Producer: Testa Vineyards
Region: Redwood Valley and Mendocino AVAs, Mendocino, California
Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Charbono
Tasting Notes: Blackberry jam, raspberry, blueberry, spice, damp earth, vanilla
Pairings: Barbecue! [burgers with bacon, barbecue chicken], lasagna, braised oxtail
Price (approximately): $25
This “black wine”, so nicknamed for the dark-colored grapes that comprise the blend, is fruit-forward, presenting a bright and expressive bouquet of baked red and dark fruit, including blackberry, strawberry rhubarb and blueberry. The palate is greeted with jammy fruit of raspberry, boysenberry and blackberry, balanced splendidly with spice, damp earth and vanilla. Bright acidity and smooth tannins balance the palate and provide finesse and structure. The finish possesses strong acidity when first uncorked, but pleasantly mellows with time, so decanting prior to serving makes for the best tasting experience.
Mendocino County - the Northern Limits of California Winemaking
Driving north from San Francisco through Sonoma County, one will eventually come across Mendocino and Lake County, the northernmost vinous regions in California. Although Mendocino was established relatively recently (in 1984), its viticultural origins extend back nearly 160 years. In the 1850s, down-on-their-luck prospectors whose hopes had faded in the gold rush disavowed a laborious life in the coal mines and traversed north to the beautiful, untamed wilderness of northern California. Although the rugged, picturesque Pacific coastline and altitudinous redwood forests brought fame to the region, it was Mendocino’s climate and terroir, demonstrating an efficacious agricultural haven, that interested its early residents. Soon thereafter, vineyards were established. Although the County is blanketed in redwood forest, farmers and vintners made good use of the rest. Where there is a way, there is a wine.
The majority of wineries in Mendocino are family owned, and many can trace their origins back to the founding prospector families of the 1850s and Italian immigrants that arrived in the years thereafter. Indeed, it was Italian families that planted the earliest vineyards in Mendocino County in what is now designated as the sub-appellation of Redwood Valley. One can always rely upon the Europeans for vinous inspiration.
The climate of this upland Redwood Valley is cooler than surrounding appellations of Mendocino due to higher elevation and a penetrating Pacific breeze that navigates through a gap in the coastal ridge. Italian heritage is still well-represented in the varietals that thrive here, such as Barbera, Carignane, Charbono and Dolcetto, which grow alongside California mainstays Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. The climate affords a long, consistent growing season and its unique red, volcanic soils combine to produce a wine with character, complexity and elegance.
The family-driven, inter-generational stewardship of the land has emphasized ethical farming practices that strive to preserve and protect the natural landscape. As we say in Hawaii, keep the country country. This has resulted in a regional commitment to organic and sustainable farming systems. Mendocino County is the largest aggregation of organic-certified vineyards in the country.
Waves, Wilderness and Wine
This strategy has also facilitated the promotion of the region as a tourist destination. Mendocino entices nature enthusiasts with the spectacular scenic coastal drive, a host of outdoor activities (camping, hiking, etc.), fresh seafood, national parks and, of course, wine. Rugged, remote, adventurous. There is much to love in Mendocino.
Testa Vineyards finds itself in the middle of it all. Farmed by six generations for over 100 years, Testa Vineyards has a long and proud heritage in Mendocino County. Committed to ethical and sustainable farming techniques, Testa Vineyards ensures that its indelible legacy in the region is maintained and expanded. Staying true to its Italian heritage, Testa Vineyards grows Carignane, Barbera and Charbono, in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.
Testa Vineyards throws in a bonus - a wonderfully charming 3-bedroom farmhouse, built in 1927, for your next vacation getaway. The Testa family, both human and canine (English Springer Spaniels Patsy and John - named after Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash - are eager to welcome you) invite guests to unplug and relax, meander the gorgeous property or grab a pole and head to the fishing pond. Utilize the vineyard as your home base while you peruse the Pacific coast, visit the redwood forests and enjoy delicious farm-to-table cuisine from the local restaurants. At the end of a long day, a beautiful, rustic farmhouse and abundance of hand-crafted wines await you. Inebriated outdoor adventures and vinous relaxation are inevitable.