Mendocino, CA – The Welge Report

 

 

Hello Fellow Travelers:

Welcome to our world of business information, museums, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, good eating and fine wines.  This newsletter provides you with The Welge Report for Mendocino .

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Recognition:  We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides.  In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.

 

Mendocino

 

Birding Opps:  Info for our birding friends.  In and near Mendocino you can see these species: Black Oystercatcher, Gray Jay, Pacific Loon, Surf Scoter, Great Blue Heron and Brandt’s Cormorant.

The Mendocino Coast Audubon Society (mendocinocoastaudubon.org) lists many of our favorite places and what species you might sight.

 Mendocino Fun (mendocinofun.com/birding/) – the name says it all.  It focuses on Bird Watching at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, another favorite.

Fort Brag (fortbragg.com), nearby Mendocino, shows past, present and future birding events for the area.

Grape Experience – The Mendocino and Anderson Valley area are home to many top flight vineyards, especially Pinot Noir’s.

We enjoy tasting many of them at Winesong!, a benefit wine auction held on the first Saturday in September at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens.

Shopping: Everywhere you go in Mendocino there are shops, boutiques, stores and galleries to tempt your indulgence.  The primary attraction in Mendocino is the art.

Transportation: (You need a car for this trip)

Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) – Your connection to more than 500 stations in 46 states. For online information and train schedules visit www.amtrak.com or call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245)

Day One:  We arrived from Philadelphia at San Francisco Airport and headed for the car rental area to pick up our transportation.  The journey from San Francisco to Mendocino is an important part of the experience.

There are a couple of different routes that you can take.  Our favorite is to get on Route 101 and go through the city, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and follow 101 to Cloverdale.

It’s an interesting scenic drive that must be described as American.  Marin County offers shopping centers and bay views plus a coastal desert.

Santa Rosa offers heavy traffic and 6 or 7 exits.  If you need a stop we suggest an easy on and off at Healdsburg.  When we started going this way Healdsburg was a dirt ball town with a couple of gas stations and a liquor/wine store called the Tip Top.

Now it’s been gentrified to the point just short of looking like St. Helena.

Continue on 101 to Cloverdale where you will see the largest stack of redwood logs that you have ever seen.  Keep in mind that somehow the redwood logs had to get there, so be on the lookout for logging trucks.

The only reason to stop in Cloverdale is to see Cousin Andy whom we met on a Grand Circle Eastern European River Cruise – See the The Welge Report for Budapest, Prague, Berlin and The Danube.

Within a mile or two on SR 128 you begin climbing into a beautiful landscape and a challenging road that’s really fun to drive.  Every turn seems to introduce a different micro-climate that could be a wine makers friend or nightmare.

Depending on the time of year you’re here you might want to stop in Boonville.  Boonville is best known as the source of the Boontling folk language.

Bottles from the local Anderson Valley Brewing Company are labeled with the motto “It’s bahl hornin”, which means “it’s good drinkin” in Boontling.

An Alsatian Varietals Wine Festival is held at the fairgrounds each February. In early spring (April or May), the annual Legendary Boonville Beer Festival is held at the fairgrounds, featuring beers from about 50 craft breweries.

A Pinot Noir Festival is held in May. In July, the Wool-growers’ Barbecue and Sheepdog Trials is held at the fairgrounds.

Boonville hosts the annual Mendocino County Fair with a rodeo and sheepdog herding trials in September. Boonville also hosts the long-running Sierra Nevada World Music Festival every summer solstice weekend in June.

Continuing along Rte. 128 you will pass through Philo and Navarro sighting many Anderson Valley wineries.  I understand there isn’t any bad wine but wine is personal.

Some of the Anderson Valley wineries that we have visited over the years include:  Greenwood Ridge, Toulouse, Goldeneye, Esterlina, Roederer Estate and Claudia Springs.

And then SR 128 meets Rte 1 near the mouth of the Navarro River at the Pacific Ocean.  Along Rte 1 going toward Mendocino there are several charming areas and B & B’s.

One place you need to visit and walk to see the headlands is the Van Damme State Park in Little River.

