Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

The first thing you notice is the view --10 acres of vineyard, planted on steep south-facing slopes and the surrounding forested hillsides. You are visiting Elk Prairie Vineyards, located on Fruitland Ridge in southern Humboldt County, just four miles up the hill from the Avenue of the Giants.

Your hosts Alan and Sandra Estrada greet you with a warm welcome and show you the winery's new tasting room. Along with pouring samples of award-winning pinot noir, Chardonnay, and cabernet franc, the couple is including educational materials in the tasting room. “We want to focus on who we are,” Sandra said, “and we also want to talk about the farming aspect.”

Because of the somewhat remote location, Sandra is hoping that those who come to taste wine will take their time and make it an experience. “We want them to look at the view, look at the mountains, and enjoy our wine,” she said. Once you arrive at the winery, it's difficult not to do just that.

The Elk Prairie vineyard is “dry-farmed” in heavily shaled soil. The first vines were planted in 1992 and took longer to establish, as they were forced to put in deep roots to seek water. Elk Prairie Vineyards does not use pesticides or artificial fertilizers. They have sheep that graze the vineyard to keep weeds under control, and at select times of the year, release preying mantis and lady bugs for natural insect control.

Right now, wine tasting is available by appointment only. (Their phone number is 943-3498). Coming next spring, regular hours will be established. Their wine tasting fee is $10, and includes five samples of wine and a complimentary Elk Prairie Vineyard logo wine glass. There are also outdoor patio areas adjacent to the new wine tasting room, making it the perfect location for special events.

To get there: take Elk Creek Road off the Avenue of the Giants, about three miles south of Myers Flat. Stay right (onto Dyerville Loop Road) when the road forks and continue to 11544 Dyerville Loop Road. The winery is on the right hand side.

Elk Prairie Vineyards will be participating in the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend wine tasting event, but not at their new tasting room. They will share a venue at Whitethorn Winery in Whitethorn on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 25 and 26 from 1 to 5 p.m.

photo captions:

Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

1. Elk Prairie Vineyard's new wine tasting room on Fruitland Ridge in southern Humboldt County.

2. Alan and Sandra Estrada, owners of Elk Prairie Vineyards, look forward to your visit to their new wine tasting room.