Inspiration Point

It’s almost too hard to choose. A trip on Highway 128 will take you through the heart of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wine regions, plus up-and-coming western Yolo County. You can visit dozens of wineries, some newcomers, others iconic, without ever leaving the highway. Some of them, like Rutherford and St. Helena, have achieved worldwide recognition, while others, like Yorkville Highlands, are relatively unknown outside their immediate followers. Tasting through eight AVAs, you’ll find a diversity of wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, of course, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel, but also Viognier, Carignan, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer can be sampled along the road. The highway, about 140 miles long, passes by lakes and over rivers, across mountains and through valleys, scattered towns, oak savannahs and redwood forests. Highway 128 has an unprepossessing beginning at the midpoint of an overpass at the Winters exit on Interstate 505. From the overpass, looking west, you can see in the distance a mountain range with a dip in it. Highway 128 runs west right through that notch, officially the Berryessa Water Gap, which is in the Blue Ridge portion of the Coast Range, and then it continues on nearly to the continent’s edge to meet Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a road trip that can be made over and over again without becoming boring because there are so many wineries to visit, so much food to sample, and the landscape changes with the seasons. This winery grew out of a grape rootstock nursery business started in the 1970s by Dan Martinez, the son of Spanish immigrants. In 2000, Dan Martinez Jr. and Santiago Moreno, his business and farming partner, purchased Coble Ranch in the hills near Winters, and planted vineyards on the sloping hills. The winery, owned with Dan’s sister Corinne Martinez, was opened in 2002. Not surprisingly, a number of the varietals are Spanish: Tempranillo, Albarino and Verdejo, grapes that are well suited to the area’s hot climate and the family heritage. The winery also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. The tasting room is low key with lots of open space and a large, shaded terrace.