Tagging itself as “America's Greenest Wine Region,” Mendocino is so green that even Kermit the Frog would be jealous. With nearly thirty percent of the more than forty wineries growing certified organic grapes, while many others adhere to biodynamic or fish friendly farming methods.
Sandwiched between the Mayacamas Mountains and the Coastal Mountain Range, Menodcino is a remote, rugged wild west of sort the region overflows with untamed wilderness, craggy mountains, lakes, rivers ancient redwood trees and lush pastures, pastel wildflowers and vineyards. Along with the Lake County, Mendocino is California’s most northern wine regions – about an hour north of Sonoma. Located ninety-miles north of San Francisco, the area sports varied terrain, sprawling range and multiple micro-climate that make their wines as diverse as the gorgeous landscape.
The refreshingly remote region sits atop beautiful ocean bluffs surrounded on three sides by Mendocino Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The bluffs, which comprise the Mendocino Headlands sport trails with bluff-top views view of the crashing ocean waves below. There are frequently flocks of seabirds and an occasional harbor seal poking around. At certain time of the year, magnificent gray whale can be spotted migrating with their babes.
At other times of the year, you can even join the fungi-friendly locals for one of their favorite pastimes - mushroom hunting. In fact, for two weeks every November fungi and wine lovers delight in the Mendocino County Wine and Mushroom Days with endless activities, dinners and wine tastings.
This bucolic northern California wine country boasts bounties of parks and forest just waiting for outdoorsy oenophiles to come out and play. While the town of Mendocino was the idyllic setting along the Mendocino coast for the “who done it” television show Murder, She Wrote staring Angela Lansbury in the 1980s, just outside the village there are several parks and reserves offering a mix of serious serenity and adventure-inspiring wilderness. Mendocino has endless fragrant, wooded trails for hiking, Mt. biking and horseback riding past thick-skinned towering redwood trees up and gurgling rivers. Some rocky, twisty trails lead to stunning views of the emerald countryside and others to the ocean’s crashing waves.
There’s terrific rock climbing in the mountains and wickedly wet and fun water sports on sparkly lakes, rivers and the mighty ocean that attracts kayakers, canoers and whitewater rafters. While, horse lovers delight trotting on horseback along the white breezy beaches.
The crux of this northern California wine country is Anderson Valley, not only boasting some of the area’s top wineries but its home base for wilderness adventures, flush with Redwoods and Douglas Fir line trails, rushing rivers, broad lakes, camping – and even disc golf for those who prefer the sporty greens.
Roadies can pedal to their heart’s desire along the stunning Pacific Coast Highway or on lightly-trafficked back country roads whizzing past sheep ranches, working farms, fruit orchards and patches of jade vines quivering in the light breeze. While the knobby wheel crowd can choose from hundreds of miles of logging roads, wild backcountry and dirt trails. Bike trail maps are available in town and at the Stanford Inn by the Sea on Ukiah Road. They also rent kayaks and canoes.
There are some bike touring companies in the area, such as Anderson Valley Wine Tour and operated through Ferrington Vineyards, which offers full day tours include lunch and tasting fees. While Undiscovered Cycling takes leads multi-day cycling trip through the cyclists winding backcountry roads through the sunny-kissed back country roads of Mendocino wine country. Pedaling over hills and into valley along Northern Pacific Coast to Russian River redwoods with plenty of wine pit stops along the way.
Parks & Beaches
Mendocino National Forest
Spanning sixty-five miles long and thirty-five miles wide, this lush wilderness across Coastal Mountain Range sports over nine hundred thousand acres of federally owned wooded mountains, canyons, rivers and mountain lakes. It’s a magnificent majestic terrain that peaks at eight thousand feet and drops to three thousand, at it lowest point waiting to be explored by foot, bike, horse or water vessel.
