Crab & Wine Days Ahead In Mendocino

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By Deirdre Bourdet

I’d choose crab and wine over roses and song pretty much any day of the week.  Unfortunately, the highly acclaimed “Crab & Wine Days” festival in Mendocino County only happens once a year–at the cold, wintry peak of local Dungeness crab season.  But what better excuse do you need for a winter getaway than the promise of days and days of crustacean revelry and local wines, hosted by California’s greenest wine country region?

Those heady Crab & Wine Days will take place January 21st through 30th, 2011, at a variety of locations around Mendocino County.  Events range from classic crab feed fundraisers for local community groups to crab-themed cooking demonstrations, wine dinners, and open house winery tastings celebrating wines that pair with the crabby festival hero.  And because this is Mendocino, everything comes at a very affordable price. Saturday the 21st, you can kick things off with a Champagne and Crab Omelet brunch at the Elk Cove Inn and Spa in the town of Elk, just south of the village of Mendocino.   Only $25 per person for the public, this decadent meal is free to guests of the Inn.  6300 Highway One S., Elk, 800.275.2967.

crab.jpgEvery night of the Crab and Wine Days, local favorite Mendo Bistro will offer its Crab Cake King’s Crabby Feast, featuring chef Nicholas Petti’s beloved and award-winning crab cakes, with optional paired wines for an additional $16.  Choose from a quick two-course menu ($32) or three-course celebration of the crustacean ($44).  Upstairs at the Company Store, 301 N. Main Street, Fort Bragg, 707.964.4974.

Even vegetarian Ravens’ Restaurant gets in on the crab action, with a nightly “Happy Crab” four-course tasting menu featuring Crabless Cakes, Crabless stuffed mushrooms and Crabless Salad.  These all-vegetarian dishes will showcase the region’s finest wild mushrooms, and can be paired at your option with wines made from the more unusual Alsatian varietals grown in Anderson Valley.  Stanford Inn by the Sea, Coast Highway & Comptche-Ukiah Road, Mendocino, 800.331.8884,

This crab festival is not all about feasting, though.  On Sunday the 22nd, the Albion River Inn hosts an afternoon cooking demonstration by Executive Chef Stephen Smith, at which guests will learn crab cookery tips and seasonal recipes.  Admittedly, the demonstration is followed by a three-course tasting of the chef’s creations with paired local wines… but anything less would be an incomplete lesson. $50/person.  Hwy 1, Albion, 800-479-7944,

crab2.jpgTo get even more up close and personal with your seafood, hop on board the Sea Hawk in Fort Bragg for crab watching, crab catching, and crab cooking right at the source.  Trips depart from Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor, and return 4-5 hours later with lots of fresh crab.  Reservations are required in advance, so be sure to call ahead for this unique experience.  All Aboard Adventures, 32410 No. Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg, 707.964.1881,

Lest we forget, crab is also only half the draw of the Crab & Wine Days, so get yourself a festival Passport and have it stamped at all participating wineries you visit for a chance to win prizes and/or eternal glory (but more likely prizes).  Many of the wineries will be providing crab appetizers or other crustacean-themed items to visitors, but the details and prices vary.   Check the event website (as well as your favorite Mendo wineries’ websites) to see what crustacean excitement awaits.




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