Three weeks ago my father in law turned 60. In March, when asked by his loving yet ever-planning wife what he wanted to do for the momentous occasion he said, “Just hang out and play my guitar.” Having been married for close to 40 years, he should have know such an answer to be insufficient. Deciding he could play his guitar anywhere, my mother-in-law planned a family road trip weekend to the Mendocino coast. Having never been to Mendocino I was very excited to see what the lovely little coastal town had to offer. Just as my mother-in-law loves to plan trips I, in turn, love to research restaurants for said excursions. We make quite a team. I stealthily stole the food reconnaissance duties four years ago when my mother-in-law asked me to make reservations while on a family vacation in Hawaii. For better or worse, whenever we travel my in-laws are now subject to my research and preferences. We started out Thursday morning headed to Boonville, a small depot in the heart of Anderson valley wine country. I was lured there by the amazing menu of the Boonville Hotel while Gray was single-mindedly focused on downing a pint or 3 at the Anderson Valley Brewery. When I’m in charge of food, as we’ve established is ALWAYS, activities are scheduled around meal times. We arrived in Boonville just in time for lunch at the Boonville General Store then off we went for a bit of wine tasting. A few hours later we returned, fully loaded and ready to eat, and descended upon the Boonville hotel for a giant family meal of little gems with blue cheese dressing, roasted lamb with Moroccan spices and couscous.
And that was just the first night of our 4-day eating and drinking extravaganza! There are countless hidden gems between Anderson Valley and the breathtaking coast of Mendocino, including a stunning redwood forest that connects the two. It is an ideal getaway as its not too far from the bay area so as to feel like a major trip but just far enough to warrant the title “vacation”. Gray and I are already planning our next Boonville to Mendocino trek and can’t wait to see what else this lovely stretch of California has to offer.
Boonville Spots for Dining and Libations
Anderson Valley Brewery- With a stop at the Anderson Valley brewery, tastes of the Brother David’s Double and Triple are a must. The brewery also has a beer garden and beautiful oaks tree to sit under while enjoying your malty beverage.
Boonville General Store- This sweet little market offers delicious and organic sit-down lunch and picnic items as well as daily changing specials. A great choice whether in a hurry to get your drink on at neighboring wineries or in the mood for a chill lunch. The chicken salad with roasted garlic dressing, beet salad and daily quesadilla are delicious.
Boonville Hotel Restaurant- The family-style restaurant attached to the nostalgic Boonville Hotel is a destination and meal you will not soon forget. Ask to sit on the patio overlooking their organic garden. The seasonal menu is updated every week so if you have any dietary restrictions, simply call and make arrangements. They are very accommodating.
Standish Winery- This winery is a trip! Climbing the narrow stairs of the apple dryer now turned tasting room feels like a flashback to the old west. Be sure to taste the Mayflower Pinto Noir.
Husch Winery- The draw of the Anderson Valley is its back-country charm and ranch style architecture and Husch winery delivers on both. The cabin-like tasting room opens out to a flower-studded garden. Bring your lunch, grab a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and unwrap your goodies in the deck.
Philo Apple Farm- I am inherently drawn to fruit and vegetable stands the way most women flock to a pair of Manolo Blahniks. What can I say, we’ve all got our vices. So when I saw the ragged sign on the 128 for Philo Apple Farm, I quickly careened the car down the dusty road. Stop buy this beautifully quaint farm and pick up organic apple cider, apple-quince chutney or a basket of heirloom apples from their pristine orchards. I personally can’t wait for the Golden Russets to arrive! The property also offers cooking classes and cottage rentals for the full Anderson Valley apple experience.
Phillips Hill Estates- They may not have a sprawling picnic area or lush fields surrounding their tasting room, but Phillips Hill knows how to do wine right! We tasted a good many Pinots on our trip but these were by far my favorite. Try the Hinterlands and Oppenlander Pinots. To change it up, go for a pour of their smooth, non-oaky Chardonnay.
Mendocino Coast Spots for Dining and Libations
North Coast Brewery- Knowing very little about beer I defer to my Beer Engine blogger husband, Gray. In his own words, “North Coast is one of the best breweries in the country. All their beers are great but a trip would not be complete without a pint of Old Rasputin and Pranqster.”
MacCallum House- Build in the 1850′s as a wedding gift to the daughter of a wealthy San Franciscan, The MacCallum House is now gorgeous multi-propertied hotel. Besides the accommodations, both the organic breakfast and dinner at their award winning restaurant are worth a pop-in.
Moosse Cafe- For a small coastal town the number of well-sourced restaurants lining the streets is shocking. You cannot walk more than a block without seeing another menu boasting their locally inspired offerings. The Moose Cafe is no exception. Start with the rich and creamy chicken liver pate then move on to the lemon and pesto white bean and shrimp salad. The crispy fish sandwich, ordered by everyone else at our table, also received high praised.
Ledford House- Sitting above the Mendocino coastline, the spectacular view from Ledford House can only be matched by the thoughtful and beautifully executed menu. A few musts: Duck liver pate with lavender jelly, beet and goat cheese salad, braised rabbit, and the cherry zinfandel duck. Both the fisherman’s stew and rock cod entrees looked appealing but in the end, the duck and rabbit won out. With nightly jazz music, great ambiance and a view that just doesn’t quit, this is a perfect finale to your weekend getaway.
The next time you want to go wine tasting without the crowds of Napa and Sonoma or crave a rejuvenating getaway, consider the Anderson Valley and Mendocino. This is just another hidden gem of California that hits all the right notes. Enjoy!