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Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:31

Alligator Dreams: The Story of Greenwood Ridge Vineyards

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Alligator Dreams: The Story of Greenwood Ridge Vineyardsby Richard Paul Hinkle

Silverback Books Santa Rosa, California

ISBN 978-1930603301

119 pages, multiple photos and illustrations, $24.95


On a ridge named for an early American explorer of California and the west, Caleb Greenwood, Alan Green grows grapes, makes wines and lives among the vines. Author Richard Paul Hinkle tells us that Green realized early that he couldn't support himself growing grapes, but could by growing grapes and making wines.

Hinkle indicates although it is not a good idea to value a winery solely based on its medal count in competitions and judgings, Greenwood Ridge has such a collection of them a person has to take notice. This he indicates is especially true since Greenwood Ridge is small and its location is removed from the action in Mendocino County.

There are four noble varieties of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Greenwood Ridge makes wines from each of them and Zinfandel as well. Hinkle writes a short chapter about every variety of Greenwood's wines. Each chapter is replete with information about the wine, of course. There are also marvelous photos to accompany the text and, in some instances, art commissioned by Alan Green, too.

Green began growing grapes in the 1970's, made wines professionally in the early 1980's, and won a gold medal in 1981 at the Orange County Fair. It was in the early years that the alligator became a part of the Greenwood Ridge label. The contour of the ridge evoked the shape of a gator's head, hence the alligator's dreams of the title. The winery also uses the crocodilian theme in the chocolates, which are sold in its tasting room, Eye of the Dragon.

The owner has participated with a group of local winemakers and grape growers in getting federal approval of the Mendocino Ridge Viticultural Area designation. Hinkle tells us Mendocino Ridge is a unique viticultural area. It exists not in a contiguous land area but across a discontinuous area and it is "based on altitude rather than a wholly connected flat-land surface." It is the altitude, which makes the grapes grown in that area so special.

For those fascinated with the production of grapes and how wines are made, the author has included significant details about the cycles of the care for the vines and the harvesting of the grapes. There is even a well-illustrated "annual vineyard timeline" and "winemaking timeline" replete with drawings of what the vines would look like in the various months of the year. The people who care for the vineyard are credited for their efforts and featured in photos.

The author and Alan Green have cooperated to make not only technical, but also lyrical observations about the grapes and wines of Greenwood Ridge -- bits of brix talk here and there, but a lot more about the love of grape growing and wine making and enjoying them.

This book is a good read. It is the story of a man, his winery and his love of wines and the accompanying parts of the good life that go along with them. AlanGreen and the rest of us who have enjoyed his story and his wines are the richer for it as well.


--Reviewer Mike Petersen is an attorney employed at the state capitol who travels whenever he can to try new foods and wines in California and Europe. He especially enjoys cooking and eating Italian, Spanish, French, German and other dishes that he has sampled with the locals here and abroad. Mike is a founder and chair of Mr. P’s Wine Club, a no-load wine club whose members love trying new wines and foods. He also searches for Chicago-style, kosher hot dogs wherever he may be.

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