (AVA), winning approval in 1997, yet it has some of the oldest producing vineyards in Mendocino County. The first plantings, primarily Zinfandel, were established by Italian immigrants and date to the late 1800s. Today, Zinfandel is still the pride of this AVA, but the region holds promise as a viticultural paradise for Pinot Noir.
The Mendocino Ridge AVA is a non contiguous trio of ridges that is defined by vineyards at least 1,200 feet or more in elevation and within 10 miles of the Pacific Ocean. It is California’s first and only non contiguous AVA. Because of the hilly terrain of the AVA, some lower elevations are not included, fostering the name, “Islands in the Sky.”
The climate in Mendocino Ridge is distinctly different from the neighboring Anderson Valley below. Perched above the fog and frost threat, the vineyards in the Mendocino Ridge bask in the early morning sun, and early afternoon breezes cool down the fruit, never allowing the temperatures to rise as high as the valley below. There is enough rainfall and ground water to dry farm vineyards.
The first winery in the Mendocino Ridge AVA was Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, founded in 1980. Pinot Noir plantings here are the oldest on the Mendocino Ridge. Other Pinot Noir vineyards include Perli Vineyard, Sky High Vineyard, and Manchester Ridge Vineyard (see photo). Wineries producing Pinot Noir from the Mendocino Ridge appellation include Arista, Auteur, B. Kosugi, Baxter Winery, Drew, Ferrari-Carano, J. Jacaman, Marguerite Ryan Cellars, Phillips Hill Estates and Tandem. I have had spectacular Pinot Noirs from several vineyards and producers in this AVA.
2006 B. Kosuge Wines Manchester Ridge Mendocino Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 300 cases, $40. Byron Kosuge is a Pinot Noir and Syrah specialist who was the former winemaker at Saintsbury.
A potpourri of scents including brambly cherries, candied apples, exotic woods, vanillin and winter spices. Mouth-filling dusty red cherries that are nicely spiced with a subtle complement of oak. The wine is velvety in texture with integrated tannins and a good acid cut. A complete wine with excellence balance and length. Is there an App for this?