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Taking it slow through Anderson Valley.

Taking it slow through Anderson Valley Outsiders used to think of the Anderson Valley as little more than a relatively straight stretch of State Highway 128 where you could pick up your pace on the way to the Mendocino coast. It was a pleasant drive, with sheep-dotted pastures and undulating rows of apple trees. But with the coast not far ahead, travelers tended to press on to the last series of redwood-lined bends.

Lately, however, there are more and more good reasons to slow down and enjoy this region's own charms. The most significant change is apparent in the landscape itself. For the last 20 years, vineyards have been slowly supplanting the apple orchards. Certain grape varieties, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer, thrive in the shallow soil of the fog-cooled valley. Sparkling wine is emerging as a local specialty. And many of the wineries are eager to offer visitors tastes of their highly regarded products.

There's more to Boonville

than funny talk

The small town of Boonville anchors the valley's southeast end. For years, its main claim to fame was its residents' dialect. Here and there around town, you can still see words in "Boontling," a patois originated by local hop pickers and elaborated upon by townspeople, partly as a joke.

Then, in 1981, the opening of the New Boonville Hotel brought gastronomes flocking into town to dine on dishes prepared from ingredients grown in a backyard garden. But fame turned to infamy five years later: the restaurant's owners abruptly fled town, leaving a trail of debt and disappointment.

After standing vacant for two years, the restaurant is due to reopen June 15. The new owners will grow their own herbs but rely on local suppliers for other produce. Lunch and dinner will be served Wednesdays through Sundays; more casual fare will be offered in the bar from 11 to 11. Call (707) 895-2210.

Across the street from the New Boonville, the fledgling Anderson Valley Brewing Company, housed in the basement of the Buckhorn Saloon, brews four types of beer. Brewery tours are given between 3 and 4 daily. You can wash down a portersteamed sausage with a brew in the restaurant upstairs, open daily from 11:30 to 2:30 and 5:30 to 8:30 (to 9 Fridays and Saturdays).

Hot-weather relief is dished out at the Cream Pump, an old-fashioned ice cream shop in a newly reconstructed Victorian. Or try a cinnamon roll or apple fritter from the Upper Crust Bakery, at the other end of the building. You'll find basketfillers for a picnic at one of the valley's parks or wineries in a nearby country store, Boont Berry Farm.

If you're interested in things more lasting than food or drink, check the Rookie-To Gallery (named for the Boontling word for "quail") for imaginative woodworking, weaving, pottery, and other crafts from the region; it's open 10 to 5:30 daily except Tuesdays.

Artifacts from the valley's past are on view in the Anderson Valley Historical Museum, in a quaint one-room schoolhouse just northwest of town. Hours are 11 to 4 Fridays through Sundays; free.

Wine tasting: a half-dozen choices

Recently, tasting rooms have been sprouting like wild mustard among the vineyards along State 128. Like the mostly family-run wineries themselves, Anderson Valley tastings have a relaxed quality; crowds are rare, and it's fairly likely the winemaker will be on hand to answer questions in a casual way. Hours for all facilities are roughly 10 to 6 daily.

Traveling northwest on State 128 from the hamlet of Philo, you'll first come to Scharffenberger Cellars' fashionably spare new tasting room. Although its production facilities are in Ukiah, the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from which they make their sparkling wines are grown here.

A little farther down the road, Navarro Vineyards makes some of the finest and most varied Gewurztraminers in California. Greenwood Ridge Vineyards recently opened a striking concial-roofed tasting room next door. Because the grapes grow on a ridge above the fog and frost that affect lower elevations, Greenwood has had success with estate-bottled Cabernet Sauvignons as well as White Rieslings.

Continuing northwest on State 128, look for Husch Vineyards on your left. In a rustic ivy-covered cottage, you can taste wines made from Anderson Valley grapes as well as warmer-weather varietals from Husch's Ukiah vineyards. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic and stroll through the vineyards to a pondside gazebo.

Next comes Handley Cellars, whose new hillside winery offers a superb view of the valley as well as samples of Chardonnay and sparkling wine. A Burmese Buddha, Tibetan lion, and other Asian artifacts keep watch over the picnic tables.

