California's 16-mile-long Anderson Valley is friendly, quirky, and drop-dead gorgeous. It embraces classic Mediterranean terrain and cool redwood forest. Ease into a tour by stopping at a few of the two dozen wineries along Highway 128, the two-lane road bisecting the valley. From Yorkville to Boonville, Philo, and Navarro, the area is known for its pinot noir, gewürztraminer, and chardonnay grapes. The tasting rooms are mellow—and many of them are free. Some of the best gewürztraminer in the world is produced at Navarro Vineyards, while Husch makes a sublime, grassy sauvignon blanc.
The heart and soul of the valley is Boonville. Founded in 1852, the town retains some frontier charm. Boonville is the place to get a good meal and shop for fine and funky objets d'art and antiques. A recent addition is the 3-Wineries Tasting Room, where you can also sample olive oil from Stella Cadente. Earlier this year the producer took top honors at the Los Angeles County Fair for best domestic extra-virgin olive oil.
Past Philo, stop at Gowan's Oak Tree fruit stand and grab some of their bracing apple or pear cider, then find a picnic spot amid the virgin redwood groves at Hendy Woods State Park. Farther west, leave the rolling vineyards and oak-studded ridges for a lush, 10-mile canopy of redwoods. In summer, join locals at the beach near the three-mile marker in Navarro River Redwoods State Park.
Where it is: Mendocino County, 115 miles north of San Francisco.
Who will like it: Lovers of redwoods, wine, olive oil, country cooking, curio shopping, and back roads.
When to go: Year-round for the indoor offerings; spring through fall for the outdoors.
Illustration by Michael Klein
This article was first published in November 2003. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.