Craft Beer in the North Bay

lagI recently returned from a great trip to Seattle to visit my son. I was amazed at the number of breweries there were there. Not being much of a beer drinker, breweries are not usually something I pay much attention to but my interest was piqued because of my son’s interest and knowledge about the different styles of beer. As with anything like this there was a lot to learn. I came back to Sonoma County slightly better educated about. I even learned that at one point Lagunitas was threatened with a lawsuit over their brewery’s trademarked “420” pale ale and they dropped the reference to 4/20.

If you are visiting Sonoma County there are many great breweries to explore. Its not just about the wine anymore. Close to us here in Geyserville is the Bear Republic Brewing Company. They are one of the originals on the North Bay craft beer scene. Most famous for Racer 5, my husband’s preferred beer, the Healdsburg location offers a surprisingly diverse selection of tasty beers.  www.bearrepublic.com

Some other spots to check out are:

Mill Valley Beerworks – www.millvalleybeerworks.com

St Florians Brewery – www.stfloriansbrewery.co

Hop Monk Tavern – www.hopmonk.com

The Perfect Day According to Me

IMG_5888Just 55 minutes west of Geyserville, the small, quaint town of Jenner presides over the Russian River. Whether a tourist or resident of Sonoma County my idea of the perfect day is comprised of time spent in nature, on the water, kayaking the glorious Russian River estuary where the river meets the Pacific Ocean.

Complete the experience with a bottle of Bedarra Beachfront Sauvignon Blanc (available at Locals Tasting Room) and a packed picnic lunch for a lazy day at Goat Rock Beach.

Your journey through the estuary will be filled with breathless, unforgettable beauty as you kayak among sea otters and a numerous species of birds in all their glory. Enjoy and expect to be transformed forever.

Kayaks can be rented in Jenner across the street  from Café Aquatica at Watertreks kayak rental.

Written by: Tanya Gnida

How to Enjoy Lake Sonoma

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Lake Sonoma was created in 1983 by the construction of the Warm Springs Dam. At capacity, the lake covers 2,700 acres and offers 50 miles of coastline. Managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, over 17,000 acres of lake and surrounding recreation area offer a wide variety of activities, including hiking, mountain bike and horseback riding, boating, camping, fishing and hunting. More than 40 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails meander around the two main arms of the lake, taking in rolling coastal foothills of redwood groves, oak woodlands, mixed forests, grassy slopes and steep hills. The lake features some of the best bass fishing in the state, along with steelhead, trout, catfish and perch. Lake Sonoma has 109 primitive campsites and two group-use campsites that are accessible by boat and/or trail only. One drive-in campground is also available.

The hiking trails range from easy to relatively difficult and many offer beautiful views in return for your efforts. You will see Redwood trees, Douglas firs, oaks and grasslands. Last time we went we spotted wild boar and other wildlife and bird watchers will enjoy a variety of species. Boar hunting (archery and crossbow only) is permitted in designated parts of the recreation area from late November through March. You should always check at the visitor center to determine where hunters might be encountered.

The Visitor Center and Fish Hatchery are located at the park entrance and are open to visitors year round. Here, exhibits tell the story of Warm Springs Dam, explain the natural and early history of Dry Creek Valley, and offer a variety of audio-visual and ranger-led programs. Displays in the visitor center focus on the culture of the Pomo tribe of Native Americans – the original inhabitants of the Dry Creek Valley – and their way of life, with particular emphasis on their excellent basket making skills. Call (707) 431-4533 for additional information.

The Congressman Don Clausen Fish Hatchery is located behind the Visitor Center. Visitors can observe the operation of the hatchery and see displays which describe the life cycle of the coho salmon, steelhead and chinook. The hatchery was built to replace and enhance salmon and steelhead spawning grounds. It is a Corps of Engineers hatchery operated by the California Department of Fish and Game. Tours for large groups may be arranged by calling (707) 431-4533

Enjoy your visit and remember to take plenty of water with you if you are heading out for a hike. Reward yourself with a dip in the lake afterward or bring a picnic and just relax. A nice bottle of Sparkling Rose from www.tastelocalwines.com would be a nice reward.

