MENDOCINO, CA—Mendocino’s wine country is where redwood, river, and world-class wine tasting collide with the majesty of the untamed sea. There’s no other California wine region quite as dramatic. The area moves to its own rhythm. Recently, I headed north for a quick Mendocino County breather and to visit a couple of splendid wineries.
Although my website lists a handful of excellent hotel recommendations in the towns of Mendocino, Little River, and Albion, this time around I stayed at the charming and historic Mendocino Hotel. Built in 1878, and lovingly restored 100 years later, it’s the only full-service hotel in the center of Mendocino’s village.
I’ve been returning to this property for over 20 years. It’s like comfort food. In the winter, a cozy lobby fireplace greets guests. In the summer, if the fog has lifted, you enjoy views of the Pacific’s deep turquoise waves as they break against the Mendocino Headlands.
If you like antiques, fine art, stained glass and Oriental carpets this is the place for you. Plus, they’ve also got a cool bar where you can chill... Mendocino Hotel is my home away from home.
Food Alert: Crab Burgers Are Seductive - "the stuff that dreams are made of"
I’ve walked passed the folk-art sign at Mendo Burgers many times but never detoured between the buildings toward their shack to order an official burger. Well, this time the notion of “fresh crab cakes” really appealed to me.
This hole-in-the wall burger joint has been there since the beginning of time. The current owners, a middle-aged couple from New York, are sweethearts. They do make the crab cakes “fresh” from local crab—but then they freeze them. False advertising? (Well, when you think about the short shelf life of fresh seafood, it certainly does make sense and you can’t blame them.)
But here’s what really matters: the crab cake “burger” was DELECTABLE and so completely satisfying. I’m not sure how healthy it was but I loved it and can’t want to go back for more on my next trip.
Always a sure bet for dinner in Mendocino is the Mendocino Cafe. It’s a great place for fresh, local, organic food that will go easy on your pocketbook. Well… at least compared to the other eateries in town. I should say that most restaurants in the village are very good and, yes, a bit pricey.
Fresh rockfish at the Mendocino Cafe. You can't go wrong.
Wine Tasting on your last day
When bidding a sad farewell to the Mendocino coast, the good
news is that you’ll often be traveling inland toward Hwy 101 through the pastoral
Anderson Valley. This is the golden road for wine tasting.
You’ll have a chance to sample fantastic wines at exemplary and
well-established tasting rooms.
When bidding a sad farewell to the Mendocino coast, the good news is that you’ll often be traveling inland toward Hwy 101 through the pastoral Anderson Valley. This is the golden road for wine tasting. You’ll have a chance to sample fantastic wines at exemplary and well-established tasting rooms.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Lula has a new location very near Handley. I enjoyed the line-up.
If a cold brew it more to your liking, you must stop by the Anderson Valley Brewing Co. It’s on the way through the valley and so you have no excuse but to visit their low-key tap room for a cold one. Tours of the brewery are also popular.
Their acclaimed oatmeal stout is my secret vice. They also have a dark beer aged in old whiskey barrels that is not to be missed! Of course, I took a large bottle home as a souvenir.
Always be careful NOT to drink and drive!
Before returning to civilization there is one “must-stop” winery in the town of Ukiah, beside Hwy 101, with which you may not yet be familiar.
“At the southern edge of Ukiah, the Russian River flows through a pastoral valley on its journey southwest toward Sonoma County and the Pacific Ocean. The 212-acre Schrader Ranch—home of Rivino Estate Winery — edges the western banks of the river. The name (combining river and vino) pays homage to the mighty waterway, visible from nearly every vantage point at the winery’s hilltop perch, and the wines, all made on-site from carefully tended estate grapes. Visitors to Rivino’s rustic tasting room are treated to panoramic picture-perfect views of the river valley and an expanse of vineyards stretching east toward oak-studded hills.”
Owner/winemaker Jason McConnell is a super nice guy and his wines rock! Live music, wine, and food every Friday night, weather permitting. This is one of the nicest places to forget all your cares at the end of a hard week. You will love this magical spot!
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