The warm 1974 vintage was our first exposure to Mendocino Cabernet, a late ripening grape variety. Richard and Karen Keene grew Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and since the spot market for grapes in 1974 was down, they decided to ferment the grapes and make wine to sell in bulk. We purchased enough of the delicious juice to fill a few barrels, but most was purchased by wineries outside Mendocino—federal labelling regulations allow up to a 15% addition of a different appellation. After making wine in Mendocino for over four decades, we think there is much to recommend a Mendocino Cabernet to be labeled as such. Although Mendocino daytime harvest temperatures may be similar to Napa Valley, it is the nighttime temperatures that typically differentiate the two appellations. Napa's climate is tempered by the refreshing ocean breezes coming through the San Francisco Bay whereas Mendocino's location is moderated by a more frigid northern breeze.
After the Cabernet Sauvignon is bottled, it spends almost another two years in the winery warehouse before it is released for sale. Well insulated and air-conditioned, the building is primarily powered by 266 solar panels. It's always astonishing to step outside and realize that the hot sun is keeping the wine cold.
Ed Berry and Jim Klein discussing pruning for the upcoming vintage. This is our thirteenth Cabernet Sauvignon vintage from Berry's ancient vines.
The difference in nighttime temperatures between the two appellations widens as the season advances, and the progressively colder Mendocino nights can delay ripening. However, 2016 was a warm vintage with no rain, perhaps similar to 1974, and the Cabernet grapes from Berry Vineyards were fully ripe—our ripest Cabernet since 2006—before the nights became excessively chilly. We destemmed and fermented the grapes and the wine produced was aged in French oak barrels for 22 months, then bottled unfiltered. This bottling is an exceptionally good Mendo Cabernet at a modest price. Don't wait too long before ordering. Double Gold Medal winner.