Month: June 2017

Glamping in Guerneville: An Airstream, the Russian River and Wine Country Eats – The Mercury News

GUERNEVILLE — When we imagined our camping weekend in Guerneville, the west Sonoma County river town of 4,500, my husband and I imagined hiking through Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, taking a dip at Johnson’s Beach and making the obligatory stop at Korbel Champagne Cellars.

We did all that, but we also fell so in love with this former logging-community-turned-eclectic-wine-country gem, that we ended up spending a lot of time just strolling its downtown streets and restaurants — that is, when we weren’t enjoying free wine tastings in the midcentury modern clubhouse back at the campground.

OK, make that glamp-ground. Staying at AutoCamp Russian River’s luxurious camp site off Highway 116 made the trip that much more relaxing — and indulgent. Pulling up to AutoCamp, less than a mile from downtown Guerneville, is like driving onto the pages of a design magazine: Tucked into a grove of towering native redwoods are two dozen shiny Airstream trailers, their silver facades reflecting a thousand shades of green. Kids haul red Radio Flyer wagons across rocky pathways, while adults ride cornflower-blue Linus bicycles down paths into town and along the Russian River.

Linus bicycle rentals are free for adult guests of AutoCamp Russian Riverin Guerneville. Most guests use them for quick access to downtown and the beach (Photo: Aubrie Pick).Borrow an AutoCamp Linus bicycle and you can cruise downtown and to the beach (Photo: Aubrie Pick). 

The trailers (starting at $225) are tiny — perfect for two adults or a family of three — but very well-appointed, with a flat-screen TV, bare-bulb Schoolhouse Electric pendants and a cozy queen-size Casper bed outfitted with hotel-quality linens. The common area has a fold-out futon with Coyuchi throws and a small kitchen with all the comforts of home: French press, stemless glassware, dishes, a cast-iron pan, mini fridge and microwave. The bathroom is tiled and posh, with a walk-in shower and Malin and Goetz bath products. Warm showers last 10 minutes, but you can take a longer one in the spacious, spa-style showers located in the clubhouse.

We spent a lot of our time just outside our door. Each trailer has its own fire pit, lounge chairs and dining table perfect for Kindle reading, s’mores roasting and chilling out. On that first crisp morning, we headed to the clubhouse for complimentary coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice and warm, just-baked buttery biscuits — they’re from downtown’s Big Bottom Market and one of Oprah’s 2016 favorite things —- before heading three miles north to the Armstrong redwoods reserve.

The 805-acre majestic park is a reminder of the massive coastal redwood forest that once covered much of this region, before the logging operations that flourished in the 19th century arrived (in fact, the first English name for the area was Stumptown). Take the easy, 1.7-mile hike along the Pioneer Nature Trail to get up close and personal with a few very special Sequoia sempervirens, including the Colonel Armstrong Tree, which, at 1,400 years, is the oldest tree in the grove, and the Parsons Jones Tree, which is the tallest at just over 310 feet (nearly as long as a football field). The reserve also includes a visitor center with free maps and bug and wildlife specimens from the park, a large outdoor amphitheater and several picnic facilities. Be sure to stop at Big Bottom Market on the way for sandwiches, salads and extra biscuits so you can linger among the towering redwoods during a relaxing post-hike lunch.

After washing up at camp, we spent some time enjoying the amenities — napping in the redwoods-slung hammocks, teaching our son chess in front of a roaring fire inside the clubhouse — before heading out to dinner. And what great timing: Guerneville’s dining scene has matured in recent years, and there’s a fantastic option on Main Street for almost every taste, from mezcal and Mexican deviled eggs at El Barrio Bar to Korean fried chicken and banchan at Dick Blomster’s Korean Diner. Just be sure to leave room for s’mores. Buy a s’mores kit for $12 at the clubhouse and build your own fire by your trailer — a wonderful end to a perfect day.

Johnson’s Beach offers paddle boat and kayak rentals on the Russian River. (Photo: Daniel Poirier) 

The next morning, we burned off our eats kayaking at Johnson’s Beach on the Russian River. The beach, located just off Church Street in downtown Guerneville, is a favorite summer spot for Sonoma County families because it offers everything you need: canoes, kayaks, inner tubes, beach chairs, umbrellas and a snack bar with Popsicles and ice cream for the kids and beer and wine for the grown-ups. A two-man kayak will run you $40 for the entire day. And when you’re not paddling or floating on the gentle current, you can take a dip in one of the swimming holes or discover the abundant wildlife in the forest along the river.

