Mendocino & Lake Counties

Family Winery Homesteads

The Mendocino and Lake Regions are considered to be California’s wine growing frontier, filled with the homesteads of many family wineries. Mendocino County’s southern border is north of San Francisco, immediately north of Sonoma County. Lake County is located southeast of Mendocino County and north of Napa Valley.

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and covered in great part by the rugged Coastal Range, this is a warmer growing region than its northerly location would suggest. The warmth is due to the mountain ranges that shelter interior valleys from the cool ocean breezes, and also influences a slightly shorter growing season.

Mendocino County is one of the northernmost commercial wine grape regions in the state with nearly a quarter of the acreage grown organically. On the eastern borders of the county is the Mayacamas Mountains separating it from nearby Lake County and the influences of the large Clear Lake. Beyond the fog’s reach, these warmer pockets of land are mostly deep alluvial soils planted with a westward orientation in order to prevent heat stress.

Although each area within Lake County has unique viticultural attributes, all are influenced by Clear Lake, the largest inland body of water in the state of California. The moderating influence of the lake results in a climate with less variation in temperature than surrounding areas and with the majority of the vineyards planted above 1,500 feet, this creates a higher and drier growing environment that reduces the threat of mildew and pests. Red volcanic soils can be found on the hillsides below Mount Konocti, while alluvial benches on the valley floor provide well-drained beds for the vines.

American Viticultural Areas within this region include Anderson Valley, Benmore Valley, Clear Lake, Cole Ranch, Covelo, Dos Rios, Eagle Peak, Guenoc Valley, High Valley, McDowell Valley, Mendocino, Mendocino Ridge, Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, Red Hills, and Yorkville Highlands. Some Zinfandel is also grown in Trinity and Tehama Counties to the north of this region, which include the Willow Creek appellation.


Zinfandels from Mendocino and Lake Counties are richly colored and are notable for their distinct raspberry-cherry character. These wines have a rather juicy feel in the mouth. Commonly noted aromas include rose petal, vanilla, forest floor, mulled spice, and chocolate, with flavors of berries, black cherry, baking spice, plum, dark chocolate, and black pepper.

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