Mendocino: Recipe for Romance

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By Courtney Cochran

Having just returned from a long weekend in Mendocino, I can reliably report the following: Mendocino is cold, Mendocino is windy and Mendocino is wet (did I mention it's cold?). So why do I like it so much?, I can recall thinking to myself as my boyfriend and I meandered under threatening clouds along the jagged cliffs that overlook the region's spectacular coastline.  And that's when I saw it:  a sign situated in front of a wind-swept cottage that read, "Weathering Heights."  

Of course, I thought. Mendocino is practically overflowing with romance, in a very Heathcliff and Catherine sort of way. It's got all the makings of a perfect intimate weekend, after all: scores of achingly cute bed and breakfasts, world-class food and wine, breathtaking coastline and, yes, inclement weather. Personally, I can't think of a better excuse (or setting, for that matter) for hunkering down with someone special near a crackling fire, knowing that venturing out will only bring a new kind of thrill - the possibility of getting to know the wines of a region on the brink of becoming the next big thing in American wine.

(Just be sure to take your umbrella when you go.)
Whether you fit it in before or after venturing out to taste wine in Mendocino's charming inland valleys, be sure to make time to explore the postcard-perfect town of Mendocino. The coastal village - dramatically situated on a headland surrounded by the crashing Pacific - has been declared a National Historic Preservation District thanks to its wealth of charming 19th Century structures that lend the place the aura of a bygone era.  Stroll through the town's quaint downtown to browse galleries and shops, and be sure to stop into the local coffee haunt, Moody's (where everything's organic, natch), for a chat with the affable locals who call the town home.  

Of course, your trip wouldn't be complete without exploring Mendocino County's extraordinary natural assets, too.

Mendocino affords some of the most spectacular whale watching in California, with the best viewing occurring from December through late March. If visiting during winter, cozy up to your special someone at one of the many cafes and restaurants along the coast with ocean views, and prepare to be delighted.  

Outdoor activity can be surprisingly invigorating - some might even call it aphrodisiacal.  For a romantic retreat of a singularly natural nature, head to Fern Canyon Trail in Van Damme State Park (located three miles south of the town of Mendocino) or one of the many other trails in the area. And don't forget your slicker.

Mendocino enjoys a reputation as the greenest wine region in the country.  With some 15,000 acres under vine - 25% of which are farmed organically - the area boasts incredibly elegant Pinot Noir, enchanting dry Gewurztraminer, soulful Chardonnay and many, many other varieties, sparkling wines and blends.  And because a romantic getaway to Mendocino wouldn't be complete without exploring all of this vinous bounty, be sure you do.  

Click here for more on where and what to taste while there, as well as links to easy-to-follow trip itineraries to help you along your way. Cheers.

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