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Gateway to the Redwoods
Seabiscuit remains Willits most renowned resident. Charles Howard, a magnate who had made a vast fortune introducing the automobile to the West, bought the massive 17,000 acre ranch just south of Willits in the 1920s. In the '30s, the Howards took to horse racing, eventually buying a troublesome colt at a bargain price. By the time this once lowly-rated colt finally came to the Howard's Ridgewood Ranch, Seabiscuit had already transformed into the most popular horse of the 20th century. Displaying blinding speed and a wellspring of competitive courage, he had already trounced all challengers including winning a match race against Triple Crown winner War Admiral, that many consider the horse race of the century.
But it was a broken horse who first arrived at Ridgewood. Seabiscuit had suffered a leg injury serious enough that it was deemed career ending. Only one prize had thus far eluded him, the Santa Anita hundred grander, the richest pursed race of the day. Seabiscuit had previously lost on two occasions by a mere nose, and his injury occurred before he could make his third attempt. During 1939 the horse, and his Jockey, Red Pollard, who had also suffered a very serious leg injury, recuperated on the ranch. Together they gradually lengthened their rides through the rolling hills of Ridgewood. By the midway point of the 1940 season, the Howards, and trainer Tom Smith felt that both horse and jockey had recovered sufficiently to make one last run at the Hundred Grander. In what is considered the comeback of the century by the horse of the century, Seabiscuit went on to win at Santa Anita.
Seabiscuit, by now the world's richest horse and having set a dozen speed records at six different distances, returned to Ridgewood for his retirement. After he died in 1947, he was buried under an oak tree at an undisclosed location on the ranch.
The recent popular book and movie have resulted in a desire by many to visit Ridgewood. The present owners have restored and maintained the ranch to its original condition. Walking tours that include visits to the Howard house, and the stud barn topped with a weather vane depicting Seabiscuit with Red Pollard aboard are arranged through the Willits Chamber of Commerce, 707-459-7910.
In the town of Willits, the Baechtel Creek Inn and Spa has put the finishing touches on a Seabiscuit Room. The County Museum has installed a Seabiscuit exhibit that includes memorabilia and films taken at the ranch during Seabiscuit's residency.
Willits, a 2 1/2 hour drive from San Francisco at the very center of Mendocino County, was at one time a lumber town hosting 35 mills. Today it is down to one, but still offers small town charm and is still considered the Gateway to the Redwoods. It serves as a terminus of the famous Skunk Train, which carries passengers through the coastal range to the coast.
Start the day with a hearty breakfast at the Country Skillet. If you like to golf, the Brookwood golf course is uniquely set among groves of towering redwoods. The Purple Thistle offers a tasty dinner menu. And famous wine growing regions of Mendocino County, including the Alexander, Redwood and Potter Valleys, are within easy driving distance. Willits has much to offer both the Seabiscuit fan and the Wine Country visitor.
Bungalow at Dry Creek
For the Discriminating Wine Country Traveler
It was with great anticipation that we arrived in the late afternoon at the Bungalow at Dry Creek. We wanted to enjoy from the get-go, so had equipped ourselves with a summery self-catered dinner collected from our favorite Italian deli in Santa Rosa, along with a couple of wines from a great tasting room in nearby Geyserville. As we completed the easy drive from Highway 101 to the house, we saw quickly that we had made all the right choices.
On arrival, we noticed a huge valley oak sheltering the classic bungalow we had seen online. So inviting, and the city already seemed an eternity away. We explored the property enthusiastically, and our spirits rose further.
A big pool with a great diving board was classic like the house, with a unique shape and rows of grapevines running parallel to it. It was a breezy afternoon, yet it was still pleasant around the pool, and later that evening at twilight in the comfy hot tub. Throughout the property, every privacy concern had been addressed...a half-wall at the pool gives privacy while preserving a sweeping view of the gorgeous Dry Creek Valley.
Settling into the house, we noted that a smart addition had added a master bedroom which was graced with a great four-poster pillowtop bed, separately controlled reading lights, and French doors leading outside. Its bathroom with a walk-in shower and big tub rated A plus. The addition also provided a gourmet kitchen.
A formal dining room (adorned with a lovely centerpiece) glowed with warm natural light. It fills the center of the new house, and made us think of enjoying the house with a larger group. In the old living room, the original floor crackled under my steps, its smell reminding me of similar bungalows in my youth...the spirit of the house is completely intact.
Speaking of the kitchen, wow! Expansive, double ovens and sinks, equipped with spices, quality cookware and even silverware. Great lighting, day and night, like everywhere in the house. Fine eating in Geyserville and Healdsburg was an easy drive away, but this kitchen and property made us want to stay home and cook.
French doors connect an expansive terrace deck to the kitchen. To our delight we also discovered three other unique areas ready for our dining pleasure, including a spot under an arbor overlooking that jewel of a pool, vineyards and down the valley.
We woke to the rich light of the valley dispersed across exquisitely warm-colored walls and the faint whine of farm machinery. We got up, made coffee, and went out to the veranda to watch the sun rise over the gentle rolling hills leading up Dry Creek Valley to Lake Sonoma. A tree sheltered the sun from our eyes. We slowly took in the vineyards, the quiet road with only a few pedestrians and cars. We moved to the rocking chairs for our second cup of coffee.
Other highlights: Comfortably accommodates 3 couples, the other two bedrooms are special too. Walking distance to small artisan wineries. Stereo/TV/DVD provided IF you need them...we just enjoyed the CD's we brought along. Excellent laundry. I noted that the wisteria arbor and the big old camellias would be stupendous if we returned during the spring bloom.
When it was time to go, we felt fulfilled...our every desire had been imagined and anticipated. All had been provided in that respectful and energizing expansion of the old bungalow, updating it for our enjoyment in a new century. Like the wide Dry Creek Valley itself, we enjoyed drifting through this classic Bungalow and over the property again and again. Try it yourself, and enjoy quintessential California living at its best.
Article submitted by contributing writer Taylor Poff
Café Andalusia, located just off the Sonoma Square resembling a charming Spanish villa, specializes in Tapas with a California twist. Anne Thornton, the owner, fell in love with the cuisine of Southern Spain, specifically a region called Andalusia. Serving lunch and dinner until 9:00 pm, seven days a week, the Cafe also has a fabulous gourmet market available for take-out and specialty items.
You have your choice of dining inside or outside on the charming garden patio, adorned with fragrant blooming flowers and the gentle sound of a fountain. Or, if you prefer, cozy up to the wine bar and allow Adam Savin, of Savin Wine Merchant, to walk you through a plethora of Spanish and local wines. He hosts "Friday Night Flights" with three wines to taste, each strategically paired with Tapas. The cost is $10 per person and well worth it!
The menu is a balance between Tapas and California cuisine expertly presented with generous portions. Share the "Mejillones," mussels with white wine, garlic and fennel for an incredible combination of flavors, followed by "Gambas al Ajillo," sizzling garlic shrimps in a cazuela (Mexican pot made of clay), and for the meat lover...try the traditional "Jomon Serrano and Salchichas," Serrano ham and sausages. The Asparagus Salad with chopped egg and vinaigrette on greens is a tasty, refreshing dish – perfect for two to share. End your meal as the Europeans do with "Tres Quesos," a trio of rich Spanish Cheeses with membrillo (a cross between an apple and a pear).
The house-made Sangria is not to be missed! A delicious balance between tart and sweet with fresh slices of lemons and oranges, pairs wonderfully with the Tapas menu. For an interesting twist, try "Fresh Lemonade Andalusia," served with a glass of ice, cold water, and containers of fresh lemon juice and liquid sugar. The idea is to create your unique glass of lemonade just how you like it!
Visit Café Andalusia...where you will enjoy live, Spanish acoustic guitar (on the weekends), sip on delicious Sangria and feast on Tapas. For more details please check out their web site at www.cafeandalusia.com
Wine Country Recipe
Sangria! by Café Andalusia
Andalusia ~ A tasty summer treat!
Pour 1 bottle of your favorite dry fruity red
3 tablespoons of sugar (or to taste)
Mix well and garnish with thin slices of lemon, lime and orange.
Serve to 4 people on a hot summer day! Salud!
Wine Tasting Recommendation
Geyser Peak Winery: Stepping into the Heart of Alexander Valley
Peak Winery's roots in Sonoma County winemaking run deep.
Founded in 1880 by Augustus Quitzow, one of Sonoma County's
pioneer winemakers, the original winery was built in Geyserville
in 1882. Perched on a hillside across from Geyser Peak Mountain,
the winery claimed a view of the clouds of thermal steam that
billowed from the mountain's summit.
Like Geyserville itself, Geyser Peak Winery has evolved over the last century. In the early 1900's, Edward Walden & Co. had great success with a Geyser Peak brandy. Redwood Empire Wines, founded by the Bagnani family, owned the winery in the '30s and '40s. But the incarnation of the modern Geyser Peak Winery truly began in 1989, when Daryl Groom, the red winemaker for Australia's legendary Penfolds, joined Geyser Peak as its Winemaker. Groom embarked on an ambitious campaign to create a world-class winery whose wines expressed the essence of a unique – and uniquely varied – growing region.
Geyser Peak Winery is located in the Alexander Valley -- arguably one of the most celebrated winegrowing regions in the world, known for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon. Here, you can spend an afternoon with the winery's knowledgeable and friendly staff -- happy to pour samples from our portfolio of critically acclaimed wines. Geyser Peak Winery typically wins more than eighty – yes, that's eighty – Gold Medals in prestigious wine competitions each year. Enjoy a chilled glass of crisp and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc on the winery's flagstone terrace, or take your lunch across the road to the picnic grounds. Or, step up to the Reserve Tasting Room, where, for an additional fee, you can select from several flights of spectacular, limited-production wines, many of which are available only at the winery. Like the thermal hot springs which once drew visitors to Geyserville in another era, today, has become a compelling destination for visitors and a cause for renown in its own right.
Visit Geyser Peak Winery at www.geyserpeakwinery.com.
Wine Country Lodging Recommendation
Casa Del Mar in Santa Barbara
If you want to experience the feeling of a small Greek village in Southern California, spend a few nights at Casa Del Mar, your "House by the Sea," in Santa Barbara. Our WineCountry.com representative recently had the pleasure of staying there, and loved how each tile-roofed room was strategically situated with attention to privacy and beauty. Combining the intimacy of a bed-and-breakfast with the feel of a small hotel, Casa Del Mar is ideal for visitors of all types, from vacationing families to honey-mooners and business travelers.
Amenities include a relaxing courtyard Jacuzzi and sun deck surrounded by lush gardens year round, an all-you-can-eat buffet-style "Continental-Plus" breakfast, and an evening wine & cheese social hour from 5 to 7 pm daily. Choose from a variety of accommodations, including the "Extended Stay Cottage," with all the charm of your own home and full usage of Casa Del Mar's amenities.
Casa Del Mar enjoys one of the best locations in Santa Barbara — close to all beach and waterfront activities and the city's main shopping and restaurant district. Less than a block away are sandy beaches and miles of palm-lined oceanfront paths for biking, jogging and skating. Walk to the harbor for sunset cruises, charter fishing and sailing, or whale-watching.
A knowledgeable and friendly staff member is always on hand to help select a restaurant, plan activities, or answer questions. While making your plans to visit don't forget to check out their website for Golf and Spa packages as well as periodic Internet Special offers!
Contact this fabulous getaway at 1.800.433.3097 or email at email@example.com.
18 Bath Street
Wine Country Featured Events
Things to Do in the Wine Country:
28 - September 1 -- The 11th
Annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction Sonoma, California
With a Mardi Gras! theme, the 2003 auction weekend will feature beads, doubloons, Mardi Gras masks and a bit of New Orleans flair. Join the five-day party to enjoy the region, to sip the wines, to indulge, to relax, to kick up your heels and dance, and to simply enjoy the best of Sonoma Valley in outrageous Mardi Gras-style. Event tickets, which sell out early, range in price from $60 to $250. To purchase tickets visit www.sonomavalleywine.com or call 707.935.0803.
Win a Fabulous Sonoma Wine Country Getaway for Two!
Check into Hotel Healdsburg, a first-class hotel, perfectly located in the historic town plaza where one can enjoy some of the world's finest vineyards, restaurants and shops within minutes of the front steps. Beautifully appointed rooms, country gardens, pool and luxurious spa provide a tranquil setting for guests to relax in. Wake up to a delicious gourmet continental breakfast, courtesy of Hotel Healdsburg.
Start your tour of the pristine Sonoma wine country at Locals Tasting Room, just north of Healdsburg, where you will be treated to a Premium Tasting for two, including Reidel Locals Logo Glasses. Locals features 41 wines from 6 unique award-winning wineries. In one relaxing and spirited stop, visitors learn more than they usually do in an entire wine country vacation!
Delight your palate at Restaurant Charcuterie with a $150 gift certificate! Just steps away from your hotel, you will find great wine country fare with the focus on fresh and local foods. A favorite of local winemakers, the menu offers something for everyone.
***No purchase necessary.
To participate you must be 21 years of age or older. Only one
entry per person permitted. Prize is same as cash, FreeRun Technologies,
Inc/WineCountry.com is not responsible if lost or stolen. Winner
will be selected by random drawing and will be contacted via
email. Winner must claim prize within 10 days of email notification.
Winner name and state of residence will be announced in a future
issue of WineCountry.com Lifestyle Online newsletter. Employees
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