Head out from the Inn to 1) Catch A Canoe where the experienced staff will find a canoe or kayak to fit your interest and skill level. As you head up the Big River (being sure to stay along the left bank to catch the upriver eddys), you’ll pass several of the 27 wooden dams that were constructed to capture the mammoth redwood logs floated down the river during the logging boom of the 1800s. Keep your eyes open along the way for river otters, deer and harbor seals that make themselves at home along this waterway.
Once back at the dock, head on over to 2) Mendocino Market on Ukiah Street and pick up some organic gourmet picnic snacks hand-prepared by owner Jeff and his staff.
Take your snacks and a split of Mendocino County wine and drive 2 miles up the coast to 3) Russian Gulch State Park where you’ll find a blow hole created by a collapsed sea cave; and a beach that offers swimming, tide pool exploring and rock fishing. But it’s the heavily forested Russian Gulch Creek Canyon, with its 2 ¼ mile trail to the Russian Gulch Falls, that is the real draw. The trail is nearly flat for the first mile and a half as it skirts the river and winds up at a group of picnic tables deep in the forest. From that point, you climb by trail, wooden steps and footbridges to the 36-foot high falls which seem to run, undiminished, even in drought years.
Once back at the car, head over to the inn in time for the wine hour and Chef Rick Anderson’s amazing hors d’oeuvres. Depending on your energy level, the balance of your evening may either be spent watching one of BGI’s 400+ DVDs, or listening to live music at the 4) Caspar Inn or 5) Headlands Coffee House.
Day 2: Today you discover why Mendocino County, and the Anderson Valley in particular, is being touted as the next great wine region. But first, before heading out, indulge in a breakfast that includes BGI’s Eggs Benedict featuring our housemade English muffins and some whipped Belgian hot chocolate.
Be sure to leave the inn by 9:45 a.m. because your first stop on your wine odyessy is 1) Navarro Vineyards, a family-owned winery that has been growing grapes and producing amazing wines in the Anderson Valley since 1974. The highlight of your stop at Navarro is the vineyard tour, which begins at 10:30 a.m., lasts about an hour and takes you through the entire winemaking process from grape-growing to bottling. There is a second tour at 3:30 p.m., reservations are required for both.
After the tour and a stop in Navarro’s tasting room, it is off to 2) Libby’s in Philo where they are justly famous for their fresh salsa and chips, enormous burritos and carnitas.
Once your food stores have been replenished, you’ll head over to one of the oldest vineyards in the Anderson Valley, 3) Lazy Creek. Look for the brightly painted red and white sign marking the entrance to historic winery. Once you’ve made the turn, you’ll drive through woods and over streams for almost a mile before arriving at a collection of weathered wood buildings and barns. Just how good are LCV’s cool-climate pinots, chardonnays and gewurtztraminers? Good enough to be a featured wine of Dean and Deluca, and good enough to prompt Dry Creek’s Ferrari-Carano winery to acquire the vineyard last year.
From Lazy Creek, it’s just a short drive down Highway 128 and 2 miles up Holmes Ranch Road to one of the most intriguing wineries in the valley, 4) Esterlina. Actually, Esterlina is ABOVE the valley and that is part of its charm. For your tasting, you will be seated on their outdoor deck with a panoramic view out across the Anderson Valley. You’ll swear you are in Tuscany. Generous pours of some amazing reds and whites (some from their Cole Ranch appellation, the smallest appellation in the United States) and a personal, intimate tasting makes a visit to Esterlina memorable.
After this stressful day of sampling world-class wines, it’s time to wind down before hitting the light dinner buffet back at the inn. The best place to catch a little music and take in a North Coast sunset? 5) Ledford House, just 6 miles south of the inn on Highway 1, is a French country restaurant and bar is perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Relax in their lounge and gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows at churning ocean while a local jazz trio plays selections in the background.
Day 3: Today is a day to recognize and celebrate the beauty of coastal Mendocino. After a light breakfast of fresh-squeezed juice, and a yogurt and Vanilla parfait, head up the Highway 1 to 1) Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Stretching from Highway 1 to the Pacific, this 47 acre site has been delighting visitors for more than 40 years. Perennial gardens of texture and color are joined by a heritage rose garden, a heather garden, a dahlia garden, a fern canyon and wild coastal bluffs. Throughout the area, the Garden’s signature rhododendrons are ever-present. In addition to the diverse flora, the Gardens play host to a variety of wildlife including deer, rabbits, osprey, California quail and numerous other creatures.
After wandering through this coastal Eden, head up the road to 2) Noyo Harbor. This picturesque fishing village along the Noyo River is easily recognized from its supporting role in numerous movies shot in the area. You’ll be heading down to 3) Herons By The Sea. Located at the harbor entrance, Herons is the perfect spot to enjoy some great coastal cuisine while watching the fishing boats and Coast Guard vessels heading in and out of the harbor. If the weather is nice, sit out at an umbrella-covered table on the deck overlooking the harbor.
Following lunch, head up to 4) Lari Shea’s Ricochet Ridge Ranch for a 1.5 hour horseback ride along the ocean. Outside Magazine’s choice as one of the top 25 trips of a lifetime, a ride along the Mendocino Coast is the perfect cap to your three perfect days.
Fortunately, you’ve planned ahead and you arrive back a BGI in time for your scheduled hot stone massage. After your relaxing treatment and a light sampling of BGI’s wine and hors d’oeuvres, head over to Mendocino’s renowned California French restaurant, 5) Café Beaujolais and partake of their homemade breads and their innovative cuisine. Mmmmmm, what a day...
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