 

Best Rated Drop Zone in California

As previously noted in this blog visitors to Sonoma County frequently offset their comfortably sybaritic (adj. fond of sensuous luxury or pleasure) wine tasting hobby with pulse-raising weekend projects like—heaven forbid—an Ironman triathlon, a  marathon, a century bike ride, or a muddy, hilly, chilly, OCR (obstacle course race).

Those seeking something — how should I put this? —less terrestrially encumbered… some endeavor requiring less of a struggle with the laws of the universe and more simple cooperation with them, might choose to follow the example of self-confessed “adrenaline junkie” and wine club member Marcy Bravo and seek out the services of the North Bay’s best skydiving oufit: Norcal Skydiving.

“I went skydiving for the first time for my 40th birthday” says Marcy, “The crazy part was it was one of the most peaceful experiences–flying over Cloverdale with a clear shot of the Sierras, Lake County, Ukiah, San Francisco, and Lake Sonoma. “The team at NorCal Skydive was amazing! I would recommend everyone try it once!”

Why not try it out, then drop right into Locals to tell us all about it?

http://www.norcalskydiving.com

The Sally Ann at Lytton Springs

 

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Salvation Army Lytton Springs ARC

Most visitors to Locals approach us by heading north on 101—have you ever noticed the building with the rather grand façade on the west side of the freeway halfway between Healdsburg and Geyserville? Landscaped with tall palm trees and boasting a commanding view over Alexander Valley at a pinch it could be a resort spa, or the clubhouse of an exclusive golf course. Nope, it’s the Salvation Army’s Lytton Springs ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center).

In keeping with the Salvation Army’s SallyAnn4century-old model of providing comprehensive free rehab to substance abusers—who in turn support the program by processing donations and staffing the retail stores—the Lytton Springs Sally Ann provides a mix of work, faith and therapy, demanding a six month commitment from its residents. For hundreds of sharp-eyed visitors who comb the aisles weekly it also means a treasure trove of second hand clothing, furniture, ceramics and glassware. Many regular pickers travel up specially from San Francisco, the East Bay, and beyond.

 
If you like a challenge and know your Giorgio from your George Zimmer, your Liberty from your LL Bean, consider a slight detour from the regular Wine Country circuit on your next trip up to Sonoma County’s most varied and interesting tasting room.
SallyAnn2

 

A Meandering Ride through Wine Country

128We had a cyclist couple in the tasting room last Saturday who had both, the day before, completed the grueling Geysers ride – an unforgiving 18 mile, 3,000 ft climb followed by a steep and very technical descent. Locals was the half-way stop on their “recovery” ride, a thirty mile loop starting in Healdsburg and meandering through Dry Creek and Alexander Valley. Now this route is manageable for all but the most novice rider – a couple of hours at a brisk lick, or a leisurely four hours out in the perfect late summer weather. And, as noted, it also allows for a relaxed tasting at Locals midway along the ride (right after you’ve completed the only climb to speak of) followed by a spot of lunch at Diavola or Catelli’s and then you’re fortified for the home stretch along Rte 128 and up the Alexander Valley Road back into Healdsburg.

If you’re a seasoned cyclist by all means pop your bike on the car rack, squeeze into your Lycra onesie and head on up to try it out. If you’re more of a day-tripper there are a couple of great bike rental services in Healdsburg (Spoke Folk and Wine Country Bikes) with knowledgeable staff to help you with your choice of bicycle and advice for the ride. Downtown bakeryWhy not start out at the plaza after brunch at the Downtown Bakery? … come on, at the very least a sticky bun!

Our intrepid couple popped next door for lunch, got back in the saddle to complete the loop, and then zipped the six miles up 101 by car back to the tasting room to pick up the wine they’d bought, thus wrapping up a comprehensively enjoyable Wine Country weekend.

