Vail Wine Ink Column: The Madrones in Mendocino County
Perhaps the best part of wine travel is discovery. It could be a grape you have never tasted. Perhaps a vineyard you see for the first time. Or it could be an oasis in a region farther afield.
A recent sojourn took me to the “next county,” Mendocino. It’s geographically and spiritually above and beyond Napa and Sonoma. While the region is fast becoming a go-to for wine lovers, it is still a bit funkier than its southern cousins. It is also home to one of those wine travel discoveries, an oasis called The Madrones.
Just off California Highway 128 in the Anderson Valley lies a Spanish/Tuscan/Santa Fe/California-inspired compound called The Madrones.
The Madrones consists of nine guest quarters, three wine-tasting rooms pouring Anderson Valley wines, a restaurant and a curio and antique shop that would be a find in, say, New York’s East Village.
The product of interior designer and builder Jim Roberts, the complex began life as a rural homestead and television repair shop. Roberts rebuilt the compound as a base of operations to house his design firm and a creative incubator for local business in the mid-2000s. He also built a home that lies cocooned inside the exquisite English gardens that surround the property. Today, that home has been repurposed as guest quarters.
Each guest room showcases the building’s classic bones and details such as vaulted ceilings and window seats. Luxury linens and contemporary elements give it a sophisticated, comfortable vibe.
Where offices once occupied the front of the compound, there are now tasting rooms for three small-lot family wineries. The newest addition, Smith-Story Wine Cellars, consists of host husband and wife Eric Story and Allison Smith. They pour recent releases of their Mendocino and Sonoma County wines alongside a project they produce in the Rheingau region of Germany. They may be the only family owned winery in the U.S. with a German 2015 Rose of Pinot Noir.
Across the courtyard is Bink Cellars. It is the creation of Deborah Schatzlein and Cindy Paulson, who have a passion for producing small lots of Mendocino County wines with concentration, intensity and flavor. While pinot noir dominates in the area, I particularly liked their merlot and syrah, both of which hail from their estate vineyard, Hawks Butt, in the Yorkville Highlands American viticultural area.
Drew Family Cellars rounds out the tasting rooms with a roster of seriously good wines, many of which come from the cool climate of their estate vineyard, a former apple orchard high up the Elk-Philo Road just three miles from the Pacific Ocean. Family owned by Jason and Molly Drew, these wines show a delicate and deft hand.
STONE & EMBERS
The heart of The Madrones complex may well be the wood-burning pizza oven. It puts out an amazing array of pizzas, salads and other tasty dishes, all made with local ingredients grown in Chef Patrick Meany’s farm.
Many came to the valley following time spent in the kitchens of San Francisco’s Gary Danko, and Bouchon in the Napa Valley. With partner and farmer Matt Barnes, they have created simplicity in each dish. The fresh Little Gem lettuce salads, the impossibly thin mushroom chicharonnes and the potato beignets burst with flavor.
Comfortable and classic. Just like the Madrones.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.