I’ve been hearing a lot about next week’s Taste of Mendo, the all day celebration of all things Mendocino County, in San Francisco. All this talk of Mendo and I got to wondering why they tout themselves as the “America’s Greenest Wine Region.” According to Wine Country This Week, Mendo is well known for its “long and rich history of sustainable, organic and Biodynamic wine growing and winemaking practices, as well as its fish-friendly farming movement.” But, it was hard to find any specifics so I posed the question to Josh Metz a principal at GeoVine and Lead Socializer at Mendo Social Media.
JK: I’m wondering if you know why Mendo tags itself the “America’s Greenest Wine Region”?
JM: The short story is that Mendocino County lays claim to the birthplace of many of today’s more common green winegrowing practices including organic & Biodynamic, and on a real practical level Mendo County claims the largest relative amount — certified acres and acres planted of vineyards — of certified organic and Biodynamic vineyard acres in the USA.
JM: Mendo County is a major point of influence for many of today’s sustainable wine industry leaders. For instance, Frey Vineyards was the first certified Biodynamic Winery in the USA. In addition, the largest organic brand in the market is Mendocino-based Bonterra Vineyards (originally started by the Fetzer Family). If you look into some of the major influencers in Napa Valley and other wine regions in California and the world, many trace their roots back to Mendocino County. One of the more noteworthy subjects is a character known as Amigo Bob, who after spending an impressionable part of life here in Mendocino County went on to consult for the likes of Frogs Leap, Robert Sinskey, and many others, in addition to being a founder of the Ecological Farming Conference. On the international scene, Chile’s leading Biodynamic and organic winemaker, Alvaro Espinoza was first inspired to go this direction by his time spent working with Fetzer Vineyards in Mendocino County.
Looking way back one would come upon the story of a guy named Alan Chadwick, founder of a world-renowned garden at UC Santa Cruz. Prior to relocating to the Covelo area known as Round Valley, he established a community centered around Biodynamic farming. Noteworthy alums of this program include Ceago Vinegarden, Benziger Vineyards (and now Sting in Tuscany’s) Biodynamic consultant Alan York, along with Katrina Frey, and others. If you were to ask Jim Fetzer of Ceago Vinegarden about his influences in chosing to a develop a Biodynamic brand you’d likely hear a story or two about Alan Chadwick’s lectures as a major point of influence.
JK: But, ‘the greenest’?
JM: Mendocino County is a very large county, approximately 3,500 square miles. Within that area only a very small percentage, less than 30%, is farmable land. The vast majority of the County is covered in conifer forest which in most recent times supported a robust timber-based economy. These days, as timber harvests have declined there remains vast areas of relatively remote lands that are green. So Mendocino County can legitimately claim to be the birthplace of many modern ideas on green winegrowing, a place of significant influence, and a place filled with many wild lands providing green amenities for residents and visitors.
JK: That about sums it up. Thanks, Josh!