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Traveling north: Mendocino, Part I

August 10, 2011 |  6:00 am

There are two kinds of vacations: those in which you are exploring a new place for the first time; and those in which you revisit old favorites. For several years now, my wife and I have been journeying north a couple of times a year, visiting friends in Mendocino and along the way, we’ve collected our fair share of tips along the way. So without further ado, here are some snapshots (and hopefully a few hints) from our vacation. But first, a little travelling music.

I used to take it as a sign from heaven that there was a JetBlue flight from Long Beach Airport that arrived in Oakland just in time to make a late lunch at Chez Panisse Café. Somebody really wanted me to have that meal, right?

The airline schedule has changed, but now a much earlier flight gets us to the Anderson Valley at almost exactly the same time. The Anderson Valley is one of the most picturesque wine regions in California, a state lousy with them. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the drive along Highway 128 west from Cloverdale to the coast is one of my favorite road trips in the state as well. You climb corkscrewing through the Yorkville Highlands, pass through the determinedly quaint town of Boonville and then comes the wine country, punctuated by majestic allees of redwood trees.

There’s lots to do here: Roederer Estate for tasting sparkling wine, the Apple Farm run by Don and Sally Schmitt, Hendy Woods State Park ... but my favorite place to stop is the Navarro Vineyards tasting room. Navarro Not only does Navarro make terrific wines that are great values (their whites –- particularly Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling -– are my house pours), but they also have an assortment of outdoor tables and a nicely stocked refrigerator with picnic supplies. A half-bottle of Gewurtz, a disc of Cypress Grove chevre, a block of smoked salmon from the Mendocino producer Roundman, and some crackers — what more could you want?

Well, maybe a tasting afterward, just to refresh your memory and perhaps get a sneak peak of new wines not yet ready for release. Here’s another tip: The next release of their Deep End Pinot Noir is looking very, very good.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo credit: Russ Parsons

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