Mendocino County lies to the north of its two better known neighbors, Napa and Sonoma. While it is still best known for its natural beauty which ranges from spectacular coastlines towering redwood forests, the region is rapidly taking its place in the California wine Pantheon with a growing reputation for producing outstanding wines. The wineries in this region tend to be smaller and with less grandiose facilities and tasting rooms than elsewhere in California, but the products they are putting out, both red and white, are both distinctive and of high quality. The terrain in this region is remarkably diverse, with its craggy coastlines and beaches, the inland wine valleys, mountains and redwood forests. With all of this natural beauty, there’s a lot to see and do here while visiting. One can hike, kayak, engage in otter and whale watching, and shop and dine at first-rate restaurants. The area also has a lively arts scene. Mendocino offers all of this without seeming commercial like its neighbors to the south, Napa and Sonoma Counties.
Access to this region takes a bit more work than visiting Napa and Sonoma. Access by air is still via San Francisco or Oakland, but with a substantially longer drive required than getting to the more southern wine regions. For many, the best course is a trip/tour that encompasses two or even three of these major wine producing areas.
When to visit
One can find something to do anytime of the year in Mendocino, but the fall is an especially beautiful time to explore the region. You have the warm sun, autumn colors, the activity of harvest, and of course the famous whale watching.
The Towns: on Highway 128 towards the Village of Mendocino
A town of very few people but famous for its own folk language called Boontling. Created by its locals about 100 years ago to keep information from outsiders. There are several small but first-rate places to stay and dine.
Albion is the ancient name for Britain. It is a charming seaside town with clusters of wooden buildings that straddle the bluffs above the Albion River. The two parts of the town are connected by an historic bridge built during the Second World War out of salvaged wood because of the shortage of steel and concrete. This is a popular destination because it is only 20 minutes south from the town of Mendocino and is just as gorgeous while being more secluded and low key.
This quaint and charming village is just three miles south of of the town of Mendocino, and is well worth a visit. This hamlet boasts dramatic coastal views, first-class lodging, wonderful hiking trails and a challenging nine-hole golf course.
Town of Mendocino
Mendocino is a destination for locals as well as tourists. One would think they are in a coastal New England town with its Cape Cod architecture and craggy coast line, and in fact the town was the setting for the TV series Murder She Wrote, which was supposed to be located in New England. The town sits on the edge of a high bluff overlooking the ocean and has many interesting shops, wonderful places to stay and first-class restaurants.
If one has extra time, drive along Highway 101 north towards Ukiah, the county seat, to Hopland.The wineries in this area are close enough that you can visit a few and still be in time for lunch in Boonville. Promoting itself as the gateway to Mendocino wine country this town is just three blocks long. It has an old western town feel. Park the car and take a stroll visiting its tasting rooms and shops.