Marigold Indian Bistro

MarigoldBistro7225 Healdsburg Ave
Sebastopol, California 95472

http://marigoldbistro.com/index.html

Uddab Timilsina, the best Indian chef in the North Bay, is back, this time in Sebastopol Ca, over at his new restaurant Marigold Indian Bistro. He’s originally from Nepal and has the knowledge and ability to pull together ideas from many of the dozens of culinary traditions of India.

This restaurant uses the freshest ingredients and local meat and organic poultry; I recently tried their Kale Bhaji appetizer (organic kale, ginger onions fritters coated in a chickpea batter), Lamb Saagwala entrée ( exquisite lamb cubes slow cooked with herbs and baby fresh spinach), and of course Chicken Tikka Masala entrée (Charboiled bonless organic chicken tandoori cooked in a rich tomato sauce, herbs and a dash of fenugreek.

If you are in Sebastopol, you can’t miss this dishes along with their variety of Naan and Roti.

Two-day side trip to Mendocino

MENDOOn a recent trip to California from the East Coast, I was lucky enough to be able to take a two-day side trip to Mendocino.  What a treat!  The drive from Geyserville (my home base) to Mendocino set the tone right from the start.  For anyone that has not had the opportunity to take Highway 128 from Cloverdale to Mendocino I highly recommend it.  Be prepared to take your time and enjoy.  The road is small and very windy.  At first it passes through vineyards with the very occasional small town.  Tasting opportunities abound.  Further along toward Mendocino the road passes through redwood and pine forests.  Absolutely beautiful and peaceful.  Once in Mendocino we spent several hours walking the headlands and exploring the town.  The headlands are dramatic with views from on high of the ocean and the coastline.  Mendocino itself is small, charming and friendly. The weather was beautiful, clear and warm, and the views are spectacular.  After a while we found our way to the Andiron, a small collection of cabins about 5 miles out of town where we would spend the night.  The Andiron is a great place to stay.  Charming, friendly and relatively inexpensive.  They have a number of cabins, each of which has a theme.  For example, we stayed in “Read” and “Write.”   Each Cabin had a fireplace and ours shared an outdoor deck from which you could see a sliver of the ocean.  On our first trip to the deck we were greeted by several deer roaming the field adjoining the cabin.  Deer greeted us almost every time we stepped out the door.  That night we ate at “Wild Fish,”  A small restaurant between the Andiron and Mendocino.  What a great choice!  The restaurant is very small (8 tables I think) so be sure to make a reservation.  It is in an unassuming location.  Look for the gas station and post office, we were told, and the restaurant is in the back of the post office.  Don’t be put off.  Once in the restaurant you are greeted with some of the most wonderful views of the ocean imaginable.  Plan to be there at sunset and you won’t be disappointed.  As its name suggests , seafood rules the day.  House cured salmon, raw oysters and clams are some of the appetizers.  Main courses are highlighted by locally caught fish simply prepared and delicious.

After a peaceful night at the Andiron we went beach exploring.  A highlight.  We went to the beach just outside town where the Big River meets the ocean.  Luckily we got there when the tide was out.  That gave us the opportunity to explore a number of coves that would be difficult to reach when the tide is in.  Each cove has its own character and when you have made your way into one you are completely removed from everything.  All you can see is ocean.  I’ll admit that we were there on a Monday morning so I imagine there are times when there are more people exploring just like us but we had the place to ourselves.  goodlifeAfter a busy morning we went to the Goodlife Cafe and Bakery in Mendocino for coffee and snacks.  I highly recommend it.  Great coffee, friendly people, and a wonderful selection of baked goods, sandwiches and salads.  Just what we needed.  After that it was time for a hike up the trail that runs along side the Big River for a little exercise.  Then it was time to start for home.  Don’t rush the trip back, however.  We found a number of beautiful spots to stop for a quick explore on the way home.  All in all a great way to spend a couple days in Northern California.