The beach closes at 6 in the evening, so, at 5:30 p.m. we pulled our chairs up to the river’s edge and dipped our toes into the crisp water, letting our feet rest atop smooth, polished stones for a few more minutes of summer.

If you go

AutoCamp Russian River: Luxury tents start at $159; Airstreams, $225. 14120 Old Cazadero Road, Guerneville;

Guerneville Bank Club: This collective includes Chile Pie Baking Company, Nimble and Finn’s ice cream, the Jam Jar Finds boutique and Bank Club Wine Collective, a tasting room for Inizi Wines and Baldassari Family Wines. Hours vary. 16290 Main St., Guerneville.

Big Bottom Market: Pick up soups, sandwiches, salads, local wines, honey and buttery biscuits (an Oprah Winfrey 2016 favorite thing) here. Open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Monday. 16228 Main St., Guerneville;

Dick Blomster’s Korean Diner: This popular Korean American joint is located inside Pat’s and is known for its crispy battered chicken (the other KFC) dressed with soy, chiles and ginger, plus banchan, kimchi pancakes and “whiskey knock-off filet mignon” and a full bar. Open 5 p.m. nightly. 16236 Main St.,

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve: This state park features 805 acres of coast redwoods plus a visitor center, large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails and picnic facilities. Park in the lot at the entrance and walk in for free. Open 8 a.m. to one hour after official sunset. 17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville;

Johnson’s Beach: Swim, sun and snack at this popular Russian River beach, which offers canoe, kayak and inner tube rentals, plus beach chairs, umbrellas and a snack bar with beer and wine. Open daily through Sept. 8, weekends through Sept. 24 (closed Sept. 9 and 10 for the Russian River Jazz Festival). 16215 First St., Guerneville;

3 great Guerneville restaurants – East Bay Times

Whether you’re glamping at nearby AutoCamp Russian River or wine tasting through Sonoma County, you’ll want to settle into these spots in Guerneville, the logging town-turned-wine country gem. In the past few years, Guerneville has gained several fantastic spots on its main drag, making it a go-to for foodies. Here are some of our favorites.

Seaside Metal Oyster Bar

Open since 2014, the chic oyster bar is the sister restaurant of San Francisco’s Bar Crudo, and executive chef Mike Selvera’s shuckers have the same magical touch here. The menu is divided into fresh oysters ($3.25-$3.75), crudo ($12-$15) and small and large plates ($12-$27). Like the menu’s pristine produce and artisan cheeses, the tight, focused draft beer and wine list reflects the bounty of Sonoma County — and the Bay Area.

Vibe: Seaside Metal is a tiny restaurant trimmed in grays, blues and white subway tiles, with eight small tables and another dozen seats at the classic marble oyster bar. Grab a seat there so you can watch the staff prepare gorgeous salads and architecturally styled crudos while admiring the massive, industrial fog lights overhead.

What to order: Start with Crab Salad ($21), a pile of sprightly arugula atop fresh burrata, slivers of crisp fennel and asparagus, with marcona almonds for added crunch and citrus for balance. It will stoke your appetite for Arctic Char ($14), four perfectly cut, impossibly fresh tiles of raw arctic char dotted with dill, horseradish creme fraiche and kicky grass-green tobiko (thanks to a wasabi bath). Entree? You want the Octopus ($26), a sous vide preparation turns out the most divinely chewable tendril atop Beluga lentils that swim in a romesco sauce with spring onions, salsa verde and warm Castelvetrano olives. It’s seafood heaven.

Details: Open Wednesday-Sunday at 5 p.m. Happy hour 5-6 p.m. daily, 16222 Main St., Guerneville;

Big Bottom Market

This rustic cafe and general store has been open since 2011 and is well-known for its light California fare, including breakfast items, salads, soups, sandwiches, wines by the glass and famous buttery biscuits (an Oprah 2016 favorite thing). Dine in or grab local artisanal goodies for the road, including Sonoma Coast wines, cheese, organic orange-blossom honey and fair trade coffee. And yes, a bag of the biscuit mix.

Vibe: Big Bottom is totally chill. A small mix of wooden two- and four-tops fill the dining room, which is equal parts market and coffee house. It’s the kind of place you can linger over a brekkie sammie named The Hangover or pop in with a friend to extend your wine-tasting day with a glass of something crisp and a mezze plate. In other words, it’s the perfect hangout.

The mix for Big Bottom Market's biscuits -- a 2016 Oprah favorite -- andhoney can taken some so you can enjoy the Guerneville favorite year round (Photo courtesy of Donna Prowse).The mix for Big Bottom Market’s biscuits — a 2016 Oprah favorite — and honey is available in to-go form. (Photo: Donna Prowse). 

