Somewhere just west of the little town of Mendocino lies the spot geologists call the “Triple Junction”, where three tectonic plates deep in the earth’s crust converge and contend.
For First Nation people who foraged along this rocky coast for roughly ten millenia, it must have seemed the spot where Abalone Woman, also called Changing Woman, came to escape the clutch of Eagle and find her sanctuary 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 she was sitting there still.“
In 1860, when stagecoach service first connected San Francisco to the Mendocino Coast the trip was a bumpy, dusty, and unpleasant affair.
By 1878, when weekly ocean-going steamship service linked the two cities by sea, visitors still had no wharf upon which to disembark.Women were hoisted down the side of the ship in a makeshift “chair” while men were forced to climb down the ship’s rigging to reach the shore. Today, the winding drive through Anderson Valley to the sea offers visitors verdant vineyard views as they 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. Paella is also prepared and served in the 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 and the rest remaining strictly protected. 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, heard a few local bridge workers talking as they sat drinking together at “Dick’s” a local bar.
The workers mentioned they had been finding redwood remains in their drill bits as they dug into the depths of the river. Acting on the tip, Arky spent the following winter out on the river, using only a skiff and a winch, salvaging hand-sawed redwood logs, or “pumpkins” as they are called, from where they had lain on the river bottom for well over a century. It was with his precious trove of redwood, with its deeply-grained and variegated hues of cinammon and nutmeg, that Arky built 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 Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley’s Fathers+Daughters Cellars with its floral-berry aromas, bright notes of cherry jam, cola, and red currant on the palate, and a long, mineral-tinged finish.
Generous 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 sits was once the site of Newport, a small town and loading point for loggers. A system of chutes and pulleys hoisted logs, cargo, and even travelers over the bluff and onto to the decks of the Doghole Schooners waiting below. As Fort Bragg’s harbor to the south grew, so the little town of Newport dwindled in importance, eventually disappearing altogether into the mists of history.
Today,vistors to the Inn can wander the entirety of property to give themselves a deeper sense of the profound character of this coastal terrain. They are free to wander the seaside trails by day, celebrate the sunsets at dinner, and spend the evening up on the rooftop sipping wine in a hot-tub while gazing at a surfeit of stars.
With its beautiful redwood interiors, the Inn is well suited to host a wedding, group retreat, or any milestone event where both relaxation and reflection is desired.
Ten thousand years before Europeans ever set foot on this coast it was 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 their seaside feasts, lie buried among the rocky outcroppings.
The Inn’s menu features seasonal local fruits and site-grown produce including Kale, squash, potatoes, peas, chard, arugula, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, and a variety of herbs and edible flowers. Amazingly the biounty is all culled from brimming garden boxes tended by the Inn’s talented gardener Felicia Brown.
For a few bottles of superlative wine to buy on the drive up, or to bring back home, consider Anderson Valley’s Handley Cellars.
The winery’s reserve Pinot Noir is sourced entirely from estate-grown organic-certified fruit and features the silky tannins and bright acidity for which Anderson Valley grapes are globally renowned.