Somewhere just west of the little town of Mendocino lies the spot geologists like to call the “Triple Junction” where three tectonic plates deep in the earth’s crust converge and contend.
For the First Nation people who foraged freely along this rocky coast for roughly ten millenia it must have seemed to be the spot where, so they say, Abalone Woman, also called Changing Woman, fled the grasp of Eagle. They say she found sanctuary by facing westward, towards the source of a deep transformative power.
“Eagle came down the coast, so they say
He came down where she sat, facing west,
He whipped her with fire on the coast, they say
Then flew back to the ridge, so they say.
Then Eagle looked back, he looked west, they say
And saw whe was sitting there still.“
In 1860, when stagecoach service first connected San Francisco to the Mendocino Coast the trip was, so they say, a bumpy, dusty, unpleasant affair.
By 1878, when weekly ocean-going steamship service first linked the two cities by sea, visitors to Mendocino still had no wharf upon which to disembark.Women were hoisted down the side of the ship in a makeshift “chair” and men were forced to climb down the ship’s rigging in order to reach the shore. Today, the winding drive through Anderson Valley to the sea offers visitors these verdant vineyard views as the pass through the little town of Philo, the Greek word for love.
Boonville Hotel’s Table 128 is a roadhouse restaurant serving family-style prix fixe dinners on the weekends. Bounteous plates of Paella are also prepared here in the verdant courtyard on Sunday afternoons during the warmer months.
The little town of Mendocino was founded in 1850 as the site of a sawmill. At the time, old-growth redwood forests covered more than 2,000,000 acres of California. Today 96% of those forests are gone forever and the rest remaining strictly protected. This made it all the more remarkable when sometime around the turn of the last century a local doctor named Arky Ciancutti who lived by “Smuggler’s Cove” at the mouth of Big River, overheard some local bridge workers talking as he sat drinking at “Dick’s” a local bar.
The workers mentioned they were finding redwood remains in their drill bits as they plumbed the depths of the river. An avid arbopohile, Arky knew precisely what this meant. All through the following winter, using only a skiff and a winch, he salvaged several hand-sawed redwood logs, or “pumpkins” from where they had lain on the river bottom for well over a century. It was this precious redwood, with its deeply-grained and variegated hues of cinammon and nutmeg, that he used to build the Brewery Gulch Inn.
Behind the Inn lies this misty field where you can stand quietly and listen to the wind.
The Inn’s nightly dinner buffet includes vegetarian options and local wines like the reserve Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley’s Fathers+Daughters Cellars with its lovely aromas of bright, floral, red fruit, intriguing flavors of cherry jam, cola, and red currant, and long lingering mineral-tinged finish.
Bounteous breakfast options include omelettes made of local organic eggs served with seasonal berries, heirloom tomatoes, house-made pastries, and a wonderful mango Lassi enlivened by lime juice, calamansi, and cardamom.
Just a five minute drive down the road lies The Ravens , a world-class vegan restaurant at Stanford Inn. The produce here is sourced from the Inn’s own certified organic gardens that have been continuously tended on the site for well over a century.
A twenty minute drive up the coast, a few miles past the sleepy town of Fort Bragg, the Inn at Newport Ranch sits perched on a grassy bluff staring out at the vast Pacific.
The bluff where the Inn now sits was once the site of Newport, a small town and loading point for loggers that boasted a system of chutes and pulleys designed to hoist logs, cargo, and even travelers over the bluff and onto to the decks of waiting Doghole Schooners. But as Fort Bragg’s harbor to the south grew, so the little town of Newport dwindled, eventually disappearing altogether into the mists of history.
Today, vistors to the Inn have access to the entire stunning property. They are free to wander the seaside trails by day, celebrate the exquisite sunsets at dinner, and spend the evening sipping wine in a rooftop hot-tub gazing up at a universe of stars.
With its ancient redwood interiors, the Inn is a beautiful spot to host a wedding, group retreat, or any milestone event where an atmosphere of relaxation and reflection is desired.
Ten thousand years before Europeans ever set foot on this coast it was already a popular gathering spot for salt, mussels and abalone. Yuki people once called this mussel-gathering site Lilem, and their ancient middens, still full of mussel shells from bygone seaside feasts, still lie buried among the rocky outcroppings.
Today, the Inn provides visitors bounteous meals and snacks featuring seasonal local fruits and site-grown produce (rich in oceanside minerals) including Kale, squash, potatoes, peas, chard, arugula, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, and a variety of herbs and edible flowers culled from beautiful brimming garden boxes tended by the Inn’s talented gardener Felicia Brown.
Bay Area visitors looking for a few superlative bottles of wine to buy on the drive up (or to bring back home), should consider Anderson Valley’s Handley Cellars.