Call 895-3623 to arrange a stop at Lazy Creek Vineyards, a husband-and-wife operation that embodies the personal approach to winemaking.

At the other end of the spectrum, Roederer U.S. has a production capacity several times that of any other local winery. Its first sparkling wine release and tours by appointment should be available this fall.

Events this month celebrate

valley pastimes old and new

Two attractions to note on your calendar:

July 17: sheep dogs, lamb barbecue. Time-honored valley traditions are celebrated during the Woolgrower's Barbecue and Sheep Dog Trials on this Sunday. Held at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville, the event begins at 10 with a competition among local ranchers' sheep dogs to see which can coax a sheep through an obstacle course in the quickest way.

Afterward, you can feast on lamb grilled on a huge open-pit barbecue while looking over wool products offered for sale. Children can take part in sack races and other games. Admission is $1; the barbecue costs $7.50 for a full plate, $3.75 a half-plate.

July 30, 31: wine tasting. Connoisseurs and dilettantes alike are invited to make the winding drive to Greenwood Ridge Vineyards on this weekend for the sixth annual California Wine Tasting Championships.

Contestants in the good-natured competition are poured unlabeled tastings of California wines and asked to identify each by varietal type. Bonus points are awarded for correct identification of vintage, appellation, and producer.

It's fun, even if your wine knowledge extends little further than distinguishing red from white. To enter, send $25 for singles or $40 for doubles along with your name, address, and class you want to complete in (novice, amateur, pro) to Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, 24555 Greenwood Rd., Philo 95466. For details, call 877-3262.

Apples and other roadside produce

Although wine grapes are coming on strong, apples have by no means been edged out of Anderson Valley. In fact, a new tasting "yurt" (inspired by the traditional round Mongolian shelter) offers eight varieties of apples, both fresh and juiced. Run by a family operation called The Tinman, it sits among orchards on Anderson Valley Way, just off the highway; watch for a sign about 4 miles west of Boonville.

The Gowan family, who have tended orchards in Anderson Valley for more than a half-century, still sell their apples (early varieties become available this month) and other home-grown produce at a roadside stand 2-1/2 miles northwest of Philo.

Local produce is also available 1-1/2 miles down the road at The Apple Dryer, an actual restored dryer dating from the late 1800s (apples from the valley were rarely shipped fresh until after World War II). Much of the original drying equipment is still in place in the rustic wood structure. A tasting room pours alcohol-free varietal grape juice, as well as apple and pear juices, and lunch is served in a small cafe.

Redwood parks: picnics, walks, camping

Long before apple trees came to Anderson Valley, towering coast redwoods shaded its streambanks and ridge flanks. Logging took down many, but impressive groves preserved in the valley's parks still provide shady refuge from midday sun.

Hendy Woods State Park encompasses 805 acres along the Navarro River. Trails winding through two groves of enormous old-growth redwoods include a 1/2-mile self-guided nature loop. Nearby is a riverside picnic area. Reservations are strongly recommended for the park's 92 campsites ($10 a night); call (800) 444-7275. Day-use fee is $3. Enter the park on Greenwood Road about 1/2 mile west of the junction with State 128 (3 miles northwest of Philo).

Two smaller county parks also offer picnicking, camping, and self-guided nature walks among coast redwoods: Indian Creek County Park, 4 miles northwest of Boonville on State 128, and Faulkner County Park, 3 miles west of Boonville on twisting mountain View Road.

Where to stay: two B & Bs

If you'd like to stay overnight in the Anderson Valley, an old stagecoach stop and a former toll road station each offer you a good bed and a hearty breakfast.

The century-old Philo Pottery Inn has four bedrooms (two with private baths) in a charming all-redwood house, and a separate cabin in back. The work of some local potters is sold in a tiny gallery. Rooms cost $60 to $75; call 895-3069 to reserve.

Just northeast of Boonville, the Toll House Inn is a pleasant retreat with four rooms (two with baths) inside and a fifth in a detached shed. Hammocks and an outdoor hot tub encourage serious lounging. Fixed-price dinners ($25) can be arranged. Rooms run $60 to $108; call 895-3630.

For information on other area lodging, write to the Mendocino County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Box 244, Ukiah 95482, or call 462-3091.
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Title Annotation:California
Date:Jul 1, 1988
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