We wound down 2008 with a mini-road trip up the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts. Below is Point Arena and its lighthouse, which was unfortunately being renovated when we stopped there. But the hiking along the rocks and cliffs is spectacular!
Right on the countyline between Sonoma and Mendocino is the townlet of Gualala (which some people pronounce “wah-lah-lah”). There’s a long beach with lots of driftwood at the mouth of the Gualala River, making for excellent beachcombing.
We stayed at St. Orres, a funky timecapsule from the mid-70s here on the far coast. Whimsically built to recall the 19th century Russian influence in the area, St. Orres consists of a lodge and a series of small cabins spread among several acres of oceanside forest. Cool stuff. Quiet, idyllic, with zero cell phone reception or internet (yay!). There’s also a hot tub overlooking the Pacific and an excellent sauna — also built to be sort of Russian, although really it’s 1970s Northern California in all its splendor, right down to the hot tub. There’s a restaurant in the main lodge which some people will say is good, but trust me: Don’t eat there. Instead, check out Pangaea in nearby Gualala (billed as “lusty, zaftig, soulful food”) — it rocks. Great food and a fine selection of regional wines from the Sonoma and Mendocino Coasts.
Below, some of our spoils: Anthill Farms 2006 Comptche Ridge Pinot Noir, from a vineyard planted a few miles inland from Albion on the Mendocino coast; and Renard’s 2003 Peay Vineyard Syrah, from the Peays’ vineyard a couple miles inland from Gualala and Sea Ranch.
*Note: The New York Times recently ran this article on the community of Sea Ranch, a few miles down the coast from Gualala.