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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Pick Your Pinot in Mendocino County


3. What to Do

Try one of the mushroom-themed events like a feast aboard the Skunk Train (left) or sample Pinots, Cabernets, and Rosés at Tolouse Vineyards, (right).   

Anderson Valley is Pinot Noir country, and you'll find intimate mom-and-pop wineries along Highway 128. Print out a wine map, then drive from the coast through a forest of giant Redwoods and corkscrew turns as you make your way to the arid valley. Stop in at Boonville's Foursight Wines' new tasting room, which opened last March, to sample the wines of the fourth generation of the Charles family, known for their limited productions of Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs. (The 2007 Clone 05 garnered high praise from Wine Enthusiast.) Down the road, find another new tasting room opened in August at Londer Vineyards along the Navarro River. Try esteemed French Oak-aged Chardonnay as well as Pinots and Gewurztraminer. Yorkville Cellars has organic Petits Verdos and Malbecs; Sharffenberger Cellars produces a sparkling Brut that rates high in both taste and affordability; and the rosé at Toulouse Vineyards’ tasting room, which doubles as a working barn, is known to sell out.

When Sally and Don Schmitt sold the French Laundry to Thomas Keller in 1994, they moved up to their sunny and free-spirited Apple Farm in Philo, where they grow about 80 varieties of apples and rent out tin-roofed cottages to urban farmers. With the "Relaxed Farm Weekend" package, take a morning tour and then prepare your dinner during an afternoon cooking class (from $625 per person).

Several festivals in Mendocino allow tourists and residents alike to sample the region's food and wine in bulk. November plays host to the Mendocino County Wine and Mushroom Festival (November 6–16), where you can learn to I.D. a variety of fungi or indulge in a lavish mushroom-themed feast aboard the local Skunk Train, a former gold-miners' railroad that snakes along the Coastal Redwood route. In February, the Anderson Valley Wine Association sponsors the International Alsace Varietals Fest (February 20–21), hosting wineries from around the world who pour, exchange, and compare their crisp Rieslings and Gewürztraminers. In March, twin Whale Fests in Mendocino and Fort Bragg (March 6–7; March 20–21) herald the return of 20,000 gray whales from their birthing grounds in Mexico. Spot the spouts from shore or take a sea excursion, then return to town to vote for your favorite clam chowder.

Published on Nov 5, 2009 as a web exclusive.

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