There is terrific kayaking on the park’s largest mountain lake, Lake Pillsbury with nearly thirty-0ne miles of shoreline. You can rent a boat from any number of paddle shops near the lake, but keep in mind that it is open to motorboats. To be sans engine and fully submerged in nature, check out Letts Lake or the remote Howard Lake or the network of creeks and rivers for whitewater and play boats. In Gualala, Adventure Rents is one of your kayak connections to rent boats and splash along the tranquil Gualala River, a designated recreational element by the Wild and Scenic River Act.
The parks vast trail system with alpine peaks, oak hills and meadows can keep you busy for years. Mt. Bikers flock to the more than one hundred miles of trail offering up smooth as silk three mile loops up to twenty-six gnarly single-track stingers. The well-marked seven and a half-mile Lake Lett Loop, zips along wide dirt service roads with a few gentle climbs that makes it a fun day for newbies. Some other local favorites include the Kingsly Glade/Slab route along mostly non-technical trails for the first six miles. But the last two requires moderate skill and fitness to deal with some steep sections and a twisty, rocky decent to Thomes Creek, which is a fantastic pits top for a refreshing dip in the chilly mountain water before retracing your knobby marks back to the start. Expert riders love to leave their ya-ya’s on the sixteen mile punishing Cold Springs to Thomes Pocket trail sporting several quad-burning switchback climbs and white-knuckle decents that drop into small steep-walled canyons.
There are plenty of heal-worn paths throughout the forest that make for an awesome day of hiking. Once used as an ancient Indian route the trail system in Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness has a fabulous hiking through the oak woodland, fragrant meadows and past scores of lakes and waterfalls. The nearly nine-mile Cove Loop Trail offers up mild terrain, which is ideal for breathing in the fragrant piney air in the foxtail pine forest, past gurgling rivers and gushing waterfalls, exotic indigenous plants. Other must do’s include, the nearly seven mile - rated mellow - Water Fall Loop beginning at the West Crockett trailhead and the nine and a half mile Milk Ranch Loop starting at Summit Springs Trailhead. Those craving a climbing challenge can checkout the six and half mile Overlook Loop. It also begins at Summit Springs Trailhead and gains fourteen hundred feet, rewarding hikers with panoramic views of Mt. Shasta, Mt. Lassen and the Yolla Bolly and then descends through low Manzanita and fir forests. This area is also horse friendly, so a hotspot for equestrians to trot along the trail.
Navarro River Redwoods State Park
Located on Highway 128, two miles east of the junction of State Highway 1, in the Anderson valley, you will enter magnificent Redwoods Sate Park, along the Navarro River, with an eleven-mile-long redwood tunnel to the sea. Flush with mammoth second growth redwoods trees, the park is multi-taskers playground offering kayaking, swimming, hiking, biking and camping at the Paul M. Demmick campground and Navarro Beach Campground is located at the mouth of the Navarro River on the Pacific ocean. In addition, Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve, near the town of Yorkville, has camping and relaxing hiking trails.
Hendy Woods State Park
Smack in the middle of the Anderson Valley, near the town of Philo, this park is warmer and less foggy than redwood parks along the coast and known for a fallen redwood stump that was home for a man as the “Hendy Woods Hermit.” There is a lovely two-mile nature trail though Big Hendy and Little Hendy Groves, nine-two campsites in Wildcat and Azelea campgrounds and twenty-five picnicking sites are on the flanks of the Navarro River with awesome views of Big Henry Grove. Bonus! Wood, charcoal and presto-logs are available at the ranger station, no need for schlepping. Hendy Woods is also a local favorite for the web of trails through ancient redwood groves, which has fantastic Mt. biking, hiking, trail running and horseback riding. Indian Creek County Park, located near Philo has terrific hiking and paddling.
Nestled in the in the Mayacmas Mountains between Ukiah and Lakeport, this park area is named for the longhorn cattle that once roamed is fifty-two hundred acres. Today there is still plenty of blacktail deer, wild turkey and bears – yes, a bear bell may be wise – roaming the woods. With rugged, steep slopes peppered with pines, firs and oaks, the elevation jumps from eight hundred to four thousand feet.
