BOONVILLE TO LITTLE RIVER (36 mi.) – 2 or 3 NIGHTS

This stretch of land packs plenty of punch, so pull up a seat and get ready to swirl.  Set in the wine-centric Anderson Valley AVA, Boonville (pop. 8,319) is a throwback outpost and top stop for scoring the region’s coveted fairy dust (Piment d’Ville), Lover’s Lane honey, farmstead Pennyroyal Boonter’s Blue cheese and Mendocino’s renowned sun-grown green at The Bohemian Chemist.  Stretching east to the sea, the 15 mile stretch of country road from Boonville to Navarro packs enough wine tasting venues to keep the country of Bhutan buzzed; start the afternoon with a walkable adventure at names like Seebass, Foursight, Philo Ridge and Bee Hunter wine tasting venues, then round out the day with a drop into Disco Ranch for a sparkling wine flight and picnic provisions.  Bed down overlooking the vine-swept valley at one of five Sheep Dung Cottages, sleek artist-style dog-friendly digs set on acres of outback.

Plenty of top chefs are driving the stoves here including Boonville Hotel’s Perry Hoffman (formerly of SHED/Healdsburg), The Bewildered Pig’s Janelle Weaver and the new duo at Wickson Restaurant,  Alexa Newman (Chez Panisse, Contigo) and Rodney Workman (Chez Panisse, State Bird Provisions).  Set in the romantic The Madrones, the intimate limited-seating Wickson is the stop for hyper-local cuisine including a seasonal black cod stew or wood oven roasted chicken laced in a smoky broth.   Lodgings here or next door at The Brambles, set on 12 acres of ancient redwood groves with four guest quarters tucked among nature’s nest, make for a perfect night two.

This is pinot country, with a splash of bubbles, dry Alsatian-style wines and crisp Sauvignon Blancs.  Kick the day off with a view of the goats and tasting at Pennyroyal Farm then head west on Highway 128 for an Elevated Tasting of bubbles and caviar at Goldeneye Winery or flight of fancy at Roederer Estate.  Mix things up with a sip in a shack at Husch Vineyards then dive into some head-spinning pinots at Phillips Hill Winery, Baxter Winery or Lichen Estate.  As the sun sets, pull up a chair at The Bewildered Pig for a rustic repast including seasonal chanterelle and pork cracklings toppings, a must!

Misty mornings set the tone for beating a path to the Pacific.  Take a brief detour at Hendy Woods State Park for a romp in the ancient redwoods before cutting through a dense forest skirting the Navarro River.  The pop out to the sea is surreal, followed by a trek northbound on Highway 1, with Mendocino’s famed sea stacks framing the view.  Lodging along the stretch in Little River (pop. 189) is a colorful mix of throwback inns: Inn at Schoolhouse Creek & The Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins, simple motel such as The Seafoam Lodge and stately inns, including the 65-room Little River Inn, one of the region’s top picks, built in 1857 on 225 wooded acres.  This is room with a view time, coupled with a signature Bloody Mary and billionaire bacon at the lively restaurant.  Meet the morning with a brief trek through the Pygmy Forest, a fascinating find, before exiting for home.