by Millie Howie
In 1865 Mendocino County welcomed Zina Hyde Cunningham to its prime winegrape growing region at the gateway to the renowned Anderson Valley. Zina Hyde Cunningham was a man with a vision who foresaw that he would grow acres of unbelievably fruitful vines from which he would make cases of incredible wines.
Winemaking techniques and equipment have certainly changed over the decades, but the quality of the wines and the dedication of the Cunningham family’s four generations of winemakers has held steady over the years. Today, Zina’s great, great grand-son, Bill Cunningham with his winemaking cousin, Steve Ledson, carries on the family tradition and invites wine lovers passing through the region to step inside one of the most handsomely designed old buildings in the county to enjoy samples of his 14 varietal wines. The tasting room is in the heart of the charming hamlet of Boonville. Its interior design recalls years past with its white oak paneling, Venetian plaster and redwood burl inlay. The furnishings also bring visions of more leisurely days at the turn of the 19th century.
Each wine, except for a tasty Lake County red Bordeaux blend, is 100% of a chosen varietal and in most cases, the grapes are grown in a single vineyard which is saluted on the label. Of extremely limited availability is the Orange Muscat, and one of the most sought after wines on the list is the Old Vine Zinfandel from vines at least 75 years old. All the Cunningham wines are limited to small case production of 200 or fewer cases and they are available only at the tasting room or through membership in one of the four wine clubs.
To join any of the clubs the applicant can just select the program that suits his/her wine preferences: Cunningham has developed a number of different wine club programs offering members preferred pricing, and access to wines not available to the public that may include new releases, limited bottlings, rare or older vintages, and wines produced exclusively for wine club members. Tasting room hours are 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. daily and a modest tasting fee of $5 permits sampling of five wines chosen from the tasting menu. There is also a delightful pairing of wine with fruit and cheese for $10. By appointment visitors can choose to have a private tasting in the Tidrik (sitting) room. Tidrik, like much of the signage in the town is the area’s own language, “Boontling.” With the concentration on fine wine, the family does not offer a large stock of gift items, but the logo wear in men’s and women’s styles is very chic and reasonably priced with a surprising range of colors and necklines.
Zina Hyde Cunningham tasting room and adjacent General Store are just across Highway 128 from the Boonville Hotel at 14077 Highway 128. The location is ideal for those planning a picnic and a game of bocce on the tasting room court. Usually there is game time available but on busy weekends or holidays it is best to call ahead. The number to call to set an appointment for the special private tastings in the Tidrik is (707) 895-9462. For more information about this charming destination, click www.zinawinery.com.