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Mendocino County
is Fun for Fido

from Fido Friendly Magazine
December 2007
by Emily Polsby

From the majestic redwoods to the rolling hills of vineyards to the craggy Pacific Coast, Mendocino County has long been a refuge for artists and animal lovers from all walks of life.

One of the ancestral homes of the hippy movement, Mendocino California prides itself on its small family-owned and family-friendly inns and vineyards and most everywhere you go in Mendocino, Fido is considered part of the family. Most places even provide an entire dog welcome kit, complete with biscuits, bowls, towels and more.

In fact, people who are allergic or don't like dogs would be advised to phone ahead to ensure that their hotel is pet-free because even the handful of properties that don't welcome visiting canines are usually home to at least one resident beloved inn-keeping family dog.

Start with the Wine
When most people think of Mendocino County, they typically picture breathtaking coastline with pristine beaches and the migrating whales that can be viewed right from your room or hot tub. But dogs (and people) get restless after a long drive, so before tackling the windy, yet scenic, road to the coast, jump out in Hopland, the heart of Mendocino Wine Country (about 95 miles north of the Bay Area) and take your best friend wine tasting with you.

Your first stop should be McDowell Wine & Mercantile's tasting room across from the Hopland Brewery on Highway 101. the 103-year-old building has been renovated and turned into an old-fashioned general store that carries a variety of wine and food-related gift items as well as McDowell's wines, including their renowned Grenache Rose' and award-winning Syrah. McDowell and most Mendocino tasting rooms still pour for free and Fido is welcome to laze at your feet while you quaff.

...most everywhere you go in Mendocino,
Fido is considered part of the family.

The quality of Mendocino's wines is giving most other local wine regions a run for their money these days and the unbuttoned, bring-your-dog-with-you attitude of most of the winery owners and staff might just make you decide to forego the crowded roads of Napa and Sonoma forever.

Yorkville Cellars
After everyone is good and ready, take Mountain House Road (one of those pretty back roads that is world-famous) until it connects you to Route 128. Route 128 winds through the Anderson Valley, past picturesque little towns like Boonville and Philo, but stop first at Yorkville Cellars, the most awarded organic winery in the state. Resident Labrador retriever, shadow, sill serve as your host while you sample their wines for free or enjoy a nap under the trees. Edward and Deborah Wallo will celebrate their 20th anniversary of founding this winery next year and it was second nature to them to welcome pets along with their owners. There are more wineries further up the road and while it's always polite to ask, the default position around these parts really is pro-pooch.

Fort Bragg and the Coast
The spectacular Mendocino Coast awaits you at the end of Route 128 along with quaint little villages like Little River and Mendocino proper. All along Highway 1, there are beautiful old Victorian B&Bs and inns, luxury resorts, simple, more affordable hotels and vacation rentals galore.

While most of Mendocino's 17 state parks have lenient dog policies (and official rules that state that dogs must be on a no more than six foot leash), Fort Bragg, just north of Mendocino Village, also features the newly designated off-leash Noyo Beach Park and locals are working on a fenced off-leash area to open later this year.

For a tamer, bird-watching moment, bring Fido on leash to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, which in season, features one of two Fort Bragg locations of Cowlick's Ice Cream Cafe, purveyors of super premium ice cream. Cowlick's are just as famous for their free scoops for dogs of their special chocolate-free "doggy blend" as they are for their mushroom ice cream during the harvest of that precious fungus. Cowlick's owner Johanna Jensen is one of the founding members of MCDOG, Mendocino Coast Dog Owners Group, a volunteer organization formed to start off-leash dog parks like the one at Noyo on The Mendocino Coast.

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