48 Hours in Men­do­cino

Men­do­cino—both town and county—may be less than three hours north of San Fran­cisco, but its combo of rolling green hills, farm an­i­mals, vine­yards and Dr. Seuss-in­spired shrub­bery feels like a world away.

Western Living - - CONTENTS -

A Cal­i­for­nia road trip takes you through wine coun­try and her­itage towns.


If you’re driv­ing, you can hug the curvy (very, very curvy) Pa­cific Coast Highway all the way up the coast if you like, but the path less taken, ac­cessed from An­der­son Val­ley, wears its charms closer to its chest. This re­mote re­gion ( be sure to set your email to out of of­fice; cell ser­vice is sparse here) is home to some of Cal­i­for­nia’s most renowned cool-cli­mate pinot noirs—think the op­po­site of Meiomi. And while many bold names—Williams Se­lyem, Cake­bread—grow grapes here, it’s the fam­i­ly­owned spots, such as Yorkville Cel­lars, that give the truest sense of place. Their quaint tast­ing room is sur­rounded by Men­do­cino’s vast un­spoiled to­pog­ra­phy, and their wines are atyp­i­cal for An­der­son Val­ley—no pinot.

Best of all, you don’t have to spit your pinot if you hun­ker down for the night at

the Madrones in Philo. This bou­tique spot blends Mediter­ranean ar­chi­tec­ture, nine luxe rooms and an agora-es­que col­lec­tion of very pe­tite satel­lite tast­ing rooms from some of the re­gion’s smaller winer­ies, such as the ab­so­lutely amaz­ing Drew Cel­lars. En­joy a glass of their leg­endary Fog-Eater pinot be­fore

The night ends on a per­fectly old­fash­ioned note: a fire crack­ling in the back­ground as the swells of the Pa­cific crash into the cliffs be­low.

head­ing out to din­ner at the Be­wil­dered Pig. The farm­house-chic spot rocks a desert-style pa­tio bor­dered with loose gravel and cacti, and chef/co-owner Janelle Weaver is a force with sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents like spring onion and as­para­gus soup fol­lowed by sting­ing net­tle pasta with rab­bit ragu. The wine list is pop­u­lated by nearby friends but, for fun, give the abun­dant pinot a pass and try a lo­cal syrah, like the amaz­ing of­fer­ing from Bax­ter.


Af­ter check­out, hit Highway 128 en route to Men­do­cino, but save some time for a stop at the small, spaghetti western-in­spired town of Boonville for a stroll—it won’t take long— and then am­ble over to Pen­ny­royal Farm. Op­er­ated by Sarah Cahn Ben­nett and Erika Schar­fen, the 23-acre prop­erty is both a goat and sheep farm, and you’re here to snag a chunk of their leg­endary farm­stead cheese (the soft blue­berry lay­chee cheese will pair nicely with rosé in your room later in the evening). Plow on to­ward the smell of sea air and in no time you’ll be rolling into the town of

Men­do­cino, perched cliff­side on a spec­tac­u­lar bluff above the Pa­cific. There’ll be time to ex­plore the town in the morn­ing, but for now pull into the Lit­tle River Inn. The his­toric prop­erty—cur­rently be­ing op­er­ated by the fifth gen­er­a­tion of fam­ily own­ers—chan­nels a Vic­to­rian vibe with its gabled ar­chi­tec­ture and per­fectly man­i­cured lawns. Leave the car parked and grab a bite at the on-site res­tau­rant, where chef Marc Dym has long set the stan­dard for fine din­ing in the area with el­e­vated lo­ca­vorism like his in­dul­gent abalone frit­ters. The night ends on a per­fectly old­fash­ioned note: a fire crack­ling in your room as the swells of the Pacifc crash into the cliffs be­low. Sleep will come easy.


If you wanted to get up early, you could sneak in 18 holes at Lit­tle River’s course or put in a quick set of ten­nis, but your main pri­or­ity is a few hours in town be­fore the week­end ends. Spend a bit of time strolling among among the best-pre­served Vic­to­rian ar­chi­tec­ture on the West Coast (much of the town is on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places) and pok­ing into shops that have a dis­tinctly artis­tic bent. When it’s time to head back to the big city, take Highway 101, as it will al­low for a quick hike through the Mont­gomery Woods State Nat­u­ral Re­serve. This re­mote park (there’s a de­cent chance you’ll have it all to your­self) is home to some of Cal­i­for­nia’s an­cient old-growth red­woods, and it has larger trees than the more fa­mous Muir Woods park near San Fran­cisco. And a con­tem­pla­tive stroll through these gi­ants is the per­fect place to plan your next trip to Men­do­cino.

Wine O’Clock The won­der­fully old-school Yorkville Cel­lars (be­low) cap­tures the laid- back vibe of the An­der­son Val­ley.

Lo­cal He­roes The his­toric Lit­tle River Inn (top), the king salmon at the Be­wil­dered Pig (in­set) and the famed goat cheese from Pen­ny­royal Farm (bot­tom right) are three area high­lights.

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