As Director of Barketing, for Mendocino County, I have the good fortune to meet some very interesting and visionary people who have wonderful insightful and enlightening stories. I want to share one story with you; Mr. Guinness McFadden and McFadden Farm illustrate perfectly why Mendocino County continues to inspire me and so many others.
One of the truly remarkable aspects of Mendocino County is the diversity of its inhabitants and businesses. So many businesses excel in multiple endeavors and many have over time morphed into multifaceted enterprises. McFadden Farm and Vineyard is a wonderful example of how a rural business has expanded and developed without compromising its core principles. Guinness McFadden began farming sustainably and organically long before its current vogue. This was quite radical, especially at a time when growing produce and raising livestock humanely in pesticide/hormone free environments was the exception not the norm. Guinness has championed and pioneered natural farming techniques since he began farming. McFadden continues today to incorporate sustainability and biodynamic practices.
A native New Yorker and Notre Dame alumni, Guinness also served in the Navy and was honored with a Bronze Star for bravery in Vietnam. After attending Stanford Business School, he eventually fell in love with Potter Valley. Over the years, along with the raising of five children, he has built a well-respected and award-winning farm and winery. McFadden Farm, along with cattle farming and wine making, produces a variety of herbs for culinary and decorative use as well as producing its very own wild rice. This transition did not happen overnight. Guinness McFadden’s dedication to organic farming began over 40 years ago. To support his eco-friendly sustainable agricultural practices, he built a hydro-electric power plant in 1983, capable of powering 100 homes and in 2005 he installed solar panels to make the farm completely energy sufficient. For a fascinating and detailed history of Guinness and the McFadden Farm please visit www.mcfaddenfarm.com.
McFadden did not start producing its own wines until 2003; previously they supplied grapes to other local winemakers. Some of the outstanding varietals that McFadden produces and that are available to try and purchase are Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, McFadden Sparkling and the exclusive Coro wines (Coro Mendocino is a class of ultra-premium wines made to showcase the rich heritage and unique characteristics of Mendocino County).
What a wonderful reception the uprights and I receive when we visit the McFadden Tasting room in Hopland CA. Although Guinness spends most of his time working the vineyards and farm with his long-time employees who are truly McFadden’s extended family, his surrogate is John Cesano the Tasting Room and Wine Club Manager for McFadden. John is the charismatic face and voice of the McFadden brand and boy does he do a great job. Whenever I drop in to see him to allow the uprights the opportunity to taste the delicious wines, John is always ready with a cool bowl of water and a yummy treat for me. Oh, plus the ear rubs, chin tickles along with plenty of attention that I receive. I have seen John in many situations from one-on-one interaction to juggling the huge crowds at one of the Hopland Passport events. He never ceases to amaze at his ability to give time, knowledge and hospitality constantly and to always make that individual feel that they are all that matters. John knows his stuff and has a great way of talking about a subject that doesn’t make you feel that you need to have taken a vintners course to understand all about winemaking. He makes wine and food fun to discuss and of course try.
Every year Guinness and the McFadden team put on the annual McFadden Farm wine club membership BBQ and this year I received an invitation to attend. It was a perfect summer day as we drove the very scenic drive to Potter Valley from Fort Bragg. When we pulled into the farm I was met by Mr. Guinness McFadden himself. He offered me a tour of the farm along with several scratches behind my ears (just how I like). I got to do another first, the transportation from the parking area to the picnic area was by tractor, so I got to sit on blanketed hay bales and ride through the farm and vineyards. At the picnic area, several McFadden Farm family dogs came by to say “hi” as did lots of uprights. More people arrived and over the next couple of hours the party atmosphere went into full gear and by twilight the buffet of delicious, tender tasty McFadden meats, farm fresh salads and artisan breads was served. Hal Wagnet, Mr. DJ extraordinaire, played a wide variety of music that had people up and dancing into the wee hours. The evening the uprights and I experienced was a quintessential Mendocino County farm to table meal event. Hope I get to participate again, yum yum.
Hopland is a great place to stop off and enjoy the wonderful hospitality of John Cesano and his great tasting room crew of McFadden Farm and Wines. Try their herbs and herb blends and wild rice. Try exceptional award winning wines at very competitive prices and consider joining the McFadden wine club for even more savings on all McFadden products. Oh, as you are getting your treat, don’t forget to tell them that Hairy sent you.
McFadden Vineyard Tasting Room
13275 S. Highway 101, Suite 5