Monday's Taste of Mendocino event brought some of the best nibbles and sips from the county to Fort Mason to sample. Under the expansive roof of the Festival Pavilion, long rows of booths offered up tempting travel options, a few local restaurants' bites, some local craft food and beers, and lots and lots of wine.
Mendocino is home to more than 90 wineries, more than 60of which were represented here. Alexander Valley's Londer Vineyards has recently nabbed a new crop of 90+ marks from Wine Spectator. It produces elegant, refined wines such as a flinty-dry but aromatic Gewurtztraminer and three distinct Pinot Noirs of great clarity.
Notable were the number of Mendocino wineries that pursue organic or Biodynamic practices. Frey Vineyards is the nation's first fully organic winery, with sustainable practices dating back 30 years. Its Gewurtztraminer's bouquet is heady with honeysuckle and fruit aromas, but finishes perfectly dry, and the 2009 Pinot Noir, which took the bronze at France's Millesime Bio 2011, has a pleasantly meaty flavor. Among Elizabeth Spencer's organic offerings, the Sauvignon Blanc pops with bright grapefruit aromas, and its Cabernet Sauvignon's soft tannins allow flavors of blueberry and leather to shine through. Another organic winery, Yorkville Cellars, offers another flinty, dry white, this time a Semillon. The rosé of Cabernet Franc employs the grape's natural floral notes, teasing out aromas of raspberry and rose, and the Petit Verdot is lush and rich, full of dark fruit and jammy flavors.
The exhibit's marketplace in the back showcased some of the county's food and craft offerings, many from homey, cottage-industry purveyors. Black Dog Farm showed its wide array of jams and preserves, from the mundane to the quirky; we favored the latter, such as their Beer for Breakfast stout beer jelly and Liquid Fire hot (no, seriously, hot) pepper jam. Adjacent Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company had a spectrum of seaweeds, including kombu, dulse, and bladderwrack. Some, like the Turkish Towel, are not intended for consumption but rather as a skin and beauty treatment, as they produce natural hydrating gelatins. And owner Bob La Mar of Mendocino Salt and Seasoning, clad in a Stetson and boots, extolled the virtues of its sea salts harvested from the chilly Mendo waters. Aside from the plain sea salt, his company also offers a salt seasoned with local nori for an added briny flavor, and the "Sea Smoke" salt smoked with local hardwoods and seaweeds for an aroma and flavor reminiscent of a bonfire on the beach.