Today’s post is from my friend and fellow writer Alyssa Oursler! When she’s not eating Loving Cup with me, she’s writing all sorts of badassery for various publications. She recently visited Hopland, California up north and put together an amazing guide just in time for summer. Here she is!
If you’re looking to get away from the city, look no further than Hopland, California. I’m from a very small town in Maryland, and Hopland reminded the most of home out of anywhere I’ve been on the west coast. In fact, the only real difference — and it’s an awesome one — is that there’s way more wine. (Duh!)
Hopland is in the southernmost part of Mendocino County, making it just under two hours away from San Francisco. You get to drive along the Russian River to get there and if you were to keep heading north past it, you’d end up in Ukiah.
My boyfriend and I kicked off our Hopland weekend with a sparkling wine festival. The annual festival took place in a huge warehouse at Terra Savia winery with beautiful artwork and olive-oil machinery as the backdrop. It featured over ten local wine producers, olive oil samples and some delicious food pairings, including hundreds of oysters straight outta Tomales Bay.
This was my first serving of chicken and risotto — both delicious — but it was before I learned to top all my food with piment d’ville pepper. The pepper is made from chilis grown up in Anderson Valley’s Boonville. Production was started by the folks over at Signal Ridge Vineyard, which is the highest altitude vineyard in all of Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa counties.
Because the ridgetop is so challenging, the vineyard uses the same harvesters each year (most vineyards, I learned, just keep folks for a season). The problem is that, at first, they didn’t have anything for the harvesters to do in between harvest seasons. So, they decided to give growing chili peppers a try and the rest is spicy, delicious history.
While the wine and eats were all great, the country girl in me did have a soft spot for Terra Savia’s vocal (and very photogenic) goats… and of course the happy pups enjoying the festival.
After a few glasses of sparkling wine, I was a bit bubbled-out so we dropped our stuff at the Piazza de Campovida (which is in “downtown” Hopland) before heading a mile or two off the main drag to their winery. If you head to Hopland, this is the place to go.
Campovida’s winery remains the highlight of the trip, as the property was downright stunning and the afternoon sunshine was perfect. Meanwhile, the Piazza’s Inn was the perfect place to crash later that night.
We enjoyed a wine tasting before wandering down to the property’s garden at the recommendation of the tasting room hosts and could have spent a couple more hours there snapping photos if we didn’t have more exploring to do.
By exploring, I mean we headed back to town. A few doors down from the inn is the only sports bar in Hopland, while across the street is a Subway — two features that definitely reminded me of home. The town I grew up in also only has one main sports bar. Meanwhile, there are actually no chain restaurants within town limits — expect one sneaky Subway that’s been there as long as I can remember.
Anyway, we headed over the sports bar, called Hopland Tap House and were in for quite a surprise.
No, seriously. There was a surprise party at the Tap House that night. When we walked in, everyone stared because they were expected Gary. After a few hours enjoying the patio and its picnic tables (and playing some yard games) we made some local friends and learned that just about everyone there was celebrating Gary’s 30th birthday. We were also told Gary is quite a nice guy.
For the grand finale, we headed back to Piazza del Campo and enjoyed a late dinner at their Stockfarm restaurant that hit the spot. Patio? Check. Fire pit? Check. Appetizers? Check. Wood-fired pizza? Check. With a gluten-free crust? You got it.
While Stockfarm is the best restaurant in town, any visit to Hopland isn’t complete without hopping over to the Bluebird Cafe (not to be confused with the famous one in Nashville), which is right down the street. The next morning we downed some huevos rancheros and a bison burger to soak up all the wine we drank Saturday. It was a hearty meal, complete with complimentary cinnamon rolls, several cantaloupe slices and enough coffee to fuel the car-ride home.
For how close it is to San Francisco, Hopland (and other parts of Mendocino County) feel a world apart, which makes it the perfect weekend getaway if you’re craving some wine, scenery and small-town charm.
Alyssa Oursler is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. She writes about travel, tech, money, gender and more. You can find more of her work here: Teainacoffeeshop.com / Twitter / IG. You can also find more on visiting Mendocino County here.