The steep, often technical can be challenging on foot or two wheels, but pay off a the top promises outstanding views of Ukiah’s wine country and Clear Lake. Mt. bikers, hikers and equestrians want to stay the north section’s twenty-seven hundreds acre, which is designated for non-motorized activities. ATV enthusiasts should head south. To the south side that is, with twenty-three hundred acre and two hundred miles of vehicle roads and trails for off-highway vehicles. Water sport fans fear not, there are numerous mountain lakes, thirty-one miles of streams and thirteen reservoirs offer a plethora of water fun. Further north in Mendocino Redwood Demonstration Forest there is also great paddling, as well as hiking, biking and camping.
There is terrific paddling along the tranquil Gualala River, in Gualala in the along the south coast region, which has been designated a recreational element in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Adventure Rents is your Gualala kayak renting connection.
One of California’s newest state parks with hiking and biking trails and as the name say, a river. The Stanford Inn on Hwy 1 and Comptche-Ukiah Road rents kayak, canoe and Mt. bike rentals on site to paddle and pedal through the park.
The town of Mendocino, named for Spanish explorer de Mendoza, who landed in the area in the late 1700s, was founded a decade and a half later by Gold Rush prospectors who didn’t strike it rich. Trying their hands at grape farming, they established some of the earliest wineries in the Mendocino and Lake County region in the 1850s. During prohibition, the many of the vineyards were converted to nut trees and pear orchards and it became one of the last California regions to hop onto the reawakening of wine country express.
As Napa and Sonoma were finding were starting to blossom, in 1967, Parducci Vineyards became the first winery to be established in Mendocino. The next year, Fetzer Vineyards joined the wine party, established by Barney Fetzer, wine executive turned farmer, he and his eleven children – just shy of enough to fill a case – created one of today’s largest California wineries. The Fetzer’s Valley Oak Center, in Hopland, is a main tourist attraction and a worthwhile stop to sample wines from local vineyards and lip-smacking fresh organic fruit and vegetable from local orchards and gardens.
Also in the Mendocino wine country are Roeder Estates, a leading California sparkling wine producers, which is a must-visit for bubbly fans and while brandy lovers will relish Germain-Robin creating. Based in Ukiah, the distillery is considered one of American’s best brandy producers. The New York Times it as “Miraculously dense and complex. Superior to [Hennessy] Paradis and equal to the very best old small-producer cognacs.”
Wine to Me!
There are two main routes through Mendocino wine country to consider when drafting your wine tasting plan of action - plus a handful of wineries along the northern coast by Ft. Braggs. One is the Anderson Valley wine trail with wineries on or near Route 128, which is a great choice for type-A’s who don’t want too much down time between wineries. Sharing a border with the south coast, Anderson Valley is the crux of Mendocino’s fledging wine country and stretches from the southern county line, near Yorkville, north to the Navarro River sub-region. Sitting somewhat close to the Pacific, allows grapes to thrive under sunny days that never get too hot due to the ocean’s cooling breeze.
While the Inland River Valley trail wineries are central to Route 101, tend to be more spread out and with drives up to twenty minutes between sipping stops. But the surrounding eye-candy is sure to melt the miles away. Organic and biodynamic Frey winery is one of the standouts not to missed, for their lively steel-aged Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Anderson Valley Wineries (Route 128)
There are threes main towns along this route: Yorkville, Philo and Anderson Valley and conveniently, many of the tasting rooms are clustered together. Most the wineries are in the southern end of the region, near the upper Russian River Valley. Keep a chilled attitude as getting to some of the wineries may require an adventurous spirit as many are tucked away on tiny side roads.
The cool climate allows varietals to thrive with bright acidity. In the white world, you will find plenty well crafted Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. As for reds expect delectable Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Rhone Blend, amongst others Mediterranean selections – and sassy sparklers. One of the most renowned wineries here is French sparkling wine maker Roederer, on the northern section of the trail.
Yorkville Cellars 25701 Highway 128 Yorkville, California 95494 *707-894-9177 * www.yorkvillecellars.com Located on a small hillside, the organic vineyard is surround the winemaking. The cozy tasting room has a small wood stove to warm up by in the cooler weather. While the covered porch running the length of the tasting room, provides an ideal spot to enjoy a glass drinking in the picturesque vineyards and surrounding fragrant rose bushes. Featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and sweet Malbec. Picnic tables.
Handley Cellars 3151 Highway 128, Philo, CA * 707-895-3876 * 800-733-3151 * www.handleycellars.com Open daily. Decorated with tribal folk art – including a ceremonial canoe over the main door - the rustic tasting room has a picturesque view the organic vineyard and surrounding countryside. Nearly seventy percent of their energy solar powered and all of their wines are organically produced. Cool climate wine specialists their wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir have superb bright acidity. Picnic area.
Roederer Estate 4501 California 128, Philo, CA 95466 * 707-895-2288 www.roedererestate.com Open daily. Celebrated sparkling wine specialists, this is a bubblicious wine tasting stop fulfills fizzy full-glass fantasies. Established in Anderson Valley in 1982 by Jean-Claude Rouzaud – fifth generation descendant of the founder of France’s renowned Champagne Louis Roederer – Roederer sparkling wine is considered amongst the best produced in California. The picnic area outside their quaint tasting room has a lovely view and is a perfect place to flap out a blanket and settle in with a glass of the family creation.
Navarro Vineyards 5601 Hwy 128 Philo, California 95466 * 707-895-3686 * www.navarrowine.com Open daily. Tours twice daily. This family-run winery, founded in 1974, focuses cool climate wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir – and for a sweet treat don’t miss the Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. They also produce non-alcoholic grape juices, which are nice to take home. This is a lovely picnic stop to dig into your picnic basket -or purchase local cheeses and meats from their market – and savor the flavors in rock wall encircled picnic area - with tables –overlooking the vineyards. A stroll in the color-splattered garden is a nice end to the visit.
The Inland River Valley
The Inland River Valley runs from Hopland in the south north to Ukiah, creeping along the flanks of the Mayacmas Mountains while heading northeast into Redwood and Potter Valleys. Hot weather grapes like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, delight in the sun-baked days and cool mountain nights. Many of the tasting rooms are sprinkled along Route 101 - although somewhat spread out. Some require a bit of a drive and good navigation, but the gorgeous surrounding make getting there just as much fun as being there.
In addition to the tasting rooms, the Solar Living Center in town offers a fascinating free fifty-minute tour at their twelve-acre demonstration site showcasing environmentally friendly building materials, passive and active solar design in the architecture and agricultural system landscape. They even explain how a solar calendar works show you around the organic garden.
Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery 10400 South Hwy 101, Hopland, CA *877-462-0666 * www.jaxonkeys.com Open daily 10-5.The renovated 1858 farmhouse named Burnee Hill - meaning “house on the hill” – is a fun, rustic place to kick back and ponder the rich, ripe aromas and flavors from their fragrant Viogner and hearty, dark fruit Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. But wait, there’s more not only wine is poured at the stressed wooden-topped tasting counter, but are also craft and sample savory brandies. When you can taste no more, retire to wrap-around porch with a glass of your favorite sipper and sit back to enjoy the delightful view and tranquil sound of the neighboring gushing waterfall.
McDowell Wine & Mercantile - Tasting Room: 13380 South Hwy 101, Hopland, CA * 707-744-8911 www.mcdowellsyrah.com Located in downtown Hopland, McDowell Valley Vineyards has one of the oldest vineyards in California. With Syrah and Grenache vines dating back to 1919, their Old-vine Syrah’s are a special dark berry and plum treat laced with a splash of spice and tannins. Their whites include Viognier, Roussanne and Chardonnay.
SIDBAR: Germain-Robin Brandy, 3001 South State, #35,Ukiah, CA www.germain-robin.com * 707-462-0314. This world-renowned brandy maker using 19th-century hand distilling methods on an antique cognac still. Bon Appetit magazine called their brandy “Superb. Arresting. Some of the world's finest,” while Robb Report's expert panel named their Select Barrel XO, the world's "Best Liquor." Founded in 1982 by American-French Dou Ansley Coale and master Cognac distiller Hubert Germain-Robin whose family has been in the brandy biz since 1782. Brandy lovers, start your cell phones. Tastings by appointment: Monday thru Friday.
Nelson Family Vineyards 550 Nelson Ranch Road, Ukiah, CA 95482 *
* 707-462-3755 * www.nelsonfamilyvineyards.com Open daily 10-5. The tiny tasting can comfortable fit four thirsty sippers bellied up the bar, but there’s plenty of room to stand back by the fireplace or better yet, swirl, sniff and sip on the patio overlooking the gardens and vineyards. Crafting only estate wines, making wines from the grapes they grown on their one-hundred and eighty acres of vineyards that is part of two thousand acres of land, which includes not only vineyards but also pears, olives, a redwood grove canola and yes, even Christmas trees.
Paul Dolan Vineyards 501 Parducci Road Ukiah, CA 95482 * 888-362-9463 * www.pauldolanwine.com. Open daily 10-5. Organic and biodynamic specialists, Paul Dolan Vineyards take their sustainable farming and wine crafting seriously and get kudos for their ripe, rich Zinfandels and complex Cabernet Sauvignon. They believe “grape growing and wine making are approached as a partnership with nature” and use compost, made from manure and pumice, to enrich nutrients into the soils for their seventy acres of vineyards on the one-hundred and sixty acre sheep farm.
Parducci Wine Cellars 501 Parducci Road, Ukiah, CA * 707-463-5350 * www.parducci.com Open daily. Called “America’s Greenest Winery” by Forbes in April, 2008 and awarded, Parducci is committed to earth-friendly wine practices including producing sustainable, biodyanamic winemaking and was the first Carbon Neutral Winery in the USA. Inside the red-tile roofed tasting room the redwood barrel-like slat tasting counter and cool brick walls creates the perfect ambiance to taste their Gold-medal winning Chardonnay and truly chewy True Grit Petite Sirah.
Barra of Mendocino Winery 7051 North State Street, Redwood Valley, CA www.barraofmendocino.com Playfully built in the shape of an upside down champagne coupe glass in the 1970s, the arched ceiling tasting room has a gurgling fountain taking center stage. Less showy, but equally enjoyable are the all-estate organic wines. The steel-aged Pinot Blanc is a good starter to refresh the palate before moving onto the barrel aged Chardonnay. Sticking to family Italian roots, Sangiovese a prime focus as Pinot Noir. Outside picnic tables are shaded with olive trees, which is a nice place to chill before moving onto the next winery.
Lolonis Tasting Room: 1930 Tice Valley Blvd. walnut Creek, CA 94595 * 925-938-8066 * www.lolonis.com Open Mon-Fri, 1pm-4pm. Tours by appointment.
A certified organic farmer member, excellent earth-friendly winemaking is the name of the game here. Their renowned Chardonnay and robust and intensely flavored reds get kudus for their layers of character and long, giving finish.
Frey Vineyards 14000 Tomki Road Redwood Valley, CA * 707.485.5177 www.freywine.com Tastings by appointment. Pioneers in earth-friendly farming, Frey is often considered America’s first organic winery. This family-run organic and biodynamic vineyard and mostly solar powered winery has been crafting wines in the Redwood Valley region for over three decades. Some of the selections include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and they also make an unusual sipper called Charbono – worth a sample. Brick red to the eye with smoky, dark fruit overtones it’s a bold red that will partner will with grilled beef, barbeque and big-flavored cheese. For a sweet treat, wrap up with a late-harvest zinfandel.
