A Rainy-Day Visit to Saracina Vineyards

With wine tasting rooms in Sonoma and Napa Counties shut down until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it took us more than a month to realize that wineries in Mendocino County were still open. With wine tasting withdrawals already setting in, we set our sights on wine tasting in Hopland that weekend, a tiny, historic town with a population of less than 1,000 people. Hopland is also only a 45-minute drive north on Highway 101 from our home in Santa Rosa. Despite what the name suggests, wine is the main industry in Hopland, with numerous wineries located in and around the town. After some online research, we chose to make a reservation at Saracina Vineyards, intrigued by their affordable prices and beautiful photographs of the property.

About Saracina Vineyards

A long legacy of winemaking went into the creation of Saracina Vineyards. The winery was founded by John Fetzer, son of Barney and Kathleen Fetzer of Fetzer Vineyards, a major producer of both red and white wines also located in Hopland. In 2001, John Fetzer took over the former Fetzer Sundial Ranch and founded his own winery with the goal of breathing new life into the old vineyards, many of which were planted before he was born. He set out with the goal producing wines that showed off the true potential of Mendocino wines, especially through red wine blends.

Saracina’s 250-acre property includes a 40-acre vineyard, a wine cave, grove of 140-year-old olive trees, bee hives, ponds, and farm animals. The view from the property is stunning, and the tasting room feels surprisingly peaceful and secluded for its location just off the highway.

Planning Your Visit

The Saracina Tasting Room is open Wednesday-Sunday from 10am – 5pm. Prior reservations are recommended, which can be made by calling the tasting room at (707) 670-0199. We made a reservation the day before our visit, and were one of only two parties at the tasting room during our visit on a Sunday afternoon. It was a rainy, chilly day, but we were not deterred. Almost a year into the pandemic, we are used to bundling up for outdoor service.

Saracina Vineyards currently abides by all CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19, including holding all tastings outdoors, practicing social distancing, and requiring all staff and customers to wear masks when not seated at their table.

The doors to the wine cave – currently closed to visitors due to COVID-19
Indoor tasting bar at Saracina
Outside the tasting room, looking out onto 140-year-old olive trees

Saracina Wines

We both had the Signature Tasting Flight, which is priced at $10/person. Our server, Paloma, was friendly and knowledgeable. Here are the wines we sampled during the tasting:

  1. Skid Rosé 2019 – $20. Sourced from the Skid Row Vineyard, named after skid marks left from dragging trees along the earth back when the area was logged. This wine was crisp, citrusy and floral, perfect for sipping outside on a hot day. 
  2. Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – $23. Sourced from two organically farmed vineyards, including the Lolonis Vineyard, the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in California, planted in 1943. Aged in neutral Burgundian barrels. Vegetal and mineral notes with refreshing acidity. 
  3. Unoaked Chardonnay 2018 – $20. Sourced from an original Fetzer family vineyard. Notes of stone fruit, pear and citrus. 
  4. Malbec 2017 – $30. Made with grapes sourced from Skid Row Vineyard. Predominant earthy and savory notes with supple tannins, dark fruit notes. 
  5. Winter’s Edge 2018 – $30. Sourced from a previously abandoned vineyard. Field blend of Carignane, Grenache, French Colombard, and an unknown varietal. Juicy and bright with notes of red currant, raspberry and pepper. 
  6. Zinfandel 2017 – $32. From Pick and Shovel Vineyard, an organically-farmed block located above the Saracina wine caves. Highly concentrated dark fruit notes with hints of smokiness. 
  7. Old Soul Red 2018 – $25. Blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Malbec and Syrah from Saracina’s estate vineyards. Notes of dark cherry, deep tannins and a lengthy finish. 
  8. Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – $45. Made with grapes sourced from Big Shot vineyard, which overlooks Saracina Ranch. Bordeaux-style wine with notes of dark fruit and vanilla with well-balanced tannins. 
Socially-distant tasting setup
Tasting menu and wine list
Skid Row Rosé

Final Thoughts

Overall, we would highly recommend visiting Saracina Vineyards, and taking a stroll around Hopland while you’re in the area. Wine tasting in Mendocino is generally more laid back than tasting in Napa and Sonoma, with lower prices and less crowds. We sampled nine wines for $10, which is unheard-of value in Napa and rare in Sonoma. Saracina also produces quite a large selection of different wines in many different styles, so there is something for every palate.  We left with a bottle of the Unoaked Chardonnay and two bottles each of the Winter’s Edge and Old Soul Red Blends, as well as a bottle of Saracina Olive Oil made with olives from the beautiful old olive trees just outside the tasting room. 

If you can’t make it to the tasting room, Saracina wines can be purchased online here. Saracina also offers a wine club, where members receive three customizable wine shipments per year, as well as access to events and member-only discounts. 

If you’re looking for more wine tasting in Mendocino County, we recommend Pennyroyal Farms, Toulouse and Navarro


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