Mendocino: Northern California’s crown jewel has a lot to offer

Make it to Mendocino 

Northern California’s crown jewel has a lot to offer.

By Alison Bailin Batz

Just two hours north of San Francisco, Mendocino County needs to be on your bucket list. The county’s 90 miles not only includes some of the most gorgeous coastline in the world, but more than 90 wineries and 24 state/national parklands. It’s the perfect marriage of wine, waves, and wilderness.


The Madrones is a Mediterranean-style estate complete with three on-site wine tasting rooms––Drew Family Cellars, Smith-Story Winery, and newly opened Long Meadow Ranch––as well as elegant guest accommodations, and a world class restaurant serving wood-fired cuisine, all in the heart of Mendocino’s Anderson Valley wine country. Open during the summer and fall, there’s a culinary kitchen garden that produces a good portion of the produced needed on the property. The cottage, which was the owner’s private residence for years, has been converted into various private and luxurious guest accommodations, each one named after its original purpose––The Living Room, The Kitchen, et al. While there, don’t miss the chance to taste chef Patrick Meany’s cuisine at Stone and Embers on property. His resume is impressive, including work at both Bouchon and Gary Danko and food is firing on all cylinders. His partner in the restaurant, Matt Barns, manages Three Dog Farm five miles down the road and grows most of the produce used by the restaurant himself, many of them unusual and esoteric.


Fun fact: Mendocino County has the most acreage of certified organic vineyards in the country. To give some perspective, the County has 11 distinct designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), and some pending designation. In comparison, Arizona––as in the entire state––has two. While the area has several varietals of note, cabernet, chardonnay, zinfandel, and pinot noir, fans will be especially pleased with the area. While it’s impossible to share all the wineries of note, here are some––in addition to those nestled into The Marones––to get you started on your first trip:

Balo Vineyards: Just across the highway from The Madrones, stop at Balo and taste through their elegant Pinots while testing your bocce ball skills.

Navarro Vineyards: Founded in 1974, family-run and –owned Navarro Vineyards has grown a reputation for Alsace varietals and approachable wines.

Frey Vineyards and Winery: Frey Vineyards was the first producer of biodynamic wine in the United States.

Toulouse Vineyard: This breathtaking vineyard boasts views of magnificent oak trees and towering redwoods.

Husch Vineyards Winery: It sits on a 60-acre ranch, and the tasting room is a converted pony barn from the early 1900s. It is covered in ivy and beautiful flowers – like a secret garden for wine tasting! The winery is also a certified wildlife habitat.

Roederer Estate: The best for bubbles. There’s a reason why Champagne Louis Roedered selected Anderson Valley for their West Coast facility. Learn why during your visit.

Phillips Hall Winery: The tasting room is a restored barn that is surrounded by apple trees.



If you are an outdoor enthusiast, Mendocino County is your Disneyland. Here is just a sampling of what’s in store:

  • Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens: Work up a thirst while touring one of the few botanical gardens located directly on prime Pacific Ocean frontage. Known for its spectacular displays of rhododendrons and dahlias, the garden delights in all four seasons. Bee Friendly Gardens and Sustainable Vegetable Gardening are a snapshot of the annual seminars held.
  • Bryan Preserve: Experience a rural landscape––not to mention the animals––of Africa without leaving the continent. Join the twice-daily tours to feed the rare African hoofstock—Rothschild Giraffe, Zebra, and Antelope—at B. Bryan Preserve. This remote outpost tucked into Point Arena along scenic Highway 1 also offers an eye-popping giraffe barn for offbeat events.
  • Pygmy Forest: From Jug Handle State Beach, step back through time as you hike the 2.5-mile self-guided nature trail called The Ecological Staircase, which explores five ocean terraces (each representing 100,000 years) that have been uplifted over time and have created this unique coastal range.
  • Glass Beach: An anomaly that is eye-popping, visitors can seek out sea glass on Fort Bragg’s unique trash-to-treasure state beach. Formerly the city dump, Glass Beach has evolved over tide and time polishing the glass from head- and tail-lights, jars, bottles, and more into tiny, colorful glass pebbles. Red and blue are the rarest!
  • Orr Hot Springs: Soak up some relaxation at this clothing-optional outpost nestled in the rolling hills near the town of Ukiah. The mineral waters flow through communal tubs, a cold pool, rooftop and private tubs. Simple lodgings are also offered as well as camping on site.
  • Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree: Size matters. Soaring at 315 feet high with a girth of 21 feet, this 2,000-year-old towering tree is a definite show stopper. Cut in the late 1930s as a tourist attraction, the Chandelier Tree seems to defy nature, allowing autos a smooth passage through its center.

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