Barrel Tasting 101: A Mendo Adventure

Eighteen wineries are launching a libation-lovely year (and some learning, too).

A SPECIFIC FOOD... being paired with a specific place is not all that unheard of, especially around the Golden State. Make for Julian, in the southern part of California, and you're bound to see apple-filled foodstuffs aplenty, and barbecue reigns, with piquancy and kapow, around Santa Maria. The same can be said for crab up and along the Mendocino County coast. Mendo menus are so mad for crab that full-on yearly festivals are built around the succulent seafood, and yet finding a wine tasting that robustly features the crustacean isn't always a given. What is a given, however, is that Barrel Tasting 101, the end-of-January wine weekend happening in the county, will incorporate "delectable crab-inspired pairings" to go with pours. Crab won't claw the spotlight away from the wines -- this is, after all, called Barrel Tasting 101 -- but think of its presence on the plates as a good way to fully explore some of the region's hallmark edibles and drinkables. Have your Saturday, Jan. 30 and Sunday, Jan. 31 cleared? Lined up your designated driver, with the promise to spoil them with a hotel room and maybe a few bottles of wine to take home to enjoy at a later date? Then plan your trip up to...

REDWOOD VALLEY, UKIAH, AND HOPLAND... for a peek at what's inside the woodsy containers at a dozen and a half area vineyards. You'll nab a "commemorative wine glass" as well as "complimentary tastings of soon to be released wines straight from the barrel." And, yes, some bites along the way, too (with some of that aforementioned crab popping up, lusciously). Who's involved? Saracina Vineyards, Jeriko Estate, McNab Ridge Winery, and SIP Mendocino, among others. Nope, we're not quite to whale festival time along the Mendo coast, nor is it the music-filled summer yet, but it is winter, when many wineries are sharing some of their deepest flavors and boldest beverages. Wine country in no way shutters come January; it just gets a bit more intense, in the form of first peeks and initial pours. Intensely good, that is, especially when a local food staple shows up, here and there, to complete the Mendo-major experience.

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