By Alexa Chipman July 13, 2017
Mayo Winery is easy to drive past—its quiet brown tasting room conceals a fabulous array of wine within, like a plain chest of pirate treasure cascading with jewels and gold once opened. Their aptly named “Adventure Tasting” features exotic varietals to Sonoma County, or choose a “Premium Tasting” for traditional wines like Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. Their list is one of the most extensive in the area, keeping winemaker Michel (Mike) Berthoud quite busy. His exquisite craftsmanship is evident throughout Mayo Winery’s offerings as well as through his own Berthoud label, which is available at the tasting room.
Located a few minutes from downtown Glen Ellen, visitors are greeted at the door by a vintage 1931 Chevrolet pickup that can be seen proudly participating in the annual Kenwood 4th of July parade. Given to Jeffrey Mayo as a teenager, he took it to his high school shop class to start the refurbishment, and today it gleams with a friendly coat of yellow paint.
In addition to flavors that will gloriously melt on your palate with a detailed finish, Mayo has a casual, laidback atmosphere and far fewer rules than most uptight tasting rooms. Bring your dog along and wander through to their well shaded picnic area—no need to pay or reserve ahead of time to get a table, and easily order wines by the glass, a bottle, or one of their full tastings to enjoy with your lunch.
Their wine club is just as flexible, offering easy swap outs of each shipment; they send a recommended list a few weeks ahead, giving time to change before it is shipped. If you’re already in a wine club, or don’t drink that much, their “Cellar Enthusiast” is a small, entry level designed for that situation. If you sip their wine and fall in love with it, which is a natural consequence of one of their tastings, try the “Grand Cru Club” with four cases per year.
I must have driven right by Mayo Winery dozens of times, and I can’t believe I didn’t stop earlier! I have learned my lesson that just because a tasting room might not look appetizing on the outside doesn’t mean their wine matches the architecture; in this case it is the reverse. If you attend on a weekend, note that the wine tour buses tend to arrive around 11:30am.
Tasting Notes (Adventure Tasting):
2013 Pinot Gris (Sonoma Coast)
Its delicious lime aroma is like walking through an orchard with a direct, bright citrus flavor that washes past without much of a linger, but with a wonderful tang to it and touch of sweetness.
2012 Vagabond White Wine Blend (Sonoma County)
Intense orange aroma but with a delicate, flowing taste hinting at floral without overpowering, with a slight bite to it that is perfect for a refreshing summer wine.
2013 Dry Rosé (Sonoma County)
Its unusual peach color glistens in the sunlight for a beautiful effect. It is like drinking a field of strawberries, from the juicy taste to gentle aroma; one of the most unique rosés I have tried with nectarine and orange in the background notes.
2012 Gypsy Blend (Sonoma Valley)
70% Grenache, 27% Syrah, 3% Mouvedre
Smoky aroma gathers around a dark caramel color for an intense berry wine—its rich flavor is definitely meant to be savored on its own; this is not a table wine.
2013 Carignane (Alexander Valley)
Bit of a raspberry scent to it leading into a heavy bodied wine with a pleasant infusion of tannins without losing the flavor and overpowering it.
2013 Mourvèdre (Lake County)
It has a refreshing aroma with spicy forest flavor and hints of cherry. It is a heavier wine with an earthy base to it, again it should be enjoyed for its own sake, not tossed onto a dinner table, which would ruin the complexity of its design.
2011 Libertine Red Blend (Sonoma County)
This wine is meant for pairing with food—it has a sweet aroma with a smooth flavor mingled with hot peppers and almost cinnamon ghosting to it. I can imagine having several glasses with a meal using this delightful red.
2012 Primitivo (Sonoma Valley)
The rich ruby color engulfs a thread of black licorice which runs through the aroma into the flavor and lingers on the palate, almost like a gentler cousin of jägermeister.
If you enjoy wine and food pairings, they have a reserve room in Kenwood with seven-course menu by Chef Sam Frumkin. I have yet to try it, but if the food is half as good as their wine, it would be an amazing experience.