Mendocino County: A Visit to Boonville

  • Melissa Vogt

  • 06 Jan 2017 | Travel

I love the banner photo (above) of this article, because I feel that it really captures the rural essence of Boonville and the greater whole of Anderson Valley. Let's face it: You won't find those kinds of signs posted up in front of a rural lot dotted with tractors and other farm equipment right around the corner from wineries in Napa Valley—and this raw authenticity is one of the things I love most about Mendocino County wine country. There's no hiding the agricultural life here, no covering it up with glitz and glamour. What you get when driving through Boonville and beyond on Highway 128 through Anderson Valley is a genuine sense of place—the feeling that Mendocino County is a collective group of hardworking individuals who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty when working with the earth—be they apple farmers, grape farmers or otherwise.

Looking outside of wine tasting in the town of Boonville—population roughly 1,000 people—the Mosswood Market & Café is a good place to grab a cup of coffee and a pastry. And thank goodness the coffee is good, because it really is the only place to grab a cup! They serve Flying Goat Coffee (there are two brick and mortar locations in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg) and have a nice selection of pastries, but they don't have full breakfast plates. So if you are looking for a more robust breakfast, I was told by Daniel Townsend Owner of The Bewildered Pig, that you have to trek it out to Queenie's Roadhouse Cafe about 40 minutes away on the Mendocino coast (now on my list for the next visit!).
The solar-powered Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville.

Despite the fact that Boonville is small, like all of the towns in Anderson Valley, it is home to a brewery that has successfully garnered itself a cult following. Anderson Valley Brewing Company is really Boonville's biggest in-town attraction, and if you're a fan of the beers they distribute, you'll be pleased to know they have a larger, more exclusive selection on tap for those willing to make a special trip all the way to the brewery.

Like Philo, there is a post office and a small market for the locals, as well as a couple of cute shops in which to shop. I took a walk through the market hoping to find some local artisanal goods, but what I saw on the shelves was pretty standard, except for some expensive local honey—though it did look amazing—and loaves of bread from Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg. What I gathered was that the market was more for the locals, while the shops like Fish Rock Farm Girls was catered more for those like me who are looking for tasty local treats and handmade gifts.

My favorite part of Boonville is Pennyroyal Farm, owned and operated by Sarah Bennett of Navarro Vineyards. Pennyroyal is a sixty-acre farmstead, where Cheesemaker Erika McKenzie-Chapter raises sheep and goats to make an array of delicious raw cheeses. Bennet oversees the operation and runs the vineyards that are planted on the property, from which Pennyroyal Wines offers Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé of Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir. The wines are excellent expressions and the chesses are phenomenal. I recommend the 2012 Pinot Noir, a cherry cola and forest-scented expression with black cherry, anise and earthy characteristics on the palate. My favorite of the cheeses were the two samples of Boont Corners—one aged for two months with a semi-hard texture, mild funkiness and tasty nutty flavors; the other was aged for 13 months and possessed a hard, crumbly texture with a very nutty, almost-sweet umami expression. If you visit, don't forget to pick up a few fresh blocks to take home with you.

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