Mendocino's Anderson Valley is a pastoral, wine-and-farm-fueled escape any time of year. But go in spring and you’ll delight in verdant hills, apple blossoms, and newborn lambs—lord help us, it's lovely. Even with the drought, the fog-kissed valley stays lush green. Its diverse landscape of rolling vineyards, moss-covered outcrops and forested peaks is like the secret love child of Point Reyes and Napa Valley. Yet it eludes the crowds of either thanks to a natural buffer: Highway 128's twenty-five miles of hills and twists that are car-commercial pretty but beg for Dramamine.
Brush Up on Boontling
If you’ve ever ordered a pint of Boont, then you’ve dabbled in Boontling, the coded lingo of small town Boonville. The sly language was born from mischievous hop field workers in the 1880s and shares the cheeky spirit of cockney slang. To decipher the billboard that welcomes visitors to the valley, you’ll need to know that Horn means drink, Bahl means good, and Frattey became wine thanks to an early vintner named...wait for it...Frattey. Today, Boontling is kept alive mostly through local product branding and Wes Smoot, a fella whose name could easily be a Boontling term and is featured in this short video.
Call in advance to tour this scenic, modern new dairy farm and taste small-batch goat and sheep cheeses. Visit now and go weak in the knees for day-old lambs and floppy-eared goats that nurse at your pinky and crash about as they struggle to find their footing. Another timely incentive is Pennyroyal’s Laychee, a creamy fresh cheese that’s especially delicious in spring when it includes ultra rich but fleeting sheep’s milk.
The modest title hardly describes the radiant splendor here. Stroll 32 acres of organic gardens and apple orchards in full bloom right now. Little can prepare you for the giddy pleasure of fragrant petals that shower you with each passing breeze. Load up on apples, jams, syrups and hard cider from the charming honor-system farm stand. Or stay overnight in a sleek, airy cottage nestled among the apple trees. You’ll relish outdoor showers, big bars of French soap and a simplicity that makes electricity feel like a luxury.
"You know what tetons are, right?" prompts Nikki, the owner of this scenic cliffside farm, as she points to the namesake, boob-shaped peak that rises above her ranch. When she and husband Steve’s San Francisco garden grew too small they purchased this picturesque plot of land and transformed it into a flourishing farm. They lure drivers from the highway with a wild assortment of pickles, preserves, eggs, and smoked goods. When you visit, ask them about the time they drove out to California with a U-Haul full of yaks (named Kayak, Zodiac, and Armagnac).
This nearly 1,000 acre state park hides two sorrell-blanketed redwood groves and an idyllic campground spread out between them. Spend days wine tasting and evenings passing newfound bottles around the campfire. The park was once home to Petrov Zailenko, a hermit who lived in hollowed-out trees and subsisted on the land. Petrov went to that big redwood stump in the sky but you can hike the Hermit Hut Trail to view his two shelters.
The Navarro River
The beautiful Navarro River gently wends through the valley forming pools with sandy banks and swimsuit-clad locals along the way. The most popular swimming hole sits alongside the Navarro River Bridge near the entrance to Hendy Woods. A even better shhh, don't tell spot is hidden near mile marker 3.14 off Highway 128.
Four Notable Wineries
The valley’s many wineries provide an easy way to immerse yourself in the area’s beauty. The wines are great too and you’ll often taste alongside the winemaker. Navarro Vineyards is a welcoming spot with affordable wines, amiable staff and gorgeous picnic grounds. Phillips Hill (pictured) offers a truly enchanting setting with an old apple drying barn, creekside tastings and picnic tables sheltered under a spectacular willow tree. Baxter pours exceptional, single vineyard pinots in a stylish mid-century tasting room. Similar in craft is Drew, noted for restrained, unfiltered pinots as well as a lovely Albariño and hauntingly good syrah. Mark your calendars for May 16th, when the valley hosts its 18th Annual Pinot Noir Festival.
AVBC brews up easy drinking beers with Boontling monikers in a solar-powered facility. Toss a frisbee at their DGA course while you sip brewery-only releases like the tart GT Gose made with gin botanicals. Seasonal happenings include the release of Spring Hornin IPA, and the popular Boonville Beer Festival on May 2nd.
This intimate eatery fires up pitch perfect pizzas that are eat-one-slice-too-many good. Vibrant salads taste as if greens were plucked from fields minutes earlier. Don't miss the clever mushroom chicharrones, a crunchy, Parmesan-dusted treat that should replace popcorn in all art house movie theaters.
Home to four tasting rooms and Stone & Embers, this art-filled resort houses nine luxe guest quarters surrounding a flowering garden with koi pond and dove aviary. Owner Jim Roberts designs model homes and it shows in the bold, contemporary interiors. Rooms include take-me-now-lord beds, refrigerators stocked with breakfast goodies and microwaves that come in handy for late-night slices of leftover pizza.
This Pinterest-worthy property has 15 unique, renovated rooms dressed in an easy farm-chic style. Detached cottages capture a wonderful sense of place amidst bucolic, shade tree-filled grounds. Table 128, the hotel’s restaurant, serves preset, family style meals fueled by the organic produce from their garden.