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Mendocino County 411


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A buddy of mine is in San Francisco for work; Thursday his 21-year-old duaghter flies out to join him and they are headed to Mendocino County for the long weekend. I had no answers to his request for guidance, but thought the kind folks on the California Board might be able to give him some answers.

He likes all good food, from cruddy to elegant, and I think would be delighted to find a locals 'hangout that serves good -- I don't know, whatever it is the locals eat in Mendocino County that we don't eat in DC, plus a spot to get two eggs over easy and a side of hash browns -- and a reservations and tablecloths place.

Wineries -- I think he'd be happier with a less-known spot where the tasting room doesn't look like a subway station at rush hour. Some place with good honest reasonably-priced wines (OK, who doesn't want that) and preferably, again, someplace that is unknown or overlooked back east.

B&B -- on the scale of elegant to funky, probably more funky. And, in the trade-offs made in keeping the price reasonable, he's probably more likely to be impressed by a nice view, a good cafe within walking distance or friendly proprietors who know their way around the county than by Jacuzzies, Stickley furniture or a proprietor who was once concierge at a Relaise and Chateu property and hand-warms the towells before evey shower.

Thank you for your help.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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A buddy of mine is in San Francisco for work; Thursday his 21-year-old duaghter flies out to join him and they are headed to Mendocino County for the long weekend.  I had no answers to his request for guidance, but thought the kind folks on the California Board might be able to give him some answers.

He likes all good food, from cruddy to elegant, and I think would be delighted to find a locals 'hangout that serves good -- I don't know, whatever it is the locals eat in Mendocino County that we don't eat in DC, plus a spot to get two eggs over easy and a side of hash browns -- and a reservations and tablecloths place.

Wineries -- I think he'd be happier with a less-known spot where the tasting room doesn't look like a subway station at rush hour.  Some place with good honest reasonably-priced wines (OK, who doesn't want that) and preferably, again, someplace that is unknown or overlooked back east.

B&B -- on the scale of elegant to funky, probably more funky.  And, in the trade-offs made in keeping the price reasonable,  he's probably more likely to be impressed by a nice view, a good cafe within walking distance or friendly proprietors who know their way around the county than by Jacuzzies, Stickley furniture or a proprietor who was once concierge at a Relaise and Chateu property and hand-warms the towells before evey shower. 

Thank you for your help.

Check out the town of Mendocino other wise it's loggers and pot growers. :laugh::laugh: or Anderson Valley for wine. :laugh:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I spent a few days in Mendocino last summer. My general feeling was that as far as food is concerned, I was quite uninterested. There is this one place that locals rave about called Cafe Beaujolais which I thought was not that great.

The only positive memory I have of my stay is when my wife and I decided to drive down to the Anderson valley for the day. You will find great wineries there if you know where to go. My favorite was a visit of a little winery called Londer Vineyards. It is not on the main strip so nobody stops there. You can go there by appointment only, Dr Londer has no tasting room so you taste his wine in his own kitchen!!! He makes one of the greatest pinots i've ever had, he will give you a private tour of his estate, and he KNOWS his wine.

There is nothing greater than discussing a particularly great wine with the person who actually made it.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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Whereabouts in Mendocino County? The coast? Ukiah? Boonville?

If the coast, I was about to recommend "Rachel's Inn", 2 miles south of Mendocino for accommodations, but I find that it's been sold and is now part of something called "Auberge Mendocino" - rooms still look good and I can recommend the clawfoot tub in the Colombard room.

Auberge Mendocino

When it was Rachel's Inn, Rachel provided a breakfast that would keep a truck driver happy for most of the day. Apparently there's a chef now who specializes in Atkins style meals.

Restaurants within walking distance are Little River Inn and the Restaurant at Stevenswood Lodge. I was once at a Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Little River Inn and found myself seated across from Cammie King, who portrayed Bonnie Blue Butler in "Gone With The Wind".

Dick's Bar in Mendocino serves up a great bloody mary. Cafe Beaujolais is uneven but can be good on occasion. Right before Fort Bragg is Noyo Harbor, home to a number of seafood restaurants. Saw Julia Roberts shooting part of a movie in this area years ago - some piece of junk that also featured Campbell Scott.

Wine? I prefer Roederer Estate sparkling wine in Anderson Valley on Hwy. 128.

Edited by cmvnapa (log)
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Here's a link to a discussion we had last summer: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=54697 To paraphrase Russ Parsons, this is not someplace you go for great food. It's a slow time up there, so all of the B&B's will have discounted rooms. The coastline is gorgeous up there; I'd suggest going to one of the parks a few miles from town & taking a walk in the redwoods. (We had a lot of rain this week, so a lot of the trails will be pretty muddy.) Also, surrounding the town itself is a blufftop walk and a pretty beach, both accessible from the Main Street of town. None of those wineries are too crowded, and the road they are all along (128) is a pretty drive along a river with redwood trees.

A winery that fits your description is Navarro: http://www.navarrowine.com/main.php (You can only buy their wine at the winery.)

