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Germain-Robin’s traditionally distilled cognac. Photo by Melissa Vogt

Mendocino County has always been known for its beautiful golden hills and lush green trees, but most recently the bounty of this county is emerging from its local food artisans. Just a few hours north of the San Francisco Bay, this picturesque location provides a beautiful and refreshing taste of the outdoors.

From cheese-makers and olive oil mills to wineries and distilleries, Mendocino County’s local artisans cover it all when it comes to delicious local goods. Many of the artisans purposely choose not to sell their goods to outside distributors, which keeps their goods as local as possible and make tasting each item a unique experience.

Olivetto Del Vecchio mill, located in Potter Valley, is owned by the Reichert family. This 750 olive tree orchard is grown organically without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. They also hand-pick their olives instead of using heavy machinery like commercial mills. The family also reaches out to the local community by providing milling services for neighboring olive growers who wish to turn their olives into oil.

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Award-winning olive oil from Olivetto Del Vecchio in Potter Valley. Photo by Melissa Vogt

While the climate of the county may be just right for olives, it’s also well-suited for grape growing. Germain-Robin, a craft distillery in Ukiah believes a cognac is only as good as its grape are, which is why they chose to only use grapes grown in Mendocino County. They use an antique still in order to preserve the original methods and traditions for distillation to produce a rich, full-bodied, and extremely complex product. This traditional distillery is a breath of fresh air in a world of over-sized, corporate distilleries.

Another local artisan that provides a small-scale version of something mass-produced is Summer Breeze Ranch in Willits. This farm is the proud producer of Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese. They raise 160 goats and have been producing artisan cheese since 2001. They are committed to producing savory cheese for the local community so they have an alternative to the bland, flavorless grocery store varieties. You can feel good about eating this cheese for two reasons: it’s delicious, and they produce it in an environmentally-sound way. The goats only eat what is grown on their farm and other farms in the same valley, and each batch of cheese is handmade and packaged right on the ranch. They also feed the goats food scraps in order to decrease waste, as well as recycle the water that is used in manufacturing the cheese to cut back on water usage.

There are many more local artisans of Mendocino County worth looking into, and they all have one thing in common—they provide delightful treats in a way that gives back to the local community and promotes friendships, traditions, and good feelings for people and our environment!

You won’t regret leaving behind the corporate block of cheese, standard bottle of olive oil, or mass-produced cognac once you’ve pleased your tastebuds with Mendocino’s artisan foods and beverages.