Naughty Boy Vineyards 10,000 Gibson Lane, Potter Valley, CA * 707.743.2868 * www.naughtyboyvineyards.com Tastings by appointment. This wife and husband, Emjay and Jim Scott, owned organic vineyard with a fun name crafts Gold-medal winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their petite six acre vineyard. In case you were wondering, “Naughty Boy,” is named for their boxer Little Ricky.
The Dirty Facts!
Adventure Rents, Gualala, CA *888-881-4386 * 707 884-4386 * www.adventurerents.com A full service river outfitting company offering kayaking and canoeing on the Gualala River. They offer self-guided rentals per hour or day and guided excursions include optional catered meals.
Anderson Valley Wine Tour * 707.895.9995 * www.andersonvalleywinetour.com Owned and operated through Ferrington Vineyards, full day tours include lunch and tasting fees.
Bicycle Tours in Wine Country:
Undiscovered Cycling Tours * 877-322-1667 * www.udctours.com Offers cycling tour through the sunny-kissed hills and lush countrysides of Mendocino County wine country, exploring winding roads and wonderful wineries. Guests pedal along the Northern Pacific Coast to Russian River redwoods and overnight the town of Hopland.
Catch a Canoe & Bicycle Too! 44850 Comptche, Ukiah Road, CA * 707-937-0273 * www.catchacanoe.com & www.tourbigriver.com. Rentals: kayak, canoe, redwood outrigger canoe and paddle on the serene eight-mile long Big River Estuary searching for seals, otters and bird life who call the remote waterway home, sweet home. They also offer a nine-person outrigger canoe sunset tour and rent bikes and car racks too.
Navarro River Redwoods State Parks * 707.937.5804 * Located on Highway 128, two miles east of the junction with State Highway 1.
Hendy Woods State Park * 707.895.3141 * Located a half-mile south of Highway 128 on Philo-Greenwood Road.
Cow Mountain Recreation Areas * 707-468-4000 * Located on Mill Creek Road off the Highway 101 Talmage Road exit.
Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve *707-937-5804
Indian Creek County Park (Located on Highway 128 1 mile east of Philo) * 707-463-4267.
Snoozing! Route 128 Area
Cabin in the Meadow near Philo * 707.895.3716 * www.cabinmeadow.com
A two-room cabin on ten acres, near Navarro, with fully equipped for three guest with a queen bed and large sleeper chair.
The Apple Farm in Philo *707.895.2333 * www.philoapplefarm.com
A family-run farm offering lodging in three guest cottages and one “Room with a View” and weekend cooking classes.
Holly Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast 2151 Hwy 128 Philo, CA *707-895-2269. Offers farm stays.
Snoozing! Route 101 Area
Stanford Inn Hwy 1 and Comptche-Ukiah Road, Mendocino. 800.334.8884 * www.stanfordinn.com This sustainable green inn overlooking the Bay has a full spa and serves organic meals crafted from produce plucked from their organic garden. They rent kayak, canoe and Mt. bike rentals on site to paddle and pedal through Big River, one of California’s newest state parks.
Vichy Springs Resort * 2605 Vichy Springs Road *Ukiah, CA * 707-462-9515 *www.vichysprings.com This seven hundred acre resort and spa is the only naturally warm and carbonated mineral baths in North America. Also available are hot soaking pool, an Olympic size swimming pool and ask about their "champagne" baths.
Robinson Creek Bed & Breakfast 1901 Booneville Road, Ukiah * 707.468.9036 * www.robinsoncreek.com A charming farmhouse with a working flower farm.
JD House 571 Ukiah St., Mendocino * 800.486.2104 * www.jdhouse.com A quaint B&B - some rooms have ocean views, private decks and fireplaces. In walking distance of trails, beaches, and restaurants.
Shambhala Ranch/Shambhala Yoga Retreat 21200 Orr Springs Road, Ukiah, CA * 707-937-3341. A cozy inn with a vegetable farm, ornamental gardens, farm animals and orchards.