Here you’ll see small deer, huge Star Blue Jays and one of the most spectacular ocean views ever, complete with sea lions and many other aquatic creatures.

We have been using Airbnb for lodging  staarting in Mendocino.   Here’s our view.

After dropping our bags we made a visit to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens – Daily: Mar-Oct: 9-5, Nov-Mar: 9-4, 18220 North Highway One, Fort Bragg, 707-964-4352

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens offer everything from colorful displays to thunderous waves.

The mild maritime climate makes it a garden for all seasons, attracting gardeners and nature lovers.

These manicured formal gardens feature a dense coastal pine forest, native flora and habitats, fern-covered canyons, camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias, dahlias, conifers, heaths and heathers, and flower-filled coastal bluffs overlooking the blue ocean.

The garden is a jewel on the Pacific Coast.

Lunch today is at Heron’s by the Sea – B,L,D: Daily, 32100 N Harbor Dr, Fort Bragg, 707- 962-0680                                                                                   

Located in Noyo Harbor, it was formerly known as Sharon’s and before that Karen’s.  You’ll find a table on the dock that might be occupied by a gull.

You can watch the fishing boats come in and unload their catch.  Heron’s menu has become upscale, but you can still enjoy the beer-battered seafood, crab cakes, cioppino and linguini con le vongole (new).

They have an interesting local wine list.  We enjoyed a bottle of Husch Chardonnay.

After lunch we headed to Ft. Bragg to see Partners Gallery where our former Inn keeper Rachel is a Partner.  Nice gallery!

When we visited they were having a sidewalk sale.  Dee bought a necklace that Rachel had made, and we had some fun reminiscing.

In Rachel’s words:  ”I’m currently exploring dimension with my collage paintings and am influenced by textural surfaces found in environmental forms.  These new collages are created by folding, manipulating and gluing archival papers to canvases and panels.

This work includes non-representational pieces which, in technique, were influenced by the work of my once teacher and dear friend, the late Mendocino artist N’ima Leveton and by the color relationships expressed by the Italian painter, Giorgio Morandi.”

Rachel has designed a series of these collages commemorating the 9-11-01 Twin Towers event,  two of them are shown on the left below.

Make time for a special visit to the Mendocino Art Center  - Daily 10-5, 45200 Little Lake Street, 707-937-5818

Mendocino was a former mill town fallen on hard times when Bill and Jennie Zacha arrived in the 1950′s. By 1959, with the help of many friends, artists, and townspeople the Zachas’ dream of developing an art center became reality.

The Art Center was established on the grounds of the former Preston mansion which was featured in the James Dean movie East of Eden.

When the mansion burned to the ground in 1957, Bill Zacha acquired the entire park-like property with a $500 deposit.

By 1959 the remaining carriage house had been converted to the nucleus of the Art Center, while other outbuildings and animal sheds became the first studios.

During the ensuing years the history of the Art Center and Mendocino village became closely entwined.

The Art Center became the focal point of a thriving art colony which revitalized the nearly abandoned town. Today Mendocino and the Art Center are a world-renowned haven for artists in all media.

On our recent visit the Mendocino Art Center was having a judged art exhibit.  Most of the artists were at the center which made for an interesting experience.

As a matter of fact the art was so interesting that we bought a piece from this prize winning artist.

Dinner is at the Cafe Beaujolais – L: W-Su, D: Nightly, 961 Ukiah St, 707-937-5614

 

Your appetizer is the fried Brussels sprouts with manchego or the Dungeness crab cakes with crispy noodles.

Your main is the pan roasted sturgeon filet with tagliatelle and wild mushrooms or the Petaluma duck with spatzle and greens.

Your wine is the ’11 Black Kite Pinot Noir and dessert is huckleberry brioche bread pudding.

Day Two: Breakfast is at the GoodLife Café & Bakery where we had coffee and shared a chedder, spinach, mushroom pastry.

 

 

We sat at the window for excellent people watching.  In addition to the art community Mendocino is home to the 1970’s cultural oddities.

