Guerneville, situated in the Russian River resort area, is a wonderful town from which to discover this idyllic region. Be active or relax – you win with either choice. The area has been a getaway destination since 1877 when it was first connected to San Francisco via railway.
Soaring redwoods dominate the landscape. And depending on the time of the year, the river is either alive with activity or too cold for visitors to venture in. When my husband and I visited in March, water sports weren’t on the agenda, but the solitude of the beach beckoned for a long walk. Now is the time to take advantage of all The River (as the locals call it) has to offer.
Stay: The Applewood Inn Restaurant Spa, a romantic hideaway just off Highway 116, offers a much needed respite from the daily grind. Its secluded location boasts luxe accommodations, heated pool, sensuous spa, towering redwoods and farm fresh ingredients at dinner and a gourmet breakfast. It’s also recognized by Sonoma County as historical landmark #129 for Belden House, the original building on the property dating from 1922 (the same year the bridge leading to Guerneville was constructed).
Sonoma County is all about sustainability and Applewood Inn is no exception. Solar energy predominates as does composting, organic crops, fruit trees (some original Gravensteins from the early 1800s), fresh-laid eggs for breakfast and honey bees – all on the six acre farm.
Dine: Find just what you need for your picnic on the beach or in the redwoods at the Big Bottom Market on Main. Or eat in their trendy space that blends the look and feel of a farmers market with an upscale deli. Everything is local, artisanal, sustainable and combines the best of cheeses, wines, breads, prepared foods and more. Savor the curried chicken salad by itself (with currents, cashews and garlic aioli) or incorporated into the Colonel Armstrong sandwich on a warm brioche. Be sure you take home their frozen specialty biscuits.
Stumptown Brewery is the place to laze away the afternoon. You are guaranteed good food, brews, music and friendly people – all right down by The River. It’s a laid back, casual place with a huge outdoor deck that is the perfect location to take in the scene. The pulled pork sandwich is a must as well as their handcrafted beers like the Rat Bastard Pale Ale and Blimey the Wanker. Buy tickets now for the annual Beer Revival and BBQ Cook-off later this month.
Built to resemble a barn on the property previously used for apples, the restaurant at Applewood Inn boasts a wooden cathedral ceiling, exposed beams, stone fireplaces (including one that’s floor to ceiling) and a separate seating area on the porch. The menu is inspired by what’s been harvested from their own garden as well as from local purveyors.
Sunday night is Russian River night. Enjoy a three-course prix fixe dinner with no corkage fee if you bring a bottle of Russian River Valley wine. We started with chilled pea soup then savored miso glazed black cod in a tangy ginger broth with maitake mushrooms and grilled broccoli as well as pan seared diver scallops with Mendocino uni and whipped Yukon Gold potatoes. Our sweet ending was a honey cannoli with mascarpone cream and vanilla stewed apricots.
OTHER ESSENTIALS: Special Events: Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival (September 20 and 21); Russian River Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center; Johnson’s Beach; The Russian River Valley Wine Growers Association; Sonoma County Tourism
PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb