For beautiful forests, breathtaking coastal views and artisanal wines and beers, nothing compares to a jaunt up to Northern California’s Anderson Valley. Just two hours north of San Francisco, this region is rich in rustic beauty. Once a huge center for logging, apple farming and sheepherding, the area is now dotted with wineries specializing in cool-climate wines, such as pinot noir and riesling, microbreweries and luxurious little inns.
What to Do
Besides visiting wineries such as Esterlina Vineyards with its gorgeous views in the heart of Anderson Valley, there’s more to do than sample the local libations. Hiking in the redwoods is a popular outdoor activity in Northern California; try Hendy Woods State Park. Up in Mendocino, explore the Point Cabrillo Light Station, stroll through the 47 scenic acres at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens or take to the river for one of Catch-A-Canoe’s sunset bioluminescence tours. Spa lovers with a taste for rural adventure will want to grab a redwood hot tub at Sweetwater Spa in Mendocino for a plein air soak. For cooking classes and edible souvenirs, stop by The Apple Farm in Philo — we loved the cider syrup and chutney, and thought the apple juice was some of the best we’d ever tasted.
Where To Stay
Overlooking the woods and Pacific Ocean in Mendocino, the 10-room Brewery Gulch Inn mixes the charm of a small bed and breakfast with posh amenities that rival those in a large luxury hotel. From the Asprey Purple Water bath amenities to the complimentary supper with a choice of drinks and “millionaire’s bacon” (spicy slabs of candied bacon) at breakfast, it’s a place that’s hard to leave. In Philo, The Madrones feels like a stylish European home surrounded by courtyards and vineyards. Once you check into one of the four chic suites designed for two to four guests, the list of activities runs aplenty, from winery tours to strolls around the scenic grounds.
Where To Eat
When it comes time to indulge in a family-style meal, head to Boonville Hotel’s charming signature spot, Table 128. The dinner-only eatery showcases local wines and beers paired with fixed-price menus, with options ranging from baby greens or handmade pasta to slow-roasted lamb or bouillabaisse followed by a seasonal fruit dessert. Stop in on Sundays for the oyster bar; the seafood pairs perfectly with crisp bubbly from Roederer Estate or Handley Cellars.
The casual Saucy restaurant over in Ukiah prepares quality Italian fare, such as pizzas with sausage and fennel pollen, Hefeweizen drunken clams and crunchy chickpeas with salt and smoked paprika. Late this summer, creative young chef Patrick Meany is taking what he learned with Gary Danko and Thomas Keller and opening Stone and Embers (located at The Madrones), with a menu of wood-fired pizzas, seasonal fare and local tipples.
What To Drink
A visit to Anderson Valley is one trip that beer and wine lovers can appreciate equally, as the region is renowned for both. Sip saison-style Le Merle from North Coast Brewing Co. or take a tasting tour of Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville for a deeper appreciation of its handiwork, followed by a game of disc golf. Don’t miss the late-harvest rieslings at Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, elegant pinot noirs from Drew Family Cellars and Knez Winery, chardonnay from Phillips Hill Winery and the bubbly at Handley Cellars, Roederer Estate and Scharffenberger Cellars. The under-21 set will enjoy the local Bates & Schmitt cider, as well as the delicious non-alcoholic grape juices at Navarro Vineyards.
What To Wear
If you’re traveling to Anderson Valley in the summertime, temperatures in the area can reach into the 90s, so sundresses, shorts, short sleeves and good walking shoes are in order. The Mendocino Coast is always cooler, and its waterfront location means bringing a swimsuit, sporty jacket or sweater, and a pair of jeans.
Photo courtesy of Maria C. Hunt