Magazine article Sunset

Guess Where We're Drinking Wine . .

Magazine article Sunset

Guess Where We're Drinking Wine . .

Article excerpt

HINT 1

A Syrah made here recently garnered 90 points from Robert Parker (not that we're rabid chasers of his wine scores, but...). The region also produces Pinot Noir, sparklers, and even an Arneis - Italy's "little rascal" of a grape, which one pioneering winemaker is experimenting with. You have to visit this region to taste these wines - or order them online. They don't leave the county.

HINT 2

A tootling drive around this region takes you through ancient redwoods and over remote forested mountains. And when you tire of vineyard sleuthing, you can get lost on an endless coast with a stash of local cheese and oysters (extra hint: 70 percent of the state's oyster supply comes from these waters).

HINT 3

Few winemakers here have enology degrees. They're organic farmers, retired (or not) CHP officers, loggers turned growers, musicians, etc. All told, 24 self-taught vintners are making wine, from their vineyards and from grapes hauled in from more familiar wine regions. Nineteen of them have tasting rooms (if you count the garage), and only three of those are in an official AVA (American Viticultura! Area).

It's Humboldt

Think wine now instead of marijuana (the California county's better-known product). From redwood groves in the south to funky fishing towns in the north to mountain vineyards in the east, this vast region can be navigatedand the wines that have quietly come on line here in the last 10 years can be tasted- in one grand weekend.

Day 1

Southern Humboldt

Redwoods overshadow pocket vineyards where Interstate 101 snakes in from Mendocino County.

DRINK Persimmons Garden Gallery 8i Wine Tasting An eclectic mix of a nursery, art gallery, wine bar, and cafe. Buy an olive tree, taste stone-fruited Briceland Arneis or earthy Whitethorn Pinot, and order crêpes. $; tasting from $4; closed Sun-Tue; loss Redway Dr., Redway; persimmonsgardengallery. com or 707/923-2748.

Riverbend Cellars Aptly named, these vineyards are almost completely encircled by the Eel River. Amazingly, the likes of Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah are ripening on this chilly flat. $5.50 tasting; 12990 Avenue of the Giants, Myers Flat; riverbendcellars. com or 707/943-9907.

Elk Prairie Vineyard This tasting hut high above Humboldt Redwoods State Park yields wild views and concentrated Pinot Noir. By appointment; elkprairievineyard.com or 707/943-3498.

EAT The Groves Sister to Riverbend Cellars, the restaurant end of this winery complex serves up some of the best dinners in the county. The duck two ways is addictive, and the wood-fired pizzas are memorable. …

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