If we had just two days to spend in this area, we would probably repeat the two days that sealed our relationship...
Day 1 -- THE MENDOCINO COAST
Start your day out with Kayak Mendocino and explore the sea caves off of Van Damme Beach. Don't worry, you are completely outfitted with a wet suit, spray jacket and booties. You can choose either a tandem kayak, or individual ones. Our relationship survived the tandem kayak, although my helmet came in handy. The cost is $ 60.00 per person, cash or check accepted. The inn can make the reservation for you.
After you've worked up a good appetite, head over to Cafe Beaujolais for a romantic lunch in one of Mendocino's restored historic cottages.
Following lunch, we enjoy strolling through the 47 acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. It doesn't matter the season, these gardens are beautiful at any time of the year. the 1.5 mile stroll takes you through the gardens out to the coastal bluffs. The gardens are located 8.5 miles north of the inn and the inn can arrange for discounted admission.
We have found that there is no better way to end a day on the Mendocino Coast than a visit to Pacific Star Winery. This winery is located on the bluffs overlooking the ocean about 20 minutes north of Fort Bragg. The view south down the coast line takes in 10 mile beach and on a clear day, the view stretches for 60 miles. When sunset occurs before 5:00p, it is a beautiful spot to enjoy the sunset with a glass of their Cal-Italian style wines. And a bonus during whale migration season (December through April), for some reason, the whales seem to pass closest to the coast just off shore of Pacific Star.
Then dine back at the inn at 5:30 and relax.
Day 2 -- THE ANDERSON VALLEY
Head out after breakfast to Baxter Winery. Located high up on the Mendocino Ridge, it is in this off-the-beaten path location that Phil Baxter crafts his noteworthy Burgundian-style pinots. Phil is an enthusiastic, engaging winemaker. His facility is very old school. It is an experience not to be missed. Visiting Phil and Baxter Winery requires advance notice and is dependent upon Phil's schedule. There is a flat tasting fee of $ 40.00 per person. As this is a barrel tasting, there is no accompanying food pairing.
From Baxter, we like to stop off at Stone & Embers in the town of Philo. The creation of Chef Patrick Meany (whose pedigree includes Gary Danko's and Thomas Keller's Bouchon), the creative offerings at Stone & Embers include wood-fired pizzas, housemade breads and a variety of selections all prepared in the wood-fired oven. A nice selection of Anderson Valley wines can be paired with your choices and not to be missed are the housemade ice cream selections. Hours, generally, are Friday through Monday, 11:30a - 8:30p.
Just next door to Stone & Embers is Goldeneye Winery, a part of the Duckhorn family. We particularly like this tasting as it is conducted on their brick patio behind the tasting room and your view is out over the rolling vineyards. The wines are excellent. A small tasting fee, waived with purchase, is charged.
No trip to the Valley is complete without a visit to the easily-missed Stoney Bottom Gardens. Located just 1 mile before the town of Boonville, Walt Valen, the former Executive Director of the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, and his wife, Ginger, took an abandoned parcel of land and over the years, transformed it into a magical botanical journey. The inn can check for your desired visiting time. There is a small charge for admission.
Then we generally wrap up the day with a stop for dinner at our go-to restraurant, The Ledford House. Located 6 miles south of the inn in Albion, the Ledford House features French Provencal cuisine, housemade breads, an amazing bartender, a jazz duo playing nightly and drop-dead ocean views (there is no better place to enjoy a sunset cocktail). The Ledford House is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.