Last week I joined three other wine journalists for a tour of Mendocino wine country, just north of Sonoma. These visits are hectic with little down time. But I’m not complaining.

The big thing I always take from the experience is the time with the winemakers and winery owners. There is no better experience, education-wise, than walking a vineyard with the woman or man who turn the grapes to wine. The experience provides an opportunity to add context and color to the stories we write about wine country.

In the photo at right, Vern Boltz, holding puppy, is winemaker and owner of Toulouse Winery; Linda Low of the MacKenzie Agency which works with the Mendocino Wine Grape and Wine Commision; and, the others are the members of our wine writers’ group. The photo was taken in front of a 1,500-year-old Redwood on the Toulouse Ranch.

We buy wine because we like the taste, the culture, the way it makes it feel. But consumers still like to know the people behind any product. I think that’s a big part of what we should do as wine writers.

That busy schedule doesn’t allow enough time to get up all the photos and things I do when traveling. Below are several more photos albums, now attached to the appropriate blog entries as well.

I also had one video I wanted to put here. This is with Claudia Springs’ winemaker and owner Bob Klindt. We barrel tasted a couple of his wines and then adjourned to a small dining area to taste most of his full line. The video is Bob talking about a number of different topics. The point is about the kind of depth and detail you get from the people who make the wine.

Admitted, most consumers don’t get this kind of experience. But I would suggest that if you are serious about wine, when you visit a winery take the vineyard tour. Dive into the “geekiness” of the experience a little bit and improve your palate and learn how wines are made.

Our first winery stop on the three-day tour was at Jeriko Estates. Owner and winemaker Danny Fetzer led us through a tasting of his wines and tour of the estate. Fetzer – yes, THAT Fetzer – makes a couple of dynamic sparkling wines from his beautifuly Highway 101 winery and tasting room. See additional photos from out visit here.

One of the highlights, of many, for me was a visit to Testa Vineyards. Fifth generation winemaker Maria Martinson was a fabulous host. The photo album here is also attached to the original post.

Friday was our busiest day of the trip with stops at Nelson Family Vineyards, Maple Creek, Toulouse, and Claudia Springs. Here is a link to more photos from three of those stops.

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