"Islands in the Sky", as most locals call it, is a more romantic and appropriate name for the Mendocino Ridge AVA. Adjacent to the Pacific, the lower areas of coastal Mendocino County are regularly blanketed with a cooling fog, except for the ridges. These non-contiguous peaks rise from clouds of fog, seemingly like islands, bringing uninterrupted sunshine to the scattering of tiny vineyards nestled among Redwood and Douglas fir trees. The region covers more than a quarter-million acres of mountainous land. But only about one-third of this is above the 1,200-foot fog line, the minimum elevation at which land is included within the appellation. Of this eligible land, only a minute fraction is suitable for grape cultivation. Just 75 acres of the entire viticultural area is planted, with Zinfandel being the local specialty since the late 1800s when some of these ridge-top vineyards were first planted. The legacy of the early Italian mountain vignerons is honored today, as Mendocino Ridge is recognized for producing some of the very best, most distinctive Zin anywhere.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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