Edited by marie-louise (log)
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Another fun winery in the Anderson Valley is Esterlina Vineyards. They are also appointment only. Wine is good (not great), but the view is SPECTACULAR!!!

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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A winery that fits your description is Navarro: http://www.navarrowine.com/main.php (You can only buy their wine at the winery.)

I would personally skip Navarro. I was quite unimpressed with their wines and relatively speaking, Navarro is one of the "most popular" wineries in the area. However, the winery does have a nice deck overseeing the vineyard, where people can sit down and eat for a "picnic" type of lunch.

In addition to Londer Vineyards, I would recommend Roederer Estate for their sparkling wines. It is more “commercial” but they make good stuff. It is important to note though that Pinot Noir is the main grape being grown in the region so this what you should shoot for. You’ll be amazed with what you can find.

The valley also has beautiful apple orchards, the most noteworthy being The Apple Farm which is partially ran by Don and Sally Schmitt, the former owners of the French Laundry in Napa. January would not be a great time to visit but I would recommend anyone to stop by in the summer or the fall. The farm is absolutely beautiful.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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i'm heading back up at the end of the month. let me clarify what i meant to say about eating in mendocino: it's not a place you go for GREAT food. there's not french laundry, or even someplace like the farmhouse in sonoma. but i do think the average restaurant is pretty good if you order simply. i'd make a point to stop in noyo harbor and get some dungeness crab. and mendo bistro is pretty good, too. there's this one guy who seems to do all the wine lists in the area and he's great. i can always find good stuff to drink.

as far as tastings, i second/third/whatever roederer. they are terrific and i think they make the best sparkling wine in california. i also like to visit milla handley.

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Your friend may be a week early for the Crab & Wine Days festival (Jan 21-30) but should still be able to get some great Dungeness. Here is a Mendocino web site with lots of info.

As to the Anderson Valley (nice article from the SF Chronicle), it's lovely and quiet, I think just about any winery your friends visit will be enjoyable. Anderson Valley is especially noted for Pinot Noir and sparkling wines. I like Handley, mostly because I attended a winemaker dinner last year that featured their wines and Milla Handley tells a very interesting story on how she has taken over the winery her father started. Their wines are subtle and charming.

Pamela Fanstill aka "PamelaF"
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Keep in mind when reading replies on any thread about "Mendocino" that some people are responding about specific parts of it and may not realize how ambiguous and diverse are the meanings of "Mendocino." The town of Mendocino on the coast is sharply distinct in many ways from the coastal hills and interior valleys. Many people who know the region think well of the Anderson Valley, one of the important subregions, stretching from the interior to the coast.

Here's something I posted elsewhere in 2003 about that.

If you travel from Sonoma County to the Mendo Coast via Hwy 128 (Cloverdale to Navarro via Boonville and Philo) you are seeing the Anderson Valley, a gem of a micro-region and mercifully uncrowded (like the whole North Coast was just a couple decades ago). That valley includes several quiet but accompished wineries, I'll mention specifically Roederer Estate (which did as much as anyone to elevate the California sparkling wine industry, under the guidance of outgoing founding director Michel Salgues) and next to it, the tiny and very friendly Lazy Creek Vineyards, which manages to sell out all of its highly personal Pinots Noirs (Chandler family, lazycreekvineyards.com, 707 895 3623, call before you go, they even have a guest house though it may not be advertised).

En route, if possible, stay at the Boonville Hotel, 707 895 2210, very classic country inn, seven rooms upstairs plus cottage, I've stayed in all of them over the years, some have big tubs (#1 2 3 5 7), #3? has a skylight; but the dining downstairs is famous, again simple, fresh, casual, very interesting, excellent wine list or you are encouraged to visit any of the 20 or 30 local wineries and bring in your own. Ownership of the Boonville Hotel includes the Schmitt family, regionally famous in the food world, previous owners of the French Laundry in Yountville.

When the Boonville's restaurant is closed (or even if not) there is a charming friendly inventive casual restaurant down the street 100 yards or so, Lauren's, she was former innkeeper at the Boonville, and staff and other locals eat there. Sorry their menus are elsewhere right now or I would quote, but I had recently a glorious hamburger with caramelized onions and other garnishes and some of the best French fries I've experienced, good enough to make French people set up and take notice (they did, Salgues from Roederer estate and some French guests, that's what they ordered that day).

The town of Mendocino on the coast is enough atypical of the county to make it important in discussions about "Mendocino" whether the county or, as many casual or weekend visitors assume instead, the specific town is under discussion. Hey, I almost forgot Hopland! On 101 south of Ukiah (the county seat) and site of several food-and-drink institutions including the home of the Mendocino Brewing Company at the old Hopland Brewery -- the first of what became many brewpubs in California after the law was changed, and creators of Red Tail Ale, which for its first several years was available only at the brewery, in 52-ounce crown-cap bottles.

-- MaxH

Edited by MaxH (log)
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  • 2 years later...

Some maybe good, maybe bad, news about the Boonville Hotel:

Piece of history

Johnny Schmitt, chef-proprietor for the last 20 years of the Boonville Hotel in Mendocino County, is looking for a loving buyer for the historic restaurant and inn...Meanwhile, he's in no hurry to sell the property. "It's always been a part of the community,'' he says. "I want to sell it to someone who loves food, farming and the area.''

