If you decide to visit the two Mendocinos, here are my suggestions for getting and staying there, dining and tasting.
Anderson Valley is about 2 1/2 hours from San Francisco via Highway 101 north to Highway 128 which meanders northwest along the Navarro River through spectacular redwoods to the coast. The 27 wineries are easy to visit being concentrated on either side of the highway from Booneville to Navarro. The list of wineries and map are located on the Anderson Valley Winegrower’s website at www.avwines.com
A good time to visit Anderson Valley and taste all the wines in a single weekend is during one of its two signature wine tastings, the International Alsace Varietals Festival in February and the Pinot Noir Festival in May. In addition to the grand tastings with food, the festivals typically include seminars, winemaker dinners and individual winery open houses, and are definitely worth the weekend trip.
Where to stay and eat
Lodging options in Anderson Valley have increased in the last couple of years, but remain intimate. The new Toll House Inn on Highway 253 – which links the Valley to Inland Mendocino – is a charming restored Victorian with four bedrooms, wifi and beautiful indoor and outdoor space. The Madrones in upper Anderson Valley is nestled among the vineyards. It offers one- and two- bedroom suites above a tasting room. The Booneville Hotel is a perennial Bay Area favorite with a range of rooms and cottages in the center of Booneville with convenient access to cafes and shops such as The General Store, Bates & Schmidt Mercantile or Libby’s in nearby Philo for carnitas. The hotel also has a fine casual restaurant Table 128 which features seasonal wine country fare in small plates or prix fixe dinners. Philo Apple Farm offers four cottages on their Demeter certified Biodynamic apple farm, which includes gardens, orchards and farmstand. Cooking classes are offered by the former owners of the original French Laundry as part of weekend retreats.
The town of Mendocino
My love affair with Anderson Valley wines began with Navarro Vineyards and the coastal town of Mendocino itself, just another 10 miles or so beyond the last wineries on Highway 128. For me, no trip to the Anderson Valley would be complete without going to the coast.
The tiny, historic town is on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean with brisk ocean breezes and beautiful views of the rugged coastline. Like a lot of Northern California’s remote coastal towns, time stands still here. It is romantic and breathtaking at the same time, its quaint, small town vibe broken only by the occasional fancy art gallery. It’s a town to simply walk around, visit artisanal shops on Main Street, and have a long, romantic dinner.
In and around town, I have stayed at charming B&B’s like Headlands Inn and resorts like Stevenswood Resort and Little River Inn with its tiny 9-hole golf course with spectacular views. I also rented the same house for many years on Navarro Ridge where the river meets the ocean – the ultimate. If you decide to rent a house, just be aware that the headwinds right on the coast can be mighty (hence my choice to stay high up on the ridges).
Dining is an unforgettable experience – where can you get such a combination of organic ingredients, fresh seafood, local food-friendly wines and farm-to-table philosophy? My favorites are Cafe Beaujolais and 955 Ukiah St. (the address too) but Mendocino is one of those retreat towns where the hotel restaurants are wonderful, like Albion River Inn, The Mendocino Hotel and MacCallum House.
For more information on coastal Mendocino, check the website.
Inland Mendocino is a straight shot north from San Francisco on Highway 101, about 100 miles to the first main town of Hopland. If coming from the Anderson Valley, Highway 253 from Booneville leads to the earthy town of Ukiah, which is a central location to visit Inland Mendocino with Redwood Valley to the north and Hopland to the south. Here’s a map for orientation.
The major tasting weekends for Inland Mendocino wines are Hopland Passport, which takes place in the Spring and Fall, and further north in Redwood Valley appellation, Taste of Redwood Valley.
Where to stay, dine and taste
You will find the best choices to stay and dine in or around Ukiah. Accommodations include the historic Vichy Springs resort east of Ukiah and the Sanford House Bed & Breakfast which is near to downtown and the area’s best restaurant Patrona. For unconventional vegetarian sushi, try Oco Time. The newest restaurant in Ukiah is spacious Branches Wood Fired Chop House whose menu also includes Asian and vegetarian selections. For more vegetarian, check out the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas east of Ukiah which is only open for lunch.
Many wineries and the collective tasting room Sip! Mendocino are clustered in tiny Hopland right off the 101 Highway. Stay at the seven room Lawson’s Station Inn, recently acquired by Gary Breen, the owner of the highly regarded new retreat Campovida. Also located in Hopland, Campovida provides luxury accommodations for corporate and private events only but its tasting room with self-serve deli, quiet picnic areas and gardens are open to the public. Campovida also gives tours of its gardens on Saturdays or by appointment.
Other Places to Stay
Up north in Redwood Valley, consider renting a cottage. Testa Vineyards rents a charming little home in the vineyards that is beautifully furnished with family antiques. The other option is to stay and dine in upscale Healdsburg, about 30 miles south of Hopland, which is right off the 101.
For more ideas on what to do in Mendocino, check out Mendocino tourism.