From the peaceful canopy of ancient Redwoods to the emerald meadows dotted with frolicking lambs and the blazing show of colorful flowers all around, spring is a stunning time to be in Mendocino on the coast of Northern California. Tender shoots and young vegetables are gathered to incorporate into fabulously fresh dishes while wines bottled in 2017 make their much-anticipated debut.
The babbling creeks that run through Maple Creek Winery in Mendocino’s Yorkville Highlands are bursting their banks thanks to a wonderfully wet winter, promising juicy vintages to come, while their handcrafted premium Artevino wines from previous years have been collecting prizes. The 2017 Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs won Gold Medals at the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the American Fine Wine Competition. In addition, Maple Creek’s 2016 Maple Creek Estate Chardonnay was chosen to represent Mendocino at 46 Whole Foods stores from Sacramento to Santa Cruz. But the best way to experience the boutique wines, crafted by winemaker Tom Rodrigues, is to stop by their friendly tasting room on Mendocino’s famed wine highway, Route 128. Visitors can expect to be greeted by Buster and Posey, the resident Australian shepherds, and to discover why so many of Maple Creek’s wines have garnered the highest awards in competitions, all while chatting with locals in a relaxed setting. After all, the winery’s motto is “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.” Maple Creek Winery, 20799 Hwy 128, Yorkville, CA 95494, (707) 895-3001, www.maplecreekwine.com.
The Japanese practice of “Shinrin-yoku,”or “forest bathing,” involves immersing oneself in the forest’s atmosphere, a proven technique for care and healing of the body. Since there’s no better place to take in the forest than surrounded by Mendocino’s ancient Redwoods, the Brewery Gulch Inn—which always tops lists of the best inns and resorts in California—has two new packages incorporating “Shinrin-yoku.” Constructed in 2001 from 150-year old redwood reclaimed from the nearby Big River, the Inn is an architectural masterpiece and itself a relaxing haven for mind and body, renowned for locally-focused haute cuisine, indulgently comfortable rooms and impeccable, personalized service. The team at Brewery Gulch brings this revitalizing experience to the next level with the help of Delphine Davidson, a certified yoga instructor, Clinical Traditional Family Herbalist and Health Coach, who has studied with such luminaries as Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra. Delphine leads guests on two different Shinrin-yoku journeys. At $ 150.00 per person, the first package (Dipping Your Toes) focuses on a guided forest meditation that incorporates all five senses. “The Full Body Immersion” ($ 450.00 per person) takes place over an entire day and features, among other treats, yoga, a lesson in formulating the optimal herbal tea for an individual’s needs, and an hour-long soak in a hot tub. Accommodations are in addition to the packages price. Brewery Gulch Inn, 9401 N. Highway One, Mendocino, CA 95460, (707) 937-4752, www.brewerygulchinn.com.
Those life-giving forests, fertile soil and clean waters of the Mendocino coast furnish plentiful delicacies if you know where to find them. The area boasts more than 3,000 kinds of mushrooms—some of which can only be found on this stretch of coast—salmon, crab and sea urchin, several varieties of seaweed, hard-to-find huckleberries and olallieberries, edible seeds, roots and more. The historic family-owned and operated Little River Inn has a package that teaches how to find this bounty and prepare and preserve it. This is the second year for their popular FORAGE AND FERMENT package which pairs guests with local foraging experts to gather fodder for a feast that they will learn how to cook. This 3-day/2-night experience is from Friday, May 10 to Sunday, May 12, 2019, and has a limited number of spots. The Inn itself is a charming ocean view Inn, where you will find an award-winning restaurant, an Audubon-certified golf course, regulation tennis courts, and a day spa and full-service salon. Designed in tandem by Cally Dym, 5th generation owner and innkeeper, and her husband Marc Dym, Executive Chef at the property, this adventure in foraging and fermenting with local experts will help attendees uncover everything from mushrooms and herbs to seaweed and sea urchin. The hands-on odyssey starts on Friday night at a welcome reception and cooking demonstration with Greg Fonts of Freedive Shop/Triton X, who will dive in the morning with his team for the evening’s appetizers. In previous years, Greg has come back with scallops, rock fish, box crabs and urchins. He explains where he found each sea creature, and how to prep and cook it. Delectable cocktails, wine, and appetizers emphasizing locally gathered comestibles will be served. The next day, Saturday’s activities will feature mining the forest for treasures such as mushrooms, roots and berries with Kevin Smith, Countryman Forager, and later, guests head to the beach to collect savory seaweed and explore tide pools with Larry Knowles and Erica Fielder of Rising Tide Sea Vegetables. That night a communal feast will feature the day’s harvest with tips for preserving the hard-won delicacies. The Mendocino FORAGE AND FERMENT EXPERIENCE will be offered exclusively May 10-12, 2019. The cost is $500 per person and does not include accommodations. Two nights lodging for two starts at $490, exclusive of tax and gratuity. A limited number of spots are available and reservations require 7-days notice. Call 707.937.5942 or 888.INN.LOVE to book. For more information, please visit https://www.littleriverinn.com/forage-and-ferment/. Little River Inn, 7901 N. Highway One, Little River, CA 95456, (707) 937-5942, www.littleriverinn.com.>
