2010 Vineyard Profile: Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County by Jennifer

Being Guided to the Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche. Photo by J. Waits

After crafting such a delicious wine with Oppenlander Vineyard fruit in 2009, we feel very lucky to be working with them again this year. Brian first got turned on to the vineyard last year, after tasting pinot noir crafted by Phillips Hill and Baxter from Oppenlander fruit.

Owned by the Shandel family, Oppenlander Vineyard is way off the beaten path in Mendocino County outside of the town of Comptche. It’s about 8 and a half miles from the Pacific Ocean as the crow flies at an elevation of 250 feet.

Touring Oppenlander Vineyard. October 2010.

We visited the vineyard on October 10th, just a few days before our fruit was harvested. Owner Bill Shandel showed us around the family vineyard that he owns with his brother Norman and talked to us not only about the fruit, but also about the history of the land. They are 5th generation owners of the property, which was originally homesteaded in the 1860s by their ancestors from Denmark (via the Gold Rush in Australia). The site of the vineyard was originally a meadow amid the woods. Bill told us that his great-grandfather Charles Oppenlander bought the land and then sent for his girlfriend to join him by traveling across the Isthmus of Panama.

Vintage Truck at Surprise Valley Ranch

As we looked out across this hidden vineyard amid the woods outside of the town of Comptche, it was hard to not reflect on its history and on how remote the location must have been in the 1860s, as it’s still quite remote.

The property is now known as Surprise Valley Ranch and the Shandels produce their own Shandel’s Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir from the vineyards, which they originally planted in 1997 (after a test plot in 1985). We’re sourcing our fruit (114 clone) for our single-vineyard Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from a section of the vineyard that was planted in 1999.

On the property we also saw lots of brambly berry bushes, from which the Shandels create wild Himalayan blackberry jam. Bill gave us a couple of jars of it after we wrapped up our vineyard tour, so we’re looking forward to sharing it with our family on Thanksgiving. Vineyard-owner crafted jam has become a holiday tradition for us ever since we first got a hold of Shirlee Londer’s raspberry jam. It’s an interesting coincidence that jam-making operations seem to go hand-in-hand with many of the vineyards that we are sourcing from this year; so we are eagerly anticipating our family’s Londer vs. Oppenlander jam tasting at the Thanksgiving table in a few weeks. In the meantime, watch this space for our next post, which will delve into the details of the Oppenlander harvest and crush.


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[…] 2010 Vineyard Profile: Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County […]

Pingback by Harvest 2010: Oppenlander Vineyard Crush and Pressing « ValleyFogBlog

[…] Swan, both from Anderson Valley. Nor have we picked our blocks from Wentzel in Anderson Valley, Oppenlander in Comptche and Vineyard 11 (formerly Archer Family) in Russian River […]

Pingback by Harvest 2011: The Waiting Continues « ValleyFogBlog

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