Start with the Pinot
Of the 30-some wineries in Mendocino, the more established houses are located in the eastern half of the county, with newer and smaller operations found in Mendocino's Anderson Valley. Here, the cool ocean breezes and warm valley days provide ideal conditions for producing the area's world-class Pinots and Pinot-based sparkling wines. Meander the wineries on your own or call on a tour company to guide you -- on foot or via bicycle, van or limo. Some wineries charge a tasting fee, often refundable with a purchase of wine. (Experienced travelers suggest calling ahead to the wineries you want to visit to inquire about hours of operation.)
Move on to the organic
With more than 18% of its wine-grape acreage designated as certified organic (as opposed to just 1% and 5% in Sonoma and Napa counties, respectively), Mendocino County leads the nation in organic wine production. In fact, a total of 16 wineries produce their wines from certified organic grapes.
Visit Graziano in downtown Hopland to sample unusual Italian varietals; about a mile north of Hopland, stop at the Jeriko Estate Tasting Room for a picnic on the fountain patio, a tour of the organic vineyards or simply to take in the sumptuous mountain valley surroundings and have a taste of the handcrafted estate wines. Other spots to sample organic or biodynamic wines include the Parducci Winery and Tasting Room in Ukiah and the Ceago Vinegarden in Lake County.
Located just north of Boonville, The Apple Farm entices patrons with fresh apples, cider, applesauce and cheese. With its artfully unarranged flowers and statues, the farm's garden is a trip back in time. Visitors also can stay in one of the farm's cozy cottages and take classes on preserving, making cider and making cheese. (Note that cottages and classes are booked far in advance, so make your reservations early.) Another not-to-be-missed activity is a visit to one of the area's beautiful state parks for a hike in the redwoods. Do it on your own or hire one of the many established tour companies to guide you on your adventure.
Where to stay
Charming B&Bs, quaint hotels, luxurious spas and cozy cottages are plentiful and span all price ranges. Stay in one of Mendocino's lovely towns or find a place to rest right on the coast.