What to order: Biscuits ($4-$11) are a must, and they come in a variety of flavors, from a simple mascarpone and honey coating to the Sea Biscuit, with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and pickled onions and capers served with organic mixed greens and tossed with a housemade vinaigrette. The sandwiches ($9-$13) are served with organic green salad, as well. We keep dreaming about the Lumber Jack, with its tender roast beef, sweet shallot jam, jack cheese and horseradish aioli on ciabatta. Salads ($9-$13) are equally filling. Our pick is the Curry Chicken Salad, which comes with crisp cucumbers and radishes to cut the sweet heat plus spiced pepitas and feta cheese all tossed in a cumin vinaigrette.

Details: Open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Monday; 16228 Main St., Guerneville;

Dick Blomster’s Korean Diner

Located as a permanent pop-up inside Pat’s Restaurant and Bar on Main Street, Dick Blomster’s is a gem with a capital G. No one expects to come to tiny Guerneville and feast on big-city Korean American comfort food. It has been a pleasant surprise for visitors since it opened in 2012, with a menu featuring fabulously creative goodies: hand-cut Seoul fries with Korean chiles and kimchi aioli, chilled soba noodles with kale, Snake River kobe hot dogs with pickled daikon, cilantro and mint. We could go on.

Vibe: Vintage all the way. Pat’s is a traditional American eatery, which has been family owned and operated since 1945. The decor of the 70-seat diner reflects that: It’s ’50s-esque, with a neon red sign, swivel stools and a long counter serving singles and families alike. The old-school map of Russian River Fishing Holes hanging on the wall is pretty awesome, too.

Don’t miss Dick Blomster’s Korean Diner for the Korean Fried Crack is served with vanilla slaw (Photo: Dick Blomster). 

What to order: At least one round of Korean Fried Crack ($15), breaded and fried chicken tossed in sweet soy and ginger and served alongside vanilla slaw and buttered white (Wonder?) bread. Among the other entrees (all $15), there’s crunchy battered shrimp served with sushi rice, ginger, sesame, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) and sriracha, as well as juicy grass-fed burgers dressed with American cheese, fried pickles, seaweed and a side of Seoul fries. Vegan? Try the KFT ($10), a tofu sandwich in the spirit of KFC. For the little ones, House Nuggets ($5) with a side of KFC sauce, natch.

Details: Open at 5 p.m. nightly. 16236 Main St., Guerneville;

An Eater's Guide to the Russian River – Eater SF

Visitors have exalted in the Russian River’s atmosphere of pure summer paradise since the train first went all the way to Guerneville in 1877. Just 75 miles North of San Francisco (approximately two hours by car), rental cabins and small family-owned resorts have long prospered there. Now new generations of vacationers are drawn by its swift green Russian River, towering redwood stands, and hot summer afternoons.

Pliant through boom and bust, Guerneville is currently enjoying a lovely dining boom, with an abundance of places either right on or off the Main Street that are glad to help feed and succor the weary traveler.

The Water

Johnson’s Beach

Those with a bathing suit in tow may wish to make their way to Johnson’s Beach (16215 and 16217 First St.), an old-fashioned resort with nearly a centuries’ worth of experience making folks happy. Umbrellas, canoes, paddleboats, kayaks and even folding chairs are available to rent from the little kiosk on the beach and there’s cold, cheap beer on tap as well as soft-serve and burgers for prices not seen in California decades.

Rio Cafe Take 2 Rio Cafe Take 2

If Johnson’s is too crowded, try Monte Rio Beach, where the Rio Café TAKE 2 (20396 Hwy. 116, Monte Rio) squats adjacent to the local Quonset hut movie theater, and where a great burger and a very decent pulled pork taco can be found with a beverage for less than a $20 bill.

The Land

Big Bottom Market Big Bottom Market/Facebook

Those intending to hike are encouraged to swing by restaurateur Crista Luedtke’s Big Bottom Market (16228 Main St.), where Oprah’s favorite biscuits reside and where gourmet sandwiches are made to order, excellent wines and microbrews are ready to be poured, salads are heaped freshly in the cold case, and the line is deservedly long. With pour-over coffee and pastries for the morning and a reasonably priced bagged lunch program for preorders ($17 for an “artisan sandwich,” chips, cookie and bottled water), the market offers up a changing roster of everything from chocolates to books (and really did make it into O Magazine).