Robinson Creek Bed & Breakfast 1901 Boonville Road, Ukiah, CA *707-468-9039
866-772-9401. A quaint B&B with a lovely flower farm.
Area CampgroundsGualala River Redwood Park 46001 Gualala Road, Gualala, CA * 707-884-3533
Cloverdale Wine Country KOA 1166 Asti Ridge Road, Cloverdale, CA * 707-894-3337
Dutcher Creek Village 230 Theresa Drive, Cloverdale, CA * 707-894-4829
North Shore Campground 541 Catfish Beach Road, Chester, CA * 530-258-3376
Patrona Bistro & Wine Bar 130 W. Standley Street, Ukiah, CA * 707-462-9181 * www.patronarestaurant.com Serving upscale fare with an international flair, with organic and season ingredients. Some house specialties include, Ahi Tuna, Ravioli du jour, lamb shank and decadent desserts.
The Broiler Steak House 8400 Uva Drive, Redwood Valley, CA * 707-485-7301. A steak and potato joint with local wine list.
Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine 801 N. State Street, Ukiah, CA * 707-462-0238. Flavorful Thai food in a mellow, friendly atmosphere.
Club Calpella 6175 N. State Street, Redwood Valley, CA * 707-485-8630 * www.clubcalpella.com A winegrower home away from home for a hearty meal.
Egghead’s Restaurant 326 N. Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA * 707-964-5005 Rise and shine for big country breakfast.
Solar Living Center 13771 S. Hwy. 101 PO Box 836 Hopland, CA 95449 * 707-472-2450 * www.solarliving.org. Tours: Friday- Sunday, 11-3pm. Every September, Solar Living Institute hosts an annual two-day SolarFest event, which celebrates renewable energy and sustainable living.
Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce *800-726-2780.
Along the wave-crashing rugged, northern coast in Fort Braggs the ubiquitous ocean view sooth the soul, the handful of wineries pleases the palate and the endless outdoor adventures amps the adrenaline. There are miles upon miles of uninhibited beaches with ample camping and picnicking spot.
MacKerricher State Park in the northern pocket offers horseback riding along Ten Mile Beach past crashing waves, craggy rock ridges and of playful seals doing their thing. There is also horseback riding at Ricochet Ranch, through the redwoods, followed by wine tasting at Pacific Star Winery. This is winery often photographed with wine barrels aging on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean – its simply breathtaking.
The area is known for its prime whale watching, sport-fishing and user-friendly park like Van Damme State Park, which is a popular kayaking beach with neat echoey sea caves to explore. Kayak Mendocino offers guided excursions through sea caves and surrounding waterways shared with harbor seals and shorebirds. The park’s pygmy forest, sporting groves of hundred year-old tiny trees - as small as six-inches high - is worth a visit. To stretch your legs on foot or bike, check out the web of fern canyon trails lined with petite pastel wildflowers.
The Dirty Facts
Ricochet Ranch 24201 North Highway One, Fort Braggs, CA * 888-873-5777 * 707-964-7669 * www.horse-vacation.com/ Offering daily and multi-day trail and beach rides.
Kayak Mendocino Fort Braggs, CA * 707.964.7480 www.kayakmendocino.com Offering guided kayak trips in Van Damme State Park.
Pacific Star Winery Tasting Room: 33000 North Highway One, Fort Bragg, CA 95437 * Downtown Tasting Room: 401 North Main Street, Fortt Bragg, CA 95437 * 707.964.1155 * www.pacificstarwinery.com/
North Coast Brewery North Coast Brewing Co. 455 North Main Street, Fort Bragg CA 95437 * 707 964-2739 * www.northcoastbrewing.com
It could be the hot springs and mud baths that give this small historic town its chilled laid-back vibe. I mean, how can you be stressed nestled in the nurturing, warm ooey-gooey womb up to your ears in therapeutic mud while sipping a Cabernet Sauvignon of nearly the same hue? In and around Calistoga, under the guise of Mount St. Helena, visitors and locals flock to the abundance of hot mineral pools and mud baths, while the “active” geysers in the northwest are used for thermal energy.