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Johnny Schmitt, chef-proprietor for the last 20 years of the Boonville Hotel in Mendocino County, is looking for a loving buyer ... "It's always been a part of the community,'' he says. "I want to sell it to someone who loves food, farming and the area.''

So that's public now (it's been brewing for many months). I talked to Johnny there a few weeks back (not about that) during the Pinot Noir conference.

Lauren's Café (yellow frontage, 100 yards east of the hotel and across the road) is doing fine, continuing to serve inventive satisfying food and sometimes local live music. (Lauren's has complementary closing days to the hotel's restaurant -- if I remember, Lauren's closes Sundays and Mondays, the hotel kitchen Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) Some months ago a pub opened opposite the hotel, the "Highpockety Ox," in the former brewery site (and still called by locals "the brewery"). In my visits late last year the new place was still finding its stride.

The Boonville-Philo area continues to resemble the old wine-producing areas before they were tourist meccas with Gift Shops and mudbaths. The land is now as expensive as elsewhere in the Bay Area and "wine country." The region remains unavoidably isolated ("three hours from anywhere" is a local phrase) and folks there grumble about things -- limited economy, not ideal area for raising children. Still, the valley's grapes produce remarkable, serious Pinots Noirs and other wines, and in increasing numbers. (The local crusty veterinarian who formerly complained in the hotel's bar Friday nights, loudly, about clueless out-of-towners buying vineyard land and screwing it up has lately decamped for remoter territory, maybe from exasperation.)

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i really love this area. i spent more than a week up there last year doing a piece on the wine regions (note the plural max--you're exactly right) and had a wonderful time. johnny bailing on the hotel would be a blow, though, because that's the one place in Anderson Valley to get seriously good food.

eta: looking back over the thread, i was really struck by the negative comments for cafe beaujolais and especially for navarro. i try to have a meal at beaujolais every time i'm in mendocino. again, it's not french laundry, but it's a very good restaurant. and as far as navarro is concerned, their white wines in particular are outstanding and at remarkably good prices. their chenin blanc is my summer house white. their pinot "ancienne" is always really good, too, at less than $30 a bottle, iirc.

of course, there are other great wineries up there as well. though the big noise comes from pinot, and they are very good, i especially like the whites from mendo, because they're usually vinified very cleanly, with little oak, and because they usually have terrific grip: high acidity and mouth-filling fruit. terrific gewurtz, chenin, sauvignon blanc, viognier.

Edited by russ parsons (log)
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In response to all of the "not a french laundry" The Schmidt's of the Boonville Hotel were the ones to turn the French Laundry into a destination before it was bought by Thomas Keller.

Screw wine, go to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company for some beer.

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In response to all of the "not a french laundry"  The Schmidt's of the Boonville Hotel were the ones to turn the French Laundry into a destination before it was bought by Thomas Keller.

well, it was certainly a good restaurant when Don and Sally had it, but it was absolutely nothing like what it is now.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Well, the Boonville Hotel has suffered from inattention and high prices/bad service for a long time. We stopped going there a couple of years ago after having unremarkable and pricey meals. We are hoping the new owners give it more attention and lose the attitude.

Anderson Valley needs a great restaurant. There are some good casual options available (Libby's Mexican is out of this world!, and the Boonville General Store has awesome food), but we could use a finer dining option.

Also we went to Cafe Beaujolais a few months ago and it was very, very good. There were new owners who comped desert as an opening courtesy. Their wine list is also phenomenal Low markups, if they are even above retail.

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Well, the Boonville Hotel has suffered from inattention and high prices/bad service for a long time. We stopped going there a couple of years ago after having unremarkable and pricey meals.

Anderson Valley needs a great restaurant. ...

Very sorry to read of your experience at the Boonville Hotel. That is not typical of the impression I and others have received in recent years (I've been there three times in recent months, more in the last two years). I believe that many experienced people would dispute those comments as general characterizations of the establishment.

Also, if you are unfamiliar with Lauren's Café, a local favorite in recent years, it's not something to miss. Creative, offbeat, and/or comfort-foody specialties, moderate prices. I believe most people would find both places well worthwhile. A strength of the Boonville area is that it is not the tourist zoo that the coastal town of Mendocino became, years ago. (If Carmel can successfully pass a moratorium on new art galleries, then why can't Mendocino?)

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What is a general characterization if not a true comment? As locals, it is the feeling we have. We've been there many times. It is disappointing as it's a great space and has so much potential. Just hoping the next owners put a little more heart into it.

Lauren's is great. We love the diversity of the menu. Her corn cakes are wonderful!

Yes, the entire Anderson Valley is fantastic because it's not crazy busy like Mendocino, Napa or Sonoma. It is still sort of undiscovered and easy to manage. Yet there are so many great wineries to visit. And new ones opening up seemingly every day. Been to Harmonique or Standish or Lazy Creek? Each one unique with just killer wines.

Anderson Valley is the best place to visit for wines. It just needs a great destination restaurant.

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