My wife and I used to live in the Bay Area, and we often wax nostalgic about the California climate (especially as our famed Seattle winter rolls in), the food and wine, and the beautiful countryside so close to the city of San Francisco. This past weekend, we got a big and invigorating dose of all of the above (especially the wine) at a wedding in Boonville, a small town in the Anderson Valley near Mendocino.
Unlike the better-known and more commercialized Napa and Sonoma wine country, the Anderson Valley retains much of its rural charm, while delivering an amazing variety of great wineries, orchards, and craft brewers, and a small but growing selection of great restaurants.
While we didn't have time to explore the area as much as we would have liked, the Boonville Hotel stands out as the current star of the show. Despite standing directly on Highway 128 (as pretty much everything in the valley does), this 10-room hotel offers a stylish and inviting personal experience for both guests and diners.
Owned by the local Schmitt family (the original owners of Thomas Keller's French Laundry), the Boonville Hotel incorporates their strong culinary expertise and sophistication with an ease and simplicity entirely consistent with the valley's laid-back style. The hotel building echoes this blend of style and substance, with careful modern details and craftsmanship blended into a turn-of-the-century structure. The hotel grounds also include a large and well-tended herb garden, and an inviting deck and patio area.
Beyond its own numerous charms, the hotel lies within easy driving distance of dozens of excellent wineries, the Anderson Valley Brewing Co., and another Schmitt family enterprise, the Philo Apple Farm (offering an enticing-sounding onsite weekend cooking school), making it an ideal jumping-off point for a weekend's exploration of the area.
If you're thinking of visiting the California wine country and want to skip the crowds and amusement-park mega-wineries for a more authentic experience, book yourself a room at the Boonville Hotel. But do it soon -- the Anderson Valley is too perfect to stay that way for long.