For the most complete access to the deepest Redwood forests you have to ride the historic Skunk Train, one of California’s most cherished family attractions, or power yourself along the train tracks on one of their new railbikes. The railroad was built in the 1880s to move logs from the coastal town of Fort Bragg to the inland cowboy country of Willits. Steam and diesel-powered trains still chug through dense woods and zigzag along the lively Noyo River, providing unparalleled access to the Pacific Coast Temperate Rainforest. Young and old delight as the trains travel through tunnels and cross over trestles, all while sending clouds of steam skyward. There are two scenic rides, the Pudding Creek Express and the Northspur Flyer, in addition to annual themed trains for holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Now there’s a new way to experience the Redwood Route, on a custom-built railbike. These two-person railbikes sit securely on the track, allowing passengers to make their journey in a peaceful and quiet atmosphere unlike anything else found on a railway. Travelers depart from a special railbikes launch area, with a trained guide overseeing everything and leading the way along the track. Since the track is owned and operated exclusively by the Skunk Train, they are able to guarantee no trains or other traffic along the route. The bikes are incredibly easy to ride – perfect for all ages and skill levels. They even come with an electric assist—ideal for taking a relaxing breather while still moving along the track, or for a little bit of extra oomph while you make your way up the gentle grade on the return trip. These quiet conveyances provide a unique peak at rare spring wildflowers and shy forest critters. Skunk Train (California Western Railroad), 100 W. Laurel St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, (707) 964-6371, www.skunktrain.com.
Coastal Mendocino is a riot of color, with flowers basking in the sun after a generous rainy season. The area is particularly famous for their rhododendrons. Over 124 species thrive there, some of which even have heavenly scents to match their vibrant beauty, unusual for these intense yet stately flowers. The Inn at Newport Ranch invites visitors to revel in these spectacular blooms with their Spring Bloom Special. From April 15 through June 15, guests who book a two-night stay at the Inn will be welcomed on arrival by a small springtime bouquet and two tickets to visit the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens to witness the rhodies in full-bloom splendor. Open since early 2016, The Inn at Newport Ranch offers a breathtaking oceanfront experience, situated on 2,000 pristine private acres with 50-mile views across the Pacific. Guests have exclusive access to the vast property that encompasses virgin redwood forests, grasslands and beach. Some guests opt to tour the acreage on horseback or have a private ATV tour guided by a local with intimate knowledge of the terrain. They have all the amenities of a high-end hotel, from Ranch cuisine cooked from locally sourced ingredients (much of which is from their own organic gardens), to sumptuously appointed guest rooms, to the onsite Fireside Spa and a hot tub perched atop an old water tower. The Inn’s interior spaces are designed to enhance the natural beauty of the location and each room is a bespoke masterpiece filled with handcrafted objects and fascinating items from the owner’s world travels. Recycled redwood trunks soar to cathedral ceilings, local wines are poured in front of a 20-foot fireplace, and stunning views are at your disposal all the time. The Main Inn Building includes the capacious Captain’s Quarters, with views of the crashing ocean; the Redwood House is held up by 24 recycled tree trunks, and each of the three elegant suites has a living room, dining area, kitchen, fireplace, and private deck; and the Sea Drum House is perched on an ocean bluff and has panoramic views, a chef’s kitchen and its own garden. When guests mention the Spring Bloom Special while booking, they receive the Spring Bloom add-ons at no cost. Not combinable with any other offer. The Inn at Newport Ranch, 31502 N. Highway One, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, (707) 962-4818, www.theinnatnewportranch.com.
Spring in Mendocino provides an opportunity to be reborn along with the world and to be nourished and replenished by the fruits of the earth and the centuries-old woods all around. Small shops and enticing paths encourage you to wander in search of surprises. Whales frolic offshore while gracious inns and wineries welcome you to bask in the gentle spring sunshine and experience the flowers, fruit, wine, cuisine and fantastic finds of Mendocino County. Special packages and exciting lodging options make Mendocino a vacation within reach. At the end of the one of the most breathtaking drives on earth—about three hours from San Francisco—lies the secret spring destination that promises all of the best of Northern California.