True Grit

California is home to 4,700 vintners and 5,900 growers, with some 602,000 acres under vines scattered over 49 of its 58 counties.

It is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, according to statistics provided by The Wine Institute, which celebrates California Wine Month each September.

Napa and Sonoma are the best known California wine producing counties, but they are obviously not the only counties producing premium wines.

Sonoma’s neighbor to the north is Mendocino County, part of the North Coast American Viticultural area. This cool growing region is known for being a leader in organically produced grapes. It is sometimes referred to as California’s organic wine Mecca.

I recently had the opportunity to taste an array of wines from Mendocino’s Parducci Wine Cellars, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year.

Parducci Wine Cellars was founded in 1932 by John Parducci, a son of Italian immigrants who worked in the vineyards as a child. When he was 14 years old, he traveled from California to the East Coast to sell grapes to home winemakers during Prohibition.

Parducci eventually sold his interest in the company, but remained active in the wine business until his death in 2014 at age 96.

Since 2004, Parducci has been in the hands of three generations of the Thornhill Family, who make a number of different wine labels under the umbrella of the Mendocino Wine Company.

The Thornhills are known for their commitment to sustainable wine growing and land use practices. Theirs is the first winery in the United States to achieve carbon-neutral status.

Energy for the winery comes from purchased wind power and onsite solar. Winery tractors are powered with biodiesel.

Waste water is captured and purified naturally by an elaborate filtration system that is part of the natural landscape.

Parducci annually composts 2.1 million pounds of grape residue, stems, skins and seeds, which is returned to the vineyards for soil enrichment.

All this effort results in wines that are expressive of their terroir. They are more subtle and not quite the fruit bombs of some more popular brands sourced from warmer growing regions.

Parducci wines are distributed in Alabama by International Wines and Craft Beer of Birmingham. Check with your favorite wine merchant for the following wines, all priced at $25 and under.

Parducci 2015 Small Lot Chardonnay: There are a lot of chardonnay haters, but I am not among them. I love a well-made chardonnay because of its versatility as a good sipping wine and its ability to pair with an array of foods. This is a clean chardonnay aged in 80 percent stainless steel, but it is not austere. The fruit comes through in this lovely wine, with a round mouthfeel and a pleasant finish.

True Grit Reserve 2013 Vintage Red Blend: Just gotta love a wine named True Grit. The name comes from an encounter between Tim Thornhill, co-owner and CEO of Parducci, and a winemaker who, upon tasting a Thornhill petite sirah, commented that petite sirah is the John Wayne of varietals. Thornhill came up with the name “True Grit” from the title of the John Wayne movie.    

The wine is a blend of primarily carignan, zinfandel, grenache, syrah, petite sirah and three less familiar Portuguese red varietals. A tutti-frutti but subtle smooth red blend. Versatile easy drinking. Should pair well with an array of tailgate foods.

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2015 Zinfandel: There really is a Paul Dolan, a former business associate of the Thornhills, who no longer has anything to do with the brand. Had I been tasting blindly, I would have pegged this as a red blend, because it is not a jammy, in-your-face bold red. Versatile. Should pair well with barbecued pork, brisket or lamb.

Parducci Small lot 2014 Vintage Pinot Noir: Light ruby color. Aromas of wild strawberries laced with earthiness. Ethereal wine. Pleasant approach lingers through the finish. If you like pinots from Burgundy and Oregon, you will love this Mendocino pinot.

Pat Kettles writes about wine and spirits every other Wednesday. Contact her at