Berger: Mendocino County’s Winesong festival celebrates wine, food and blooms

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Mendocino County, one of the North Coast’s premium wine regions, is just far enough away from San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento to make it more than a day trip for many wine lovers.

As such, it is often seen as remote and doesn’t command the same visibility as Napa and Sonoma.

Yet hundreds of folks who do not live near the Mendocino Coast ink the second weekend in September onto their calendars each year so they don’t miss the annual Winesong food and wine festival. This year it occurs on Saturday, Sept. 10.

But that’s not the only draw for wine lovers.

A major pinot noir tasting takes place at the Little River Inn the Friday before the main event, featuring most of the best Anderson Valley producers and allowing pinot lovers a chance to try the efforts of 32 sensational producers.

This year, the Saturday Winesong event will be held at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., folks can wander through lush foliage and specialty flower plantings, listening to musical groups hidden among shrubs and trees and sipping wines that are paired with food from local purveyors.

With several hours to walk the grounds, patrons can take a casual approach, with tastings that often lead to long discussions about the best wines and food pairings. Most wine tables feature the winemakers, who love to tell tales about recent harvests.

Next come the live and silent auctions along with a catered luncheon under a giant tent.

What’s special about this event, beyond the wines and the camaraderie, is that it benefits the Mendocino Coast Hospital, and that it takes place when so much is in full bloom.

In particular, the Dahlia Garden is a destination for most visitors. It also happens to be where some of the best food is served.

The best word to describe this wonderful event is festive.

A ticket to Winesong is $150 (no tickets are sold at the entrance and must be purchased ahead). A separate ticket to the pinot noir tasting is $75. They’re available at winesong.org.

Another fun wine event occurs on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Kendall Jackson winery when the 20th annual Heirloom Tomato Festival is staged at the winery’s lovely hospitality center just north of Santa Rosa.

For details, see http://www.kj.com/visit-tomato-festival.

Wine of the Week: 2015 Dry Creek Vineyards Dry Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, “Wilson Vineyard” ($13) — This may be America’s most reliable white wine from year to year. It is also ludicrously underpriced for such a sensational warm weather sipping wine, with delightful character of fresh melons and a subtle leafy spiciness. The wine is dry and yet still remarkably succulent. Dry Creek discovered decades ago that grower Ken Wilson in the Stockton Delta had some of the world’s finest Chenin Blanc, and today the grower gets full credit on the label.

Sonoma County resident Dan Berger publishes “Vintage Experiences,” a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him at winenut@gmail.com.

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