A wine country getaway for the curious and adventurous wine traveler is a trip up to Mountain View Road in Mendocino County. Mountain View Road runs between the town of Manchester on Highway 1 near Point Arena to Boonville, a curious town in the heart of Mendocino’s Anderson Valley wine country. Mountain View Road is very twisty and thick with Coast forest trees. Its high point hits 2600 feet in elevation. Near the top of this mountain road, 9 miles in from Manchester, is the setting for one of the most spectacular vineyards in California. It is Mariah Vineyards, owned and farmed by Dan and Vicki Dooling. You would hardly expect to find 41 acres of grape vines growing in this wild and crazy place. Marijuana yes, grapes no!
Mariah Vineyards is located in the Mendocino Ridge AVA. The Mendocino Ridge AVA is the only non-contiguous AVA in the United States. Only the mountain tops in this coastal forest Mendocino area, at 1200 feet or more in elevation, are designated as Mendocino Ridge. These mountain tops are usually above the coastal fog. The locals call these mountain tops “Islands in the Sky.” Mariah Vineyards sits at the highest elevation.
On our recent trip to the Anderson Valley and Mendocino, we had the pleasure of meeting Dan and Vicki Dooling, and then touring their vineyards and tasting Mariah Vineyard wine. The Doolings planted their first vines in 1979. Dan tells a great story when, at the age of nine, he walked vineyards in Yountville in the Napa Valley with his Dad. The vines sparked an interest and Dan knew then that someday he would own his own vineyard. Dan’s enthusiasm flows as he speaks about farming the vines and bringing fruit to many wineries near and far. His passion is so deep that he mentioned to us that he once turned down a “can’t refuse offer” by the late Jess Jackson to buy Dan’s vineyards and this beautiful spot of land. “I cannot image myself doing anything but farming my vineyards.”
Dan grows Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Ninety five percent of the grapes are sold to a number of wineries, and the rest goes into the production of 500 cases of the Mariah Vineyard label. All except the recently planted Chardonnay vines are dry farmed. Sustainable farming is practiced throughout.
We retreated to a small cellar where we tasted Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Vicki is in charge of the wine making. These are delightful wines priced very reasonably. The Sauvignon Blanc is more in the style of a White Bordeaux rather than a typical California Sauvignon Blanc. The Pinot Noir is light with red fruit abundant and is a great food wine. The Zinfandel has a rich taste and a beautiful blend of peppery characteristics. Check out the Mariah Vineyards Website for more about visiting or purchasing wine. Visitors are welcome to Mariah Vineyards with an appointment. It will certainly be a memorable trip to the top of the Mendocino Ridge and Mariah Vineyards.