By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov
How does it happen that every time I visit the coastal expanse of Mendocino County I feel transformed as if by magic? What is happening here, in view of the wild ocean waves, rugged cliffs, tall redwoods, and untamed cypresses that makes me feel transported into the realm of tranquil natural beauty?
Maybe it’s a remoteness from big cities with their constant pressure and acceleration, or the absence of the usual irritants of everyday life, or my intentional abstinence from electronic devices and incessant news updates bordering on obsession…
Something wholesome, healthy, healing and rejuvenating is definitely happening here, and with a few places to indulge in some definitively earthly joys this wonderfully uncrowded part of Northern California is every traveler’s dream.
While walking around to absorb the serenity of the place, we realize that the quieter birds dwell in those specially built barn owl boxes on the vineyard margins. The winery uses natural rodent fighters to protect the vines.
Lula’s outdoor terrace with glass-covered wine barrels for tables, is a friendly and relaxing gathering place for couples, groups, and even families with children. We taste the newest small production wines, distributed direct to consumer, like 2020 Anderson Valley Chardonnay, aged half in stainless steel and half in proprietary barrels of new and used French oak, with floral aroma and very slight oaky influence, and a wonderfully balanced red blend, NV Guntly Red (85% pinot noir, 15% cabernet sauvignon).
Then we try two interesting pinots from single vineyards grown side by side less than a mile from each other. 2018 Costa Vineyard Pinot Noir is soft and vibrant, and of lighter red than 2018 Peterson Vineyard Pinot Noir with more assertive everything—aroma, palate, and color.
2018 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is a gold medalist, Lula’s best seller, and a definite palate pleaser of bright scarlet color with floral aromas, refined notes of ripe plum and cherry, and a long silky finish.
We round up our tasting adventure with the elegant 2019 Fashauer Vineyard Zinfandel redolent of tart cherry and almonds, atypically for zin grown above the fog line at Mendocino Ridge, and field-blended with some Carignan planted among the zin vines.
From the proprietor, Ken Avery, we learn about Lula Cellars Wine Club that grew from 35 to about 1000 members in mere five years, and about its three annual shipments of rare, small-batch wines.
Currently, Lula is planning to revive club member events, interrupted by the last two years of COVID-19, and will be a participant in the upcoming Anderson Valley Pinot and Bubbles Festival, scheduled for May 20-22 with grand tastings, open houses, VIP Bubble Lounge, and Sunset BBQ. Tickets and info at: www.avwines.com.
Lula Cellars is located at 2800 Guntly Road, Philo, CA 95466. Call 707-895-3737 or visit https://www.lulacellars.com/#.
The service is friendly and efficient, and the drinks arrive on our table fast. In addition to a comprehensive wine list, mostly from Anderson Valley and greater Mendocino, and craft beer, the restaurant bar creates some intriguing specialty cocktails. In our case, it’s Coastal Mirage (Local 162 Vodka, Elderflower, Lemon, Aztec Bitters, Mint) and Highway One Boulevardier (Rye Whiskey, Campari, Antica Vermouth, Gran Classico).
Little River Inn Restaurant prides itself on the freshest local produce and the catch-of-the-day seafood, so the menu changes often. Our choices include Red, White & Bleu salad of radicchio, endive, almonds, poached pear, gorgonzola cheese, and champagne vinaigrette; Seafood Pasta with lobster, clams, rock shrimp, and scallops in tomato-saffron broth, and Pacific Halibut with roasted new potatoes, asparagus, and blood orange saffron beurre blanc.
Even desserts reflect the seasonality of the local produce, so both Chocolate Mousse with Kahlua whipped cream and Lemon Custard Tart are finished with fresh berries and garden mint.
Little River Inn Restaurant is located at 7751 California 1, Little River, CA 95456. Call 707-937-5942 or visit https://www.littleriverinn.com/.
Given Mendocino’s outstanding natural beauty and the Pacific coast’s rugged charm it comes as no surprise that some of world’s most enticing unique inns are found here.
Glendeven Inn & Lodge
Glendeven Inn & Lodge in Little River is a prime example of a romantic getaway complete with an idyllic farmstead dwelling, ocean views, lush gardens, blooming meadows under old trees, and an elaborate country style breakfast delivered to our room door.
At check-in, besides an old-fashioned metal key to the cozy Eastlin cottage with a spacious bedroom, an elegant living room with library and a fireplace, and an outdoor terrace, we are offered a little cloth bag of chicken feed, since the property’s rare breed chickens (like Blue Favaucanas and Cream Legbars) are roaming next to the Organic Vegetable Garden, very eager to be fed and admired by the hotel guests.
There are also two woolly llamas unhurriedly pasturing by our cottage, or lying around on the grass and pensively looking at the ocean.
Strategically positioned throughout the territory, bird feeders attract an amazing assortment of the feathered locals. We have enough time to photograph a brightly colored California quail and a whole quartet of red-hatted woodpeckers, right in front of our terrace.
The terrace is our favorite place for breakfast—a different assortment of homemade treats each morning. On day one we enjoy freshly squeezed organic orange juice, a yogurt granola with blueberries, Italian-style poached eggs from Glendeven own chickens, and hot from the oven rosemary parmesan scones. On day two, it’s fresh pineapple, kiwi and berries parfait, Colorado chili quiche with blistered pasillas, and cheddar jalapeno corn muffins.
In addition to its own 15-acre gorgeous campus, Glendeven Inn is surrounded by a mixed forest, ferns and streams of Van Damme State Park. Several trailheads start right here, and lead to shady groves, moss covered boulders, fern canyons with hidden bridges, and flowering ocean cliffs.
While walking above the ocean we even spot a rare “NatGeo moment”—a harbor seal catching an octopus.
Glendeven Inn & Lodge is located at 8211 N. Highway One, Little River, CA 95456. Call 707-937-0083 or visit www.glendeven.com.
The Inn at Newport Ranch
A private 2,300-acre reserve in the northern part of Mendocino County, The Inn at Newport Ranch has its own trademark—a lone cypress tree that we immediately recognize from the property logo while approaching the sprawling estate via California Highway One. Especially picturesque against the unobstructed blue sky, but also impressively etched into a cloudy day’s backdrop, the old cypress is an organic part of the main building outline with keen roof gables, wood-paneled walls, and stained glass windows.
Inside the Inn, designed by Vermont architects Dave Sellers and Jim Sanford, there’s a wood-lover’s paradise with abundant natural redwood décor and furnishings throughout, enhanced with old leather armchairs, stained glass lampshades, multiple pieces of artwork, and massive fireplaces framed with granite boulders.
The entire territory of the estate includes the always cool and mysterious redwood forests, vast grasslands with grazing cows, a beach, and multiple picnic tables and benches smartly positioned among the rocks above the stormy sea.
Before dark, we return to the hotel for a nightly Fireside Happy Hour featuring Mendocino wine portfolio, and followed by a cozy dinner at the lavishly decorated living room with a giant wood-burning fireplace.
The next morning, our freshly prepared breakfast is served in a large dining room with glass walls and communal tables. By now, we’re used to the idea that everything is very special in this place. We thoroughly enjoy our delicious food, friendly service, and a unique ceramic teapot filled with the highest quality loose leaf tea.
Our upcoming adventure is a signature feature of The Inn at Newport Ranch—a guided UTV Tour of the private redwood forest where we visit a mushroom farm and plant a redwood seedling.
The property statement reads, “One of our guiding principals at The Inn at Newport Ranch is to protect, nourish and continue to be stewards of our land. Working in partnership with the Redwood Forest Foundation, we have committed to planting a minimum of one redwood tree per guest. With an average life span of 500-700 years, these gentle giants will outlive us and carry on the legacy of our remarkable Mother Earth.”
Outstanding on all counts, singularly built and furnished, and filled with antiques and collectibles, the inn, with the added bonus of 50-mile views across the Pacific and more than 20 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, is considered one of the 20 best hotels in the world for a very good reason.
The Inn at Newport Ranch is located at 31502 N. Highway One, Fort Bragg, CA 95437. Call 707-962-4818 or visit www.theinnatnewportranch.com.