Turning the leaves and turning the roads: a late autumn weekend in Guerneville | To travel



Looking for a quick fall getaway that will get you off the highway, surrounded by great views, and not breaking the bank? Choose Russian River. Suitable for sweaters, woolen hats and hiking shoes – chic hasn’t gone beyond this zip code.

Funky, Forester and Retro Guerneville is an 85 mile drive (cross Calistoga, then west on Petrified Forest Road). Drive through Fulton on River Road and reset your 20 year dial; things are starting to look vintage.

Near Mirabel Park, textured redwoods complete the winding and often single-lane road. On drizzle days, capture late-season orange, red and yellow leaves clinging to the vines, contrasting with cedar greens and light mist. Just a little further to reach the first stop, Korbel Winery.

Unlike Napa Valley, there are wine tasting spots in Sonoma County for under $ 20. Korbel offers a free tasting of three at the market, Discovery with four selections at $ 10 and All Bubbles with five pours at $ 15.

Korbel’s Rouge California champagne is a real eye-catcher. Made from Russian River Pinot Noir grapes, it is a semi-dry sparkling wine with hints of black cherries and cola and a well-defined earthy note emblematic of such a wooded region. Snape is light with a slight effervescence. Suggested pairings include grilled meats, pasta with red sauce and sundried tomato dishes. A holiday toast also comes to mind.

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After an indoor or outdoor tasting in Korbel, take a walk in the park. Discover the ivy-covered buildings, the wine shop (stocking storage: Korbel brandy mini) and the charcuterie with items prepared on site. Non-drinkers will appreciate the espresso bar.

Korbel was founded in 1882 by three Czechoslovakian brothers. Too late to really profit from the California Gold Rush, the brothers bought land in the Russian River area and applied their talents to making cigar boxes. Wood was plentiful. The stock of finished cigar boxes began to accumulate. A reliable way to transport boxes to the port of San Francisco quickly became established. Solution — build a crossover railway on the property.

The land, after being cleared, offered the brothers another opportunity. They experimented with various cultures, ultimately determining which grapes were the most suitable. Korbel is recognized for its sparkling wines prepared using the Champagne method. Thanks to a grandfather exception to the 2005 US-EU agreement, producers who used the term “Champagne” before 2005 were allowed to continue using the word. Korbel lists “California Champagne”.

Headed to the river for a night? Find a mix of sleeping options, from moldy cabins to cozy and toasty places that will have you backing away from several Benjamins.

Have you ever tried glamping? Maybe now is the time. AutoCamp, located just after Guerneville, is definitely a top-of-the-range campsite. One of the hosts commented that AutoCamp is kind of a ramp to see if you like camping. Pick your bed – Airstream, Luxury Tent, or Happier Camper – then decide if you’re bringing your own food or shopping at their general store.

Airstreams offers luxury linens and plush bathrobes. The sites are somewhat close to each other but designed for privacy. Sit by the large communal fire in the center green or relax in the modern mid-century clubhouse with fireplace. During the drier months, there is a family hammock in the redwood grove, as well as a teepee. No bears, no bandits here, thanks to a walled-up security fence. AutoCamp accepts pets, offers yoga classes and has a unit for people with reduced mobility.

The Guerneville region is full of loops and hiking trails. AutoCamp is within walking distance of downtown although the path runs alongside a busy road. A walk in the city can take a few hours. Coffee stops include Country Coffee Organic Espresso & Tea, as well as Coffee Bazaar.

Time for a meal? Hit Brot. I visited when a fall vibe was on the horizon. Go early; the place fills its indoor and outdoor seats. BROT is where large meals are eaten. It’s a great place to bring a friend who loves beer. My buddy fell for a Schneider Weisse. I ordered Grüner Veltliner wine.

Since it’s a German restaurant, we kicked things off with a Bavarian pretzel with whipped butter and mustard. Then came the flammkuchen (Alsatian thin crust flatbread) with Fromage blanc, onion, speck and Emmentaler, aka a crust made from tangy rye flour, topped with cheese, red onions and bacon – so good it should be served in every meal. Next to the table was a superb color wheel salad with greens, cucumber, baby tomatoes, beetroot strips and more.

Brot delivered more than great food, service and atmosphere. Points to the team. Our waiter captivated my beer drinking buddy, even outperformed him in the ‘let me tell you something fun’ stories.

Manager Margareth, who runs between Brot and nearby El Barrio, and Boon Eat + Drink (additional properties by chef and entrepreneur Crista Luedtke), made it a point to check and get opinions. After the salad, she presented a fischplatte of smoked salmon, marinated cottage cheese and rye bread. Once again, a great presentation. Before running off, I walked inside. Old moviegoers will recognize a movie projected on the wall: think old black and white, pre-talkie, German director, of course.

Guerneville, with a population of just over 5,000, was founded in the late 1800s. It has long been a summer destination by the river. And pee golf. Peeing is fun for everyone, even more after dusk when glow-in-the-dark balls, borders and courses appear. Guerneville’s historic Pee Wee golf course and arcade, built in 1948 and located a short walk from the Russian River, is privately owned and open daily. It’s big, probably 18 holes. Bring your own food to the barbecue, grab free bottled water. The arcade offers vintage pinball and pong-type games. Another novelty is a vertiginous stick stuck in the yard. It marks the dates and heights where the flood waters have reached over the years.

After the exhilaration of mini-golf, take a walk on the pedestrian bridge to return to town. Destination: Bank of Guerneville building. It’s pie and ice cream time. I was disappointed to learn that due to COVID-19, the Chile Pies Baking Company was only serving one type of pie, plus a crumble to go; maybe that will change as the holidays approach.

So instead of the pie I tried the tasty strawberry ice cream from Nimble & Finn. What a delight – here, guests can order scoops or choose cold treats, such as frozen bananas or ice cream sandwiches, from the cooler. The sisters behind Nimble & Finn, Leandra and Jazmin, use local produce and organic dairy products from Straus Creamery. The flavors change with the seasons. One day it’s coriander-raspberry, the next day maybe honeycomb lavender, butterscotch whiskey or some other fantasy.

Aside from candy, a new shop had recently appeared. Owner of The Wine Vault, Paulina Vergari, presents natural and organic wines from Russian River. In the first month of sales, trends indicate that Pinot is the most popular. Local beers and kombucha are also offered.

Interesting to learn, the building that houses the three companies was to mark a centenary. Unfortunately, due to current health considerations, owner / renovator Bob Pullum has decided to postpone the party for a few months. That means there’s a big birthday party to look forward to in Guerneville – and I bet Bob will invite the neighbors from Napa.

Although marijuana was legalized about a year ago here in Arizona, it is still banned by the federal government. So what does this mean for travelers looking to take their stash with them on their vacation flight? Edward Celaya / Arizona Daily Star

Martha Blanchfield is a Napa native and photographer.


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