Though I've spent my fair share of time in large metropolitan cities, I can appreciate the serenity of being immersed in nature. Just when I thought I couldn't live without my phone or toting my netbook everywhere, the sure magic of Mendocino gave me a re-education on the joys of the simple life. Mendocino County delivers all the outdoor sporting activities for hardcore naturists yet provides world-class cuisine and luxury accommodations with Wi-Fi for diehard techie travelers. Nestled between the two extremes, I found Mendocino to be the perfect scenic escape for daytime exploring and fine dining in the evening.
Just 90 miles north of San Francisco, Mendocino offers a New England charm to the West Coast. The high altitude lends for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and my January trip was blessed with clear skies and warm temperatures. I took advantage of the lovely weather by visiting the botanical gardens, driving the coast, walking the historic village, and getting to know the people of Mendocino.
The art of traditional conversation is certainly not lost here. I found the people of Mendocino to be open in their dialogue with a hospitality I only thought existed in the south. People seemed to know each other by name and visitors were welcomed with warm greetings. Mendocino's many festivals throughout the year donates 100 percent of its profits to benefit local non-profit organizations like the Mendocino Coast Clinics which provides free healthcare to those who can't afford it. All dollars that are circulated in this community go to help its members. In translation, the more you eat and drink here, the more you are contributing to the health and well-being of its citizens. So, I bought a lot of wine. I like to do my part!
The best part of waking up is having a just cup
What do you get when you mix a trained social worker with a passion for brewing great coffee? A just cup! Paul Katzeff, a Cornell School of Social Work graduate, has an amazing story of how he turned his love of coffee into a thriving family-owned and operated business with a philanthropy component. After working for Senator Robert Kennedy at the Housing and Urban Development Department in New York City, Katzeff decided to travel out west and fate brought him to Mendocino where he met the love of his life and started a new career in coffee brewing. His passion for achieving the perfect roast took him to the coffee plantations of Rwanda. After accessing that the coffee bean farmers of Rwanda were under utilizing their crops, Katzeff received a $400,000 U.S. Government grant to build cupping labs in their country. Allowing the farmers to be able to roast and brew their beans, it empowered them to access the value of their product and get a fair price per pound. Katzeff received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America for human caring and social justice in poverty destroyed environments. If that isn't enough to run out and patronize this humanitarian's great product, it was the best latte I have ever had! When I asked Katzeff what was in it, he responded "The espresso beans in your latte came from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. The key to the sweetness of the latte is perfectly steamed milk at 130 degrees. If you do the milk right, I can make anything [taste] good." And good it certainly was. I spent every morning of my trip here for a perfectly brewed just cup of coffee by Mendocino's Roast Master.
A touch of Provence in the most unlikely of places
As I was having my coffee, I looked across the street at a beautiful historic building. After I said my goodbyes in Thanksgiving, I went over to check out what was in the building. When I walked in, I felt like I had been transported to France. Parisian music was playing and there were all these beautiful original items. I had walked into Sallie Mac, which was a store of imports primarily from France and Italy. There are pictures of Mendocino residents in antique picture frames decorating the store. Everything in Sallie Mac is original and absolutely stunning. Sallie McConnell, owner of Sallie Mac, recalls when an item of which she carried was featured in the 2009 June edition of O Magazine. "The O Effect was overwhelming. We had to hire people just to answer the phone calls to take orders. It was before we even had a website" McConnell recalled. The store is as inviting as it is elegant. You can find some real treasures here, no passport required.
Anderson Valley, located in Mendocino County, has a unique viticulture climate of warm, sunny days and cool, foggy nights. This makes it ideal for sparkling wine grapes due to its colder climate. One of the highlights of my tasting experience here was Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine. It had a burst of strawberry and cherry citrus that turned me into Oliver Twist, "Please, Sir, I want some more." This sparkling rosé is a must-buy. Anderson Valley is also known for its Pinot Noirs. I thoroughly enjoyed Graziano Family of Wines, Navarro Vineyards, and Toulouse Vineyards for their Pinots. These and many other wineries line the windy road that lead you to Mendocino. Take a moment and stop in on your leisurely drive up or back home.
A place to stay that satisfies both the modern and vintage travelers
It was surprising to discover there are literally scores of places to stay in Mendocino, so it can be daunting to decide where to hang your hat. Since I am right in the middle of those naturists and diehard techies, I wanted a place that could give me a bit of old-world charm with the comforts of a luxury hotel. Dennen's Victorian Farmhouse gave me all the comforts of a four-star hotel in 19th century architecture. I stayed in the signature Mendocino Suite which included a classically elegant king size feather sleigh bed and vintage furniture. There were two wood burning fire places in the large two-room suite. The best amenity was the 4' x 6' air-jetted tub. To give you a bit of perspective on the size, Orlando Magic's center-forward Dwight Howard could fit in this tub comfortably. It was luxurious and peaceful.
The next morning I was served breakfast in my room. The towels were made of pima cotton which is a type of cotton grown primarily in the southwest region of the United States. It is considered to be one of the superior blends of cotton. Pampered is definitely the word I would use to describe my stay. Come here to reconnect with a loved one or enjoy the peace and quiet alone.
The magic of Mendocino
Mendocino, I heard repeatedly from residents, is a place that you just feel 'this is the spot.' Every resident I spoke with, who wasn't born there, said they came on vacation and something within them told them to stay. I can certainly attest to the majestic quality of this place and plan to return again and again!
Mendocino Resources for planning your trip: