A North Coast Retreat

 


Along the north coast of California, just west of the little town of Mendocino, lies both the brink and birthplace of continents, a place geologists call the “Triple Junction”, where three tectonic plates in the earth converge and contend.

To those who dreamt the first dreams here it may well have been the spot where Abalone Woman, also called Changing Woman, fled the firm grasp of Eagle to sit, facing westward, towards the source of her deep and 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 he witnessed her sitting there still.

In 1860, when a stagecoach service first connected San Francisco and the Mendocino Coast, the trip was, so they say, a bumpy, dusty, cramped, and unpleasant trip.

By 1878, when a weekly steamship service linked the cities by sea, passengers still had no wharf upon which to disembark. Instead, women were hoisted via cable over the side of the ship in a suspended chair, while men climbed down the rigging to the shore.

Today, the lovely winding drive through Anderson Valley to the town of Mendocino boasts verdant vineyard views like this near the town of Philo, an old Greek word for love.

Boonville Hotel’s Table 128 is a roadhouse restaurant that serves up family-style prix fixe dinners Friday through Sunday. Exemplary Paella is prepared in their courtyard on Sunday afternoons during the warmer months.

When the town of Mendocino was founded in 1850 as the site of a sawmill, old-growth redwood forests still covered more than 2,000,000 acres of California. Today 96% of those forests were gone forever.

Around the the year 2000, doctor and arbophile Arky Ciancutti, overheard bridgeworkers drinking at “Dicks’ Bar talk about finding redwood in their drill bits as they worked in the depths of Big River. Over the following winter Arky was able to salvage several hand-sawed redwood logs, or “pumpkins” as they were called, from where they had lain for well over a century.

He  used the precious redwood with its deeply-grained and variegated hues of cinammon and nutmeg, to build the Brewery Gulch Inn which now sits perched on a bluff overlooking “Smuggler’s Cove”, just north of where Big River meets the sea.

Nestled between the rocky coast and this misty field where one can listen to the wind.

At the Inn’s nightly dinner buffet, owner Guy Pacurar offers guests a variety of fine local wines, including some extraordinary reserve Pinot Noir from his own Fathers+Daughters Cellars. This classic pinot, crafted with fruit from Anderson Valley’s storied Ferrington Vineyard, offers spicy-floral aromas, bright notes of red fruit and tobacco, and a long, lively finish.

 

Breakfast options at the Inn include omelettes of local organic eggs served with seasonal berries, heirloom tomatoes, house-made pastries, and a marvelous mango Lassi enlivened by lime juice, calamansi and cardamom.

Five minutes down the road lies the commodious Stanford Inn where visitors will find a world-class vegan restaurant called The Ravens.

The certified organic gardens that supply the restaurant have been tended here continuously for well over a century.

A twenty minute drive up the coast, just past the sleepy town of Fort Bragg, the Inn at Newport Ranch stares out from a grassy bluff at the vast Pacific.

With miles of hiking trails offering stunning seascapes, the Inn’s gracious staff are keen to maintain an atmosphere of solace and serenity. This makes the Inn an ideal spot for contemplation, conference, or conjugal celebrations.

The bluff where the Inn now sits was once the site of Newport, a tiny logging town with its own “port” , ie. a system of chutes and pulleys.

As Fort Bragg’s harbor to the south grew in size, the little port town faded in importance, eventually disappeareing into the mists of history.

History feels mistier here than in most places. Ten thousand years before Europeans set foot here it was a popular seasonal gathering site for salt , mussels abd abalone.

First nation people called the mussel-gathering site Lilem, and their ancient middens, full of the shells from those seaside feasts, are still found buried all along the rocky outcroppings.

Today, guests of the Inn enjoy fresh seafood sourced from Noyo Harbor’s Princess Seafood & Deli. Guests returning to San Francisco can have a whole fish cut, packed, and iced-up safely for passage back to their kitchen.

Meals at the Inn may feature site-grown kale, squash, potatoes, peas, chard, arugula, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, and a variety of herbs and edible flowers all culled from brimming garden boxes tended by talented gardener Felicia Brown.

 

For a stellar wine to buy on the drive up, or to take back home with you, consider Anderson Valley’s Handley Cellars. Their reserve Pinot Noir, sourced entirely from estate-grown organic-certified grapes, features aromas of cherry, plum, toast, and violets, notes of strawberry and cinnamon can be enjoyed on the palate, and the wine features that extraordinary combination of silky tannins and bright acidity so characteristic of Anderson Valley fruit.