Nelson Family Vineyards is not only offers first class wines, it is a wonderful way to experience a real old school Mendocino county ranch. The experience starts at the very beginning of the winding country road off 101 that leads to the winery, and I always drive it at a snail's pace to enjoy the elevated view across vineyards to the south hills as well as the view down the road to the winery with its delightful backdrop of steep grassy hills studded with oaks. Large oaks all along this road are to be enjoyed, and I have usually seen the ranch horses grazing through the field along the road as well. The winery itself has an attractive garden out front where you're greeted by the buzzing of bees and other insects. To the right of the building is a lovely shady grove of redwood trees with picnic tables where one can enjoy a cool respite and some lunch with a view through the trees to sunlit vineyards. Inside the winery you'll be welcomed by very friendly staff and given a well informed introduction to their excellent family of wines. If you ask a question or two you can also get a sense of the history of the Nelson Ranch which not only includes the valley property with its vineyards but also many acres of rolling hills where in the old days sheep and horses roamed. Beyond the winery, by the way, the ranch road continues past an old barn and barnyard, turning left through beautiful oaks to emerge along the base of the foothills at enough elevation to again give sweeping unobstructed views of the vineyards and the hill country bordering the historic McNab Ranch. The road leads to another large grove of trees shading an attractive event space which may be rented for weddings (and other special events). This spot offers another exceptional view south across vineyards and hills. Of course, the bonus of this more in-depth experience may elude you if you are part of a group tour where wine is the main focus, but if you are able to visit again, with a little more time at your disposal, there is a lot at the ranch to be enjoyed. One of the things I most enjoy, by the way, is the lack of pretense about Nelson Family Vineyards. There is no attempt, as we often see, to put on French airs with chateau-like structures and Gallic nomenclature, etc. The Nelson Ranch is still a family ranch in the old California style with a father and two sons at the helm, hands on. This California working-ranch quality, along with wines that are top quality, are what make the Nelson Ranch a very special visitor experience, one that I have enjoyed enough to return repeatedly, and one that I can highly recommend to you as well.
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