After breakfast we suggest a walk about Mendocino discovering their wonderful shops and breathtaking views.

From there we went back to the Mendocino Café for lunch.

Dee had blackened rock fish with aioli and jasmine rice.  Dick had the pasta Florentine with grilled chicken.

We enjoyed the Murphy Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zin.  Not a fancy place but really good food and service.  Very busy with locals.

After a break we toured the Highlight Gallery – 45052 Main St, Mendocino, 707-937-3132

The Highlight Gallery is filled with the finest handcrafted wood furniture, paintings, bronze, wood and wire sculpture, ocean sand-paintings, fine craft and quality handcrafted wood art of every kind – and much of it made locally/regionally – all of it made in the USA.

Here we met an amazing water colorist from Eureka, Alan Sanborn, who told us the most difficult part creating a landscape watercolor was the sky.  Another lady artist joined in who exhibited at the 1st Annual Mendocino Paint Out at the Art Center was oohing and aahing over his watercolors.

We hung out there for a while talking with a gallery owner and learning about jack rabbits.  This conversation began because they had a jack rabbit sculpture for sale that I had asked about.  We are patrons of the Highlight Gallery.

One of our favorite places for dinner is the Little River Inn - 7901 California 1 Little River, 707-937-5942

How’s that for a dining room view?  Start with the Asian Calmari Salad – Asian vegetable sesame slaw tossed with flash fried calamari and sweet chile sauce or the Gulf Shrimp Salad – romaine hearts, tomato, parmesan and tarragon vinaigrette.

For your entrée try the Sole Amandine -  pan seared sole with gulf shrimp, almonds and brown butter sauce, toasted orzo pilaf and sugar snap peas or the Pork  “Osso Bucco” Confit – slow braised pork shank over soft polenta with fennel marinara sauce, roasted garlic red chile broccolini and parmesan.

We brought a bottle of Roederer Pinot Noir from The Wine Shop.  Mark Friedrich, the owner, has an agreement with Little River that eliminates the corkage fee.

And for dessert it’s the Warm Olallieberry Cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

Day Three:  Breakfast is at MacCallum House – B, D: Daily, 45020 Albion St, 707-937-0289

Here you have lots of wonderful choices.   We try and choose either the red plate special with two eggs, griddled red potatoes, sourdough toast, a choice of smoked chicken apple sausage, house made pork sausage or Roundman’s apple and alderwood smoked bacon, or lupe’s breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, sausage, white cheddar, roasted red bell peppers, cilantro sour cream, hand rolled tortilla, guacamole and salsa.

Fortified by this wonderful breakfast we off for an adventure with Kayak Mendocino – Tours daily at 9, 11:30 and 2, Van Damme State Park, 707-937-0700

 

These are professionally guided sea cave tours.  They provide everything.  Don’t miss this!

In a bit of a twist  we have 2 dining choices for your last repast in the Mendocino area.  In no particular order other than the luck of the draw we suggest the current hotie – Wildfish – 7750NHwy 1, Little River, 707-937-3055

This is a small restaurant in the old Post Office in Little River.

Start with the kale Caesar with prawns or the clam chowder.

For your main they have many choices from the sea including a sea bass with bok choy, shitake mushrooms and sticky rice or a Pekin duck with fingerling potatoes, squash and carrots.

We enjoyed a local ’09 Phillips Hill Boontling Pinot Noir.

 

Our other choice is the Albion River Inn – D: Nightly, 3790 N Hgwy 1, Albion, 707-937-1919

We have dined here several times once seeing a pod of whales from our corner table (seen above).

A good starter is the Point Reyes blue cheese salad tossed in raspberry vinaigrette with apples and fried leeks or perhaps the Dungeness Thai style crab cakes with tossed greens and a spicy coconut-curry sauce for dipping.

For your main it’s the grilled king salmon with toasted orzo and asparagus or the lime and ginger grilled prawns with Jasmine rice and caramelized beets.

We enjoyed the ’06 Toulouse Pinot Noir.

 

Until next time, best wishes and safe travels,

Dick & Dee Welge

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