The Midday Meal

boon eat + drink boon eat + drink

It’s true that Luedtke and her partners have made something of a study of revitalizing this town, also being the founders of the boon hotel and its boon eat + drink restaurant (16248 Main St.), where the menu is divided into “green plates,” as well as small and large plates that are perhaps of a lesser green hue. Emphasizing Sonoma County produce, a recent lunch menu ranged happily from crisp little gem lettuces to fat grilled asparagus with eggs to burrata with garlicky grilled bread. Come here before the hike and all bets are off; come here after a hike and eat deeply and well — you deserve it.

The Afternoon Snack

Nimble & Finn

When dessert and shopping must be paired, it’s excellent to remember that pie and ice cream go beautifully with earrings, wine, and historical photographs. The Guerneville Bank Club (6290 Main St.) offers some of all. A classic old Federalist building on Main Street, this former fiduciary institution now hosts Nimble & Finn’s homemade ice cream and the flaky goodness that Chile Pies Baking Co. has on tap as well as artisanal offerings from the Jam Jar pop-up, photos from the local historical society, and a wine collective spanning the varietals. Choose a piece of Green Chile Apple or Lemon Buttermilk pie and top it with a scoop of apricots and cream or Madagascar vanilla ice creams. The wide front steps of the bank make for a perfect people-watching station.

The Drinks

El Barrio Bar

Is mezcal better before oysters or after? Once the pleasures of exercise begin to wane, it’s time to make the tough choices. Luedtke and partners own the El Barrio bar (16230 Main St.), an oasis of ice and agave that feels like where the real grownups go to get their drink on. With a bar program devoted to rare and excellent tequilas, mezcals, and bourbon. El Barrio offers flights and cocktails with bites like Mexican deviled eggs to keep the mind sharp, but hunger dulled.

The Oysters

Seaside Metal oyster platter Seaside Metal/Facebook

For cold and briny satisfaction, Seaside Metal (16222 Main St.) awaits. Here, chef Mike Selvera and co-owner Tim Selvera (also owners of the very similar SF’s Bar Crudo) keep things fresh and inexpensive. Look for $1.50 Totten Inlet oysters during the literal 5 pm-6 pm happy hour ($3.25 each during dinner hours) and choose among hot and cold crudo that includes a sumptuous cheese plate as well as prawn or crab salads, octopus with lentils, and soft shell crab. The kitchen here is open and the feeling, urbane.

The Supper

Dick Blomster’s

And there’s still time for dinner. Walk up the street to Dick Blomster’s Korean Diner (16236 Main St.), which is Pat’s Restaurant by day, serving mild-mannered American diner fare, and is a KFC house—and that “C” is for “Crack” or chicken, depending on who you ask—after 5 pm when Pat cedes the joint to Dick and Korean fan food reigns true. Choose from kimchi pancakes with kale and seaweed to Bimimbap to a whiskey-sauced filet mignon.

The Overnight

Dawn Ranch cabins Dawn Ranch

One might feel disinclined to drive home after such a day, and the Dawn Ranch Lodge (16467 Hwy. 116, Guerneville, CA 95446; 707.869.0656) up the street offers Instagram-worthy rooms as well as a delicious limited breakfast menu from its Agriculture Public House restaurant that emphasizes smart seasonal comfort food and the pleasures of fresh juice and good coffee. Once refreshed, it’s back into the river or off up hiking in the redwoods. And this is before all discussion of cider houses and microbreweries has even begun.

Equality Wines to open tasting room in Guerneville – East Bay Times

There’s a food and wine renaissance happening in the tiny Sonoma County town of Guerneville.

The latest addition is a brick-and-mortar tasting room for Equality Wines, a do-good wine label that promotes and donates proceeds to social justice causes, such as marriage equality and women’s rights. Owners Matt Grove, Michael Volpatt (co-owner of downtown’s Big Bottom Market) and Jim Obergefell plan to open the 700-square foot tasting room in Guerneville this July.

(Photo: Equality Wines) 

The six wines in the portfolio are crafted by star-quality winemakers using prized vineyard sources. Love Wins ($30), a sparkling cuvee rose, is made by Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards; The Decision, a single-vineyard pinot noir that commemorates the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, hails from Kurt Giusti’s ranch and vineyard in the Russian River Valley; and the Suffragette series, a partnership with the League of Women Voters, features The 19th Amendment Sauvignon Blanc ($25) and a pinot noir, both made by Anderson Valley veteran winemaker Alison Green Doran using Russian River Valley grapes. Two dollars of every bottle sold goes to the League of Women Voters.

Equality Wines are all limited-production, boutique wines. The tasting room will hold its soft opening from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 14-17 inside the Plaza Building at 16215 Main St. —with bites from Big Bottom Market. Details: