Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Make mine magical Mendocino

Wines, wilderness and wonder await along Inspiration Highway

Patti Pietschmann

courtesy Visit Mendocino
It's been a while since my husband Richard and I drove the 'trail' along the Redwood, aka: Inspiration Highway to magical Mendocino, and we're ready to return.
A curve to the right down Old River Road delivers the sophisticated outpost of Campovida featuring a 10-room farmhouse Inn, wine tasting venue and 50 acres of organic vineyards and gardens filled with herbs, vegetables and fruits.  In town, the sister property at Piazza de Campovida offers lodging and a bustling taverna serving artisan pizzas and a crisp Campo di Stelle Bordeaux blend.
Take a hike- at UC Hopland Research and Extension Center, which on the second Saturday of each month. offers a series of free, docent-led hikes.  The pristine 5,358-acre sanctuary is also home to resident lambs which accompany the family-friendly hikes. Just up Mountain House Road, the 40-acre Terra S├ívia you'll find organically grown estate wines, olive oils and wildflower honey.  Tours of the olive milling facility or a picnic on the deck of the rustic cabin round out a lazy afternoon.  

HOPLAND TO UKIAH: Ales and Outback offfers the ultimate GPS - Great Pinot Sipping - starts along the 15-mile stretch between Hopland to Ukiah.  Here, pavement fades to green as vineyards kiss the redwoods and time 
truly slows.  Key stops include the expansive 180-acre Jeriko Estate and John Fetzer's signature Saracina Vineyards featuring a state-of-the-art cave system carved out of solid rock, followed by Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery.  This is a good time to dive into Mendocino AVA zinfandels including Jaxon Keys' award-winning Mae's Block Zin served in an historic 1880s farmhouse.  Next, Nelson Family Vineyards steps up with 200 vineyard acres growing 12 varietals; the Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine is spot on or taste the more offbeat estate Ice Riesling and Orange Muscat wines.  Top off the tour at RIVINO, offering a stunning al fresco tasting venue perched over the vineyards.

Keep on trucking to Ukiah (Haiku backwards) and switch gears to the dark side:  Ales.  Pull up a stool at the nation's first certified organic brewpub, Ukiah Brewing Company and; Restaurant, for a selection of 20+ales and lagers, all brewed with organic barley and hops.  Nearby, California's first post-Prohibition brewery, Mendocino Brewing Company and Ale House, defines the American craft brew renaissance with selections from its signature Red Tail Ale to seasonal pumpkin and black ales. 

Ukiah provides 300 days of annual sunshine, quaint Victorian architecture and a distinctive laid-back vibe.  For a taste of the past, saunter over to the Grace Hudson Museum for a personal tour of the Sun House, a stunning 1911 craftsman bungalow offering an inside look into the lifestyle of artist Grace Carpenter Hudson (free with museum admission). Or, check out the Wild Gardens featuring native plants, exhibits and art spotlighting Pomo Indian life in Mendocino.   

 Head over to  Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve and Orr Hot Springs Resort for a grounding hike through massive virgin redwood groves with trees spanning ten feet in diameter and culminate in a stunning fern forest, resembling a scene from the Jurassic Era.  Next door, dress down for a soak in one of Orr's natural springs - including a large rock pool, private baths and communal springs.  Enjoy a massage and spend the night in one of  23 rustic cabins and yurts.

 Just east of Ukiah lies the tiny town of Talmage.  Enter through the Gate of Three Arches and into another realm - the City of 10,000 Buddhas.  Pass through to peacocks, pagodas, "Vigor" and "Virtue" signposts and the resonance of chanting monks at one of the nation's largest Buddhist monasteries.   Prime time is 10:30 a.m., or 12:30 p.m., when visitors can join the service inside the elaborate Jeweled Hall.  Lining the facility from floor to ceiling are 10,000 golden buddhas in a variety of sizes, said to have been crafted by the Venerable Master himself and etched by hand over a ten-year period.  Pop into the Jyuan Kang Vegetarian Restaurant on site for house-made satay.                 

Make a picnic stop northeast of Talmage at Cow Mountain Recreation Area, offering 120 miles of off-road trails for hikers, bikers and ATV enthusiasts.   Also nearby, Leonard Lake Reserve offers a cool respite. Sources:,,  FYI:   A favorite haunt of Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt and Jack London, Vichy Springs Resort and Spa is a 700-acre retreat boasting America's only warm and naturally carbonated Vichy mineral baths (and Olympic-size pool).  Bed down in the historic Blue Cottage (1852) or take a break in the creek side baths like a lime in Perrier.  Day rate (2 hrs.; $35). Click on www.vichysprings.infoThere's plenty more places to see along the way, before 101 ends, so click here where the helpful Mendocino folks can fill in the blanks.

I will tell you that the last stretch of Highway 101 marks the county's final frontier ending in the northern town of Piercy.  This is quintessential California logging turf turned off-grid getaway for fishing, hunting and reconnecting with Mother Earth.  Laytonville is known for its annual rodeo (June) and serves a fine roadside barbecue while Leggett and Piercy step up with some oddities worth seeking out.