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Come to Anderson Valley–but make sure you have a place to stay!

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I’m up here in the beautiful Anderson Valley, which more than 30 wineries call home. To those familiar with trafficky Highway 29 in Napa Valley, or even the much less densely clogged roads of the Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley’s Highway 128 will seem blissfully free of cars. You can drive from Boonville past Philo out to Navarro, in the Deep End, with no one on your tail. But empty as the valley is, it’s not empty enough for some people.

That, at least, is what a longtime vintner-friend told me yeserday. I had related to him how, when I arrived in the valley on Monday evening, I couldn’t find the key to the Edmeades guesthouse, and for a while, I feared I’d have to find someplace else to spend the night. Not exactly the most pleasant prospect in Anderson Valley, where accommodations are scarcer than encryption in the cloud, which is to say: pretty scarce. The lady at the local market directed me to enquire at the Philo Inn; alas, there was no room there, nor at the Boonville Hotel, which pretty much represents everyplace there is to spend the night. The guy at the Philo Inn told me I had two choices: to head back to Ukiah (Not! Under! Any! Circumstances!) or to drive another 40 minutes out to the resorts on the coast. And even then, I’d need a dog-friendly place. I was feeling pretty glum at that point.

Fortune fortunately came to my assistance; the long-sought key was found, and I am now safely ensconced in the beautiful Edmeades guest house. But as I explained to my vintner-friend, it made me wonder if there wasn’t an opportunity for someone to add to the valley’s existing lodging stock, perhaps by building a charming little B&B. After all, it wasn’t just I who was looking for someplace to stay that Monday night; two leathered-up guys on motorcycles, who by their accents sounded like they were from Germany, maybe Holland, also were desperate. Doesn’t that sound like Anderson Valley could use more places to stay?

My vintner-friend laughed. “The locals would never allow it,” he smiled.

“Not even for a little seven-room inn?”

“Nope.” It seems like the Anderson Valleyites like the lonely remoteness of their slice of heaven, and are determined to keep it that way.

And who am I, or anyone, to challenge them? It’s their place to live, and I would think that many of them headed up here in the first place in order to escape the evils of traffic, noise, pollution, crime and all the other ills that accompany dense population centers.

Does remaining pristine impact the quality of the local wine? I think to some extent it does, and for the better. Local winemakers here, less subject to the demands and whims of the tourist trade, are able to focus on their land, their vines and their personal visions. Of course, just because Anderson Valley isn’t swamped with tourists doesn’t put it off the grid (although many people here do live off that proverbial matrix). With the Internet and social media, they’re very much tuned into the outside world, and lots of them sell a goodly proportion of their wines to club members, whom I guess you could call virtual tourists.

Still, there’s something unspoiled and rustic about the wineries in Anderson Valley. As Ben Salazar, the young winemaker for Edmeades, told me, most of the growers are local guys who are true farmers, depending on their crops to pay the mortgage and put their kids through school. “It’s like a glimpse into the past of how Napa and Sonoma used to be,” said Ben, who previously made wine in both of those appellations.

Anderson Valley is a great place to visit if you’re a wine tourist, but you do have to keep in mind the lack of amenities, including a place to stay. You definitely do not want to arrive here at the end of a long day, only to find yourself homeless. If you’re looking for wine country, and great wine, without the hassles, you can do no better than this beautiful, isolated place of Mendocino County. But plan ahead.

Anderson

  1. Hi Steve-
    There are other pet friendly options in the AV. The Madrones is a fantastic stay with Drew, Knez, Bink, and Signal Ridge tasting rooms below the guest rooms. And it has a great restaurant to boot…Stone and Embers! Also, SheepDung Properties has 5 cottages, all pet friendly. There are options and locals and regular visitors know them well.
    Cheers!
    Enjoy the Valley!
    Brian

  2. The charming little guest quarters you wonder about do exist — at The Madrones — a wonderful garden property with a resturant, tasting roooms and guest house located adjacent to Goldeneye in Philo. Can’t believe no one mentioned it. Gus would be welcome there too.

  3. Thomas Thomas says:

    Obviously you did not talk to the people at Foresight. They have cottages and good wines too. Sorry Steve, you need to change your headline because you are giving our wonderful valley a bad rep!!! The problem is you have no connections in the valley. Hopefully you will change that situation now that you are here

  4. Steve-

    Please reach out the next time on your visit. Both Brian and Marcy were kind enough to mention my property… The Madrones. It has been my home and business location for the past 25 years and in the last four it has transformed into it’s present incarnation. We have five guest quarters in the main cloister of buildings along with for tasting rooms and a restaurant. I am converting my residence into another four which will be completed by the end of August. The Garden View is pet friendly. It is still a bit of a secret to most, but would love to have you come by and see it for yourself.

    Cheers,
    Jim

  5. Sorry y’all the guy at Philo Inn didn’t tell me anything about Madrone! Anyway if I’d been planning a vacation I certainly would have researched places to stay but this was an emergency.

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