Recently I took a trip with a couple of friends to the Anderson Valley Region of northern California. Initially I didn't know what to expect but I was quite surprised once I arrived.
Imagine the backdrop of a Netflix suspense series in a mountainous town out in the middle of nowhere. It starts with a famous writer who lives in a beautiful house on one of the mountains. It seems like everyone in town drives a Volvo station wagon or a Subaru. Everyone in town knows everyone else and is extremely friendly. When someone new comes to town, everyone knows within hours of them checking into the hotel.
I’m exaggerating (a little) but this is what the Anderson Valley region feels like when you first arrive. It sort of an oasis that almost feels like a set up for a good movie.
A person frequently associated with Anderson Valley is a man who happens to share the same name “Anderson”, a hippie who decided to take refuge in the area back in the 70s. The story is that Anderson moved to the area in his VW bus to get away from “the city” where he could raise his family. Initially he landed in Boonville, CA but eventually found a ranch south of town where he landed, found work and stayed. Anderson was not the first to come to the area seeking refuge. There were many before him and after him seeking the utopia of northern California. In the 70s, the area became a destination for hippies who found work in the timber industry that ended up buying land and staying to raise a family. While Anderson Valley is not named after Anderson the man; he is an example of the lineage that makes up this eclectic area of northern California.
The idea of leaving the city for something more laid back probably has a lot to do with the vibe of the town. Everyone in town seemed to be extremely friendly and laid back. However, as we quickly found out, It can be hit or miss as to whether a restaurant or corner store is actually open. As in some small and local towns, the proprietor might just decide to close up early that day and put a sign on the door. Don't expect to find a Starbucks, McDonalds or Walmarts to run out for a quick snack in the middle of the night. After about 8 or 9pm, there is nothing but darkness to with barely any street lights on any road.
This is the reason you will want to go to Anderson Valley. You want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. You want to relax, forget about social media and enjoy the company you are with while meeting the friendly locals. While you are at it, drink some great wine from one of the many vineyards and take in the beauty of Anderson Valley.
If you are coming from San Francisco and have time to spare, go take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Although the 101 is shorter and also scenic, the PCH, gives you the ocean, and lots of little stops to see along the way.
If you are flying into the area and don’t have much time, consider flying into Santa Rosa. You will avoid San Francisco all together and you can make it up to Philo or Boonville in about an hour and a half.
Consider staying in Philo or Boonville. From there, within a 50 mile radius you will have access to the northern California coast, tons of wineries, hiking and great restaurants.
Cell service is spotty outside of the towns so plan accordingly. Don’t expect to have constant signal when driving, you will want to research your destination before leaving.
Wineries/ Tasting Rooms:
Toulouse Estate Vinyards