Are you looking for a wine country destination featuring premium wines from family-owned wineries where the tasting room charge is frequently $5 or less? We’ve got a place for you to consider, an easily accessible region in Northern California filled with quality wine, delicious food and friendly people. We’re talking about the area around Ukiah and Hopland, also known as “Upper Russian River Valley.”
Coming here sometimes feels like a nostalgic trip to an old-fashioned farming community where everyone knows each other and they welcome visitors with charm and hospitality. Also, Ukiah and Hopland are only about 14 miles apart so you should have plenty of choices to base your lodging at.
It’s easy to get to this part of Mendocino County (just drive up Highway 101) and most of the tasting rooms are either on the highway or fairly close to it. In fact, some of the tasting rooms are less than 20 feet from the highway. Plenty of wineries here don’t require an appointment for tasting but we did find two to recommend which require a reservation that are well worth the effort.
Keep reading and we’ll tell you about our favorite wine and food destinations in the region including wineries, restaurants, and an impressive farmers market.
Favorite Wineries in Ukiah, Hopland, and Redwood Valley
Graziano Family of Wines – Greg Graziano, owner and winemaker, crafts about 30 separate wines under four different labels so you’re sure to find a different tasting experience every time you’re here, right in the center of Hopland. The Graziano label specializes in traditional Mendocino varietals, Enotria is based on grapes from the Piedmont region in northern Italy, St. Gregory focuses on Burgundian style Pinot Noirs, and Monte Volpe offers wines made from grapes traditionally farmed in Central and Southern Italy. There are a number of wines here we recommend including the Graziano Chenin Blanc, Enotria Cortese, St. Gregory Pinot Meunier, and several under the Monte Volpe label: Fiano, Greco di Trufo, Moscato Giallo, Vermentino, and Nube Bianco. 13275 Highway 101, #3, Hopland (707-744-8466)
McFadden Farm and Winery – The McFadden Vineyard has been family owned and operated since 1970 over in Potter Valley although their tasting room is next door to Graziano’s in Hopland. McFadden began making wine in 2003 after years of growing and selling their grapes to top wineries in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. You’ll find a wide range of varietals here (even though overall production is less than 3000 cases of wine per year) as well as herbs, herb blends, and organic grass fed beef all available in the tasting room. Our favorites include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Late Harvest Riesling. 13275 Highway 101, #5, Hopland (707-744-8463)
Masút Vineyard and Winery – Brothers Jake and Ben Fetzer (third generation grape growers and winemakers) started this winery just a few years ago and we quickly fell in love with their wines. Not usually open to the public, they offer private wine tours and tasting activities by appointment but even if you only see one of the 1500 acres here on the Masút Ranch property it’s worth the effort to familiarize yourself with their outstanding Pinot Noirs. Currently, the brothers are trying to establish an approximately 26,260-acre area (which would encompass their property) as a new AVA, ‘‘Eagle Peak Mendocino County.’’ 301 Reeves Canyon Road, Redwood Valley (707-485-5466) [reservation required]
Nelson Family Vineyards – In 1952, Herman and Clara Nelson headed to Southern Mendocino County and over time their farm has evolved from plum growing and sheep ranching to growing grapes, pears, olives, canola and Christmas trees. Their wines are produced in small batches with the care and attention you would expect from a family-owned micro-winery. The property here has a lovely redwood grove with a stage so you may even be able to catch a concert. Our favorite wines here are their Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and a non-vintage Brut. We are also fans of their Ice Riesling but the 2009 may have been a one-time-only venture. 550 Nelson Ranch Road, Ukiah (707-462-3755)
Seebass Vineyards – You’ll find about 100 of the 104 acres here planted with grape vines. The winery is headed up by spouses Michelle and Scott Willoughby. Seebass produces two different Chardonnays (both of which we adore) made by two different winemakers in two different styles: a Chardonnay crafted by Greg Graziano (from Graziano Family of Wines) and a “Grand Reserve” Chardonnay made by Stéphane Vivier (from HdV/Hyde de Villaine). Syrah was a recent addition to their portfolio which should expand even more as the vineyards here also contain Grenache, Merlot, and Zinfandel grapes. If you time your visit right, you may be able to take advantage of the Seebass farmstand offering eggs, vegetables and fruit. The Willoughbys also recently completed a 2BR/2BA guest house (with views looking onto the vineyard) which is sometimes available for rent. 3300 Old River Road, Ukiah (707-467-9463) [reservation required]
Testa Vineyards – Testa Vineyards was established in 1912 by winemaker Maria Testa Martinson’s great-grandparents who came here from Gallarate, Italy. Ms. Martinson honors her ancestors in many ways, including the incorporation of family photos on the wine labels. The varietals planted on Testa Ranch are Carignane, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Grenache, and Charbono with Cabernet Sauvignon grown in nearby Gusto Vineyards. We are very fond of Testa’s “White” (usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Muscat, and Pinot Gris) and “Black” (usually Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Carignane). We also highly recommend the Carignane and Charbono wines here. 6400 North State Street, Calpella (707-391-7273)
Favorite Food Destinations in Ukiah, Hopland, and Redwood Valley
Be-Bop’s Diner – If you’re seeking nostalgia, this old-school diner is the place to go for old-fashioned floats, sundaes, banana splits, and egg creams. They also make milkshakes in 35 (!) flavors, including Lemon, Orange Cream, Eggnog, Coconut, Butterscotch, Blueberry, and Kahlua. 1200 South State Street, Ukiah (707-462-1750)
Black Oak Coffee Roasters – This is our favorite local spot for outstanding coffee, whether it’s drip coffee, a pour-over, or an espresso-based drink. Black Oak has plenty of seating including a long table next to the window with a deep counter offering enough room for both your drink and a laptop. They even roast their own beans onsite. 476 North State Street, Ukiah (866-390-1427)
Bluebird Café – Opened in 1930, current owners Steven Yundt and Robin Paul have been in charge since 1993. Come here for well-made food served hot, quickly, and in large portions. This is our favorite place for breakfast in the area with menu items including Omelets, Scrambles, Eggs Benedict, Pancakes (Buttermilk or Buckwheat), Waffles, and Cinnamon Apple French Toast. If you prefer, you can order Blintzes, Biscuits & Gravy, Corned Beef Hash, or Chicken Fried Steak. For a special experience you should come for Brunch on the weekends as your meal will include homemade pastries (while they last) such as warm-from-the-oven Cinnamon Rolls and Blueberry Scones. Even the coffee is great here, because they pour Thanksgiving Coffee. 13340 Highway 101, Hopland (707-744-1633)
Patrona – From your first sip or bite, this is a great dining experience where the menu is based on today’s catch from the gardens, ocean, and local purveyors. For cocktails, we suggest Basil Blues (vodka, blueberries, basil, and lemon) or Gin and Stone (gin, apricot infused syrup, peach bitters) or Watermelon Pisco Mojito (pisco, watermelon juice, lime, mint). The “Fire & Ice” salad with Organic Cantaloupe, Chile-Lime Syrup, and Fresh Mint was unexpected and outstanding. We also recommend the Garden Vegetable Pasta (with Pesto, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Oil) and the Rainbow Trout with Bacon and Brussel Sprouts Hash and Tarragon Mustard Cream. 130 West Standley Street, Ukiah (707-462-9181)
Saucy – Another favorite dining destination in downtown Ukiah is this bi-level pub and pizzeria serving outstanding Neapolitan-style pizzas (baked in their Mugnaini oven) as well as worthwhile salads and pasta dishes. The customer service here is awesome, and if you’re done with wine for the day the bar here offers over a dozen Northwest brews on tap. One of our standout dishes here was Piacere stuffed with Fresh Ricotta and then baked in a Tomato Sauce. 108 West Standley Steet, Ukiah (707-462-7007)
Schat’s Bakery – In 1991 Brian and Zachary Schat had a goal of starting a neighborhood bakery and two decades later Schat’s has evolved into three Ukiah locations (not counting their Farmers Market appearances on Saturdays). The philosophy at Schat’s is simple: Give people a consistent, quality product while offering superb service. Schat’s has a full spectrum of breads and pastries and cookies but we usually focus on the wonderful sandwiches here (you can order them in either Large or Small but we find the “small” substantial enough). Three locations: 113 West Perkins Street (707-462-1670), 1255 Airport Park Boulevard (707-468-5850), 1000 Hensley Creek Road (707-468-3145), all in Ukiah
Sip! Mendocino – Located in Hopland, this combination store/tasting room has an eclectic but well-curated selection of wines for sale at reasonable prices from across the County, with prime choices from the Hopland and Ukiah areas. Owner Bernadette Byrne also does an outstanding job of incorporating under-the-radar-but-worth-discovering wineries in the pour options at the tasting bar. 13420 Highway 101, Hopland (707-744-8375)
Taqueria Jalos – For well-made Mexican food with absolutely no frills, check out this casual restaurant in southern Ukiah. Order at the counter and they’ll bring it to you. In addition to the typical choices here (Tacos, Burritos, Enchiladas, Flautas, and Tostadas) you can find other options such as their Menudo or Birria. Large portions, tasty salsa. 1130 South State Street, Ukiah (707-462-1152)
Ukiah Farmers Market – This year-round Saturday morning market can be found at the Alex R. Thomas Jr. Park Plaza downtown and offers high-quality traditional Farmers Market fare (Fruits, Vegetables, Eggs, Herbs, Flowers, Jams, Preserves, Sauces, and baked good from local bakeries). You will also find one of the broadest ranges of protein you’ll find at a farmer’s market (Beef, Chicken, Pork, Duck, Quail, and even Rabbit). However, one of our favorite parts of the Ukiah Farmers Market is the easy access to local food artisans such as Lovers Lane Farm (Honey), Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese (fresh and phenomenal Goat Cheese) and Roland’s Bakery (Muffins, Bagels, Bialis, Bear Claws, and Cinnamon Pear “Fritters” from this Willits-based bakery). Alex R. Thomas Plaza (South School Street at West Clay Street ), Ukiah
If you need additional information while you are in the area, insight into current specials or discounts, or broader advice on events and activities, you may want to visit the helpful Ukiah Visitor Center which is open 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, at 200 South School Street (707-467-5766).
We really enjoy visiting this part of Mendocino County and encourage you to travel here and enjoy it yourself. If you find places you think we should check out on our next trip to Upper Russian River Valley and Redwood Valley, please let us know.