Sitting on top of underground reservoirs that evolve to the surface as hot springs, the area is flush with mineral spas and facilities, most notably their mud baths that are said not only to be relaxing, but to have therapeutic benefits like expelling toxins, brightening completion and relieving muscle and joint pain. The baths can tap over one hundred degrees on the mercury and oddly subtly float your butt off the bottom, sort of like being in the Dead Sea. The muddy mixture that originated as volcanic ash and warm spring water in the time of the Native Wappo Indians, now also contains peat moss for buoyancy.
Downtown Calistoga is a blissful blend of wild-west meets culinary ambitious, which is showcased in its fledging culinary scene with restaurants like JoLe, antique shops, galleries and of course, wineries peppering the area.
Sidebar: The Muddy Truth – Mud Baths
- Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort: 13000 Washington Street, Calistoga, CA * 800-914-8957 * www.romanhotsprings.com
- Calistoga Village Inn and Spa 1880 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA 94515
www.greatspa.com * 707-942-0991. A sprinkle of white clay is added to the mud cocktail here.
JoLe 1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA 94515 * 707-942-5938 * www.jolerestaurant.com Fine dining with big flavor and little attitude. The Phili native owners use local organic ingredients in their farm-to-table restaurant serving up palate happy dishes like BC king salmon, roasted quail, chicken fried sweetbreads and sliders. Tasting menu available and reasonable corkage fee for those who BYOW.
Wappo Bar & Bistro 1226 Washington Street, Calistoga, CA 707-942-4712 www.wappobar.com Kick back and relax a in this quaint local’s favorite place. The global menu includes Tandoori chicken, cassoulet, tandoori assorted noodle dishes.
Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery 1250 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA 707-942-4101 www.calistogainn.com Ready to (temporarily) trade in the stem for a pint? This wood-paneled watering hole is your place for a first-rate pint of Pilsener – or ale or stout. Live music nightly.
Brannan’s 1374 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA * 707-942-2233 * www.brannansgrill.com Continental cuisine with wine-friendly fare such as Grilled Ahi Tuna, Idaho Trout Picatta, Pork Loin and Filet Mignon. Interesting wine list and live music on weekends.
Palisades Deli Café 1458 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA 707-942-0145 Grab a picnic-friendly sandwich at a nice price and locally made food products.
Fellion's Delicatessen 1359 Lincoln Ave Calistoga, CA 94515 * 707-942 -6144
The Indian Springs Resort and Spa in Calistoga 1712 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA * 707-942-4913 * www.indianspringscalistoga.com A short walk into town, they have sixteen cottages and twenty-four retro rooms, bocce courts, outdoor fireplace and geyser-heated pool that maintains a cuddly 102 degrees in winter.
Arroyo Grand Valley
Nestled on the southern tip of SLO, there are a handful of wineries getting kudos for their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Zinfandel – especially, Old Vine. The cooler western edge of this micro-region does well with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. While the more mountainous eastern section’s rollercoaster – warm day, cool night – temperatures allows for bigger bodied reds like Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many of the wineries dot the eastern side of Lopez Drive.
Saucelito Canyon Vineyards 3080 Biddle Ranch Road San Luis Obispo, CA 93401* www.saucelitocanyon.com Open daily. Crafting lush and luscious estate-grown Zinfandel from grapes grown on old vines.
Talley Vineyards 3031 Lopez Drive, Arroyo Grande, CA 9342 * 805-489-0446
www.talleyvineyards.com Open daily. Specializing in hand-crafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and sporting – not one, not two, but three picnic areas on their verdant vineyard.
Rancho Arroyo Grande Winery 591 Hi Mountain Road, Arroyo Grande, California 93420 * 805 489 2855 * www.ranchoarroyograndewines.com Open daily. Pouring an assortment of varietal including their applauded Zinfandel.