Bodega Bay’s Glorious Cultural Legacy by Sue Hughes

Stepping into the soft sands of Bodega Bay’s stunning shores and gazing out into an endless horizon, it’s easy to see why this gem on the coast of northern California entices so many visitors from around the world. From gorgeously adorned architecture to delicious cuisine, festive allure and some of the most beautiful beachscapes on this side of the Pacific, Bodega Bay is a number one destination for many visitors who are craving the ultimate seaside escape with a little cultural flair. Though serenely satisfying, the region enjoys plenty of activities to liven up the seasons, boasting a fine arts community with a fascinating past and promising future.

Seaside Haven

Bodega Bay’s glorious landscape is enough to inspire the inner artist in everyone, and its long history as a picturesque port of call has made it a renowned retreat for painters, poets, and musicians alike. Just a few hours north of the iconic City by the Bay – San Francisco – Bodega Bay’s enduring charm has made it an ideal escape for San Franciscans seeking a quieter side of life. Its proximity to Bodega Bay makes the region a beloved route on many cruise destinations, especially those journeying across the Pacific and up towards Alaska. Like its transatlantic counterparts in the eastern US, this part of the coast is home to a diverse mixture of cultural activity, and people coming from the Golden Gate City have added their flair to Bodega Bay’s rich melting pot of ethnicities. Partaking in the vast array of exciting watersports like surfing, swimming, sailing, cruising, whale-watching and more, visitors can also enjoy the maritime culture which has graced these parts and inspired so many artists from different parts of the globe.

Movie Mystique, Artistic Allure

Bodega Bay’s haunting seascapes certainly didn’t elude the internationally-renowned director, Alfred Hitchcock; the town became an important part of the set for his 1961 classic The Birds using the Potter School House. The attractive yet mysterious white façade bears an ominous look in the film, and even today seems to reflect a sense of intrigue and suspense. These are the same landscapes which have captured the imaginations of painters and sketchers alike, whose works can be found in the famous Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery. Featuring some of the region’s most renowned craftspeople along with artists who are just emerging onto the scene, it’s an absolute must-see, while the Ren Brown Collection is a fascinating showcase of Japanese-influenced work from around northern California as well as overseas. It is a celebration of California’s multicultural legacy as well as the heritage of Japanese families which have settled here generations ago.

Musical Delight, Festive Fun

While California enjoys some of its most eclectic music in the larger cities, Bodega Bay’s own grass-roots scene is impressive. Rocker Oysterfeller’sBluewater Bistro & Bar, and Nick’s Cove are just a few of the restaurants which offer fantastic live music on a regular basis. The Bay is also home to some of the most celebrated festivals of the region. Well-known for its incredible seafood cuisine, Bodega Bay hosts the Fisherman’s Festival in spring and the Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival in late summer. It’s an excellent time to try out some of the Bay’s most succulent food, prepared expertly fresh from the catch, as well as check out some great art and music for which the region is so distinct. For many residents of Bodega Bay as well as visitors, it’s the highlight of the season where everything that encompasses the spirit of the community is celebrated, and is an absolute must-see. The Fisherman’s Festival is also worth a visit – its climactic event, the Blessing of the Fleet, not only pays tribute to the long generations of settler and frontier fisherman and their families, but the Miwok Native American family who began the commercial venture in the ‘20s.

From quaint and charming bookshops to antique stores and cozy restos and diners, Bodega Bay is teeming with delights which will satiate the cultural connoisseur without taking away the region’s breathtaking natural appeal. It’s an escape which has everything to offer – the dazzling sunsets, the pastel skies, the soothing beaches – and a great cultural tradition to boot. Whether you’re looking to channel your inner artist or simply experience a once in a lifetime kind of adventure without the hustle of the big city, then it’s definitely worthwhile taking a trip up north

Wine Enthusiast magazine acknowledges Sonoma County Restaurants

Spinster SistersCongratulations to local favorites Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa and Spoonbar in Healdsburg for their inclusion in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants!

The magazine’s editors focused on eateries combining delicious and creative cuisine with  unique and interesting wine programs.

http://www.winemag.com/2014-100-Best-Restaurants-in-America/The-Spinster-Sisters

http://www.winemag.com/2014-100-Best-Restaurants-in-America/Spoonbar