Bed & Breakfast Meets Wine & Dine
We’re on the road this summer and in the mood for more than a bed, coffee and Danish.
- Written byBonnie Graves
There are few things quite as risky when traveling as the B&B. “Charming” and “quaint” are too often revealed to be swarming and ancient, no matter where your travels might take you. That said, the romance of the bed-and-breakfast continues, from amorous couples looking for a long weekend together to the sentimental souls who think of it as the perfect retirement plan.
At its core, the notion of the B&B is one of genial, shared privacy. It’s an old Victorian somewhere on the coast, where the innkeepers give you the key and leave you alone— perhaps briefly appearing the next morning to talk up that blackberry-cornmeal muffin before you pay the piper and move along. B&Bs are usually defined by desirable destinations: they live in the liminal between places that can support big resorts and desperation motels where you just need a pillow.
To be specific, they’re found in wine country, not that far from where you happen to live. The happy news is that a new generation of innkeepers is nurturing a new generation of inns, where evening food and great wine are just as important as those titular capital Bs. Here are three completely amazing, wine-soaked, Pacific weekends for you to enjoy this season.
Calling the Cass House an inn is akin to calling the French Laundry a laundromat. It’s that good, and you should get there before the rest of the world comes calling. Located in Cayucos, dubbed one of “America’s coolest small towns” by Budget Travel magazine, Cass House is named for the town’s founder, Captain James Cass. Built just after the Civil War, Cass’ home was lovingly restored over the course of 14 years and is an architectural wonder in its own right.
Come for the Central Coast surf but stay for the food! Owners Jensen and Grace Lorenzen have designed a dining experience that is, in a word, soulful. Everything works at Cass House—from the perfectly portioned tasting menu to the quiet but flawless service to the array of wines freely poured and paired in harmony. “Unhurried service” and “thoughtful presentations” are important to the Lorenzens.
For guests, the experience is one of soulful dining that’s without parallel along the Central Coast. It’s the finest restaurant I’ve experienced in many years AND they let you stay there if you’re lucky enough to book one of the inn’s five exquisite rooms.
Where: Cass House Inn and Restaurant, 222 N. Ocean Avenue in Cayucos. 805-995-3669, casshouseinn.com
Getting There: Roadtrip! Cayucos is a stunning drive up the coast, about three to four hours north of Los Angeles on the 101.
When to Go: The Central Coast Wine Classic is celebrating its 28th year in July. Set up shop at Cass House, which is perfectly situated between Hearst Castle and Avila Beach, and indulge in a long weekend of dinners, winemaker seminars and fermented fun. centralcoastwineclassic.org
Don’t Miss: Sit on the porch at Cass House and nurse a glass of Lopez de Heredia’s rosado as you watch the sun set across the Cayucos Pier. Summertime bliss.
Room Rates: $175 to $325, double occupancy. Try to snag the cottage if you can and bring along your canine friend for the weekend.
It is possible to get tired of too much sunshine. Head north to the moody majesty of redwoods country on the North Coast this summer, where stunning coastline and ancient forests seem a lifetime removed from PCH traffic snarls. Eureka’s Old Town is a window to California’s past, where mansions minted by timber barons now house gems like the Carter House Inns—a group of gorgeously-restored, Victorian painted ladies.
The excellent Restaurant 301 makes good use of the bounty of Humboldt County, and much of the menu is drawn from the inns’ own extensive gardens. The voluminous Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine list is reason enough to linger, but skip over the trophy wines and try some of the zingy, local whites—like Fieldbrook’s excellent sauvignon blanc made from organically grown grapes. It’s clean and green, just like this beautiful part of California.
Where: Carter House Inns, 301 L Street in Eureka. 800-404-1390, carterhouse.com
Getting There: Fly United Express via Sacramento or San Francisco directly into ACV, the Eureka/Arcata regional airport that’s about 20 minutes north of town. Rent a car—you’ll want one for exploring the rugged coastline at your own pace.
When to Go: Eureka’s “Blues by the Bay” music festival happens the first weekend in September—you can walk from the Carter Inns to the harbor venue for an amazing mix of world-class blues music and maritime history. bluesbythebay.org
Don’t Miss: Ziplining through the redwood canopy, nearly 100 feet up! It’s a whole different way to experience the unspeakable grandeur of these ancient sentinels. For the acrophobic, try driving through the aptly named “Avenue of Giants” in nearby Humboldt Redwoods State Park. 800-808-2836, northcoastadventurecenters.com
Room Rates: $159 and up for a mix of room sizes and layouts. A deluxe queen room in Hotel Carter is a steal at $225, and you can linger in front of the lobby fireplace with your post-prandial beverage of choice.
For lovers of pinot noir, attending the International Pinot Noir Celebration in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette wine country is a must. (I try to get myself up there every year.) Each July, Oregon puts away its greys and positively dazzles, not just with endless blue skies and an explosion of fragrant roses but with what has easily become the world’s most important celebration of pinot.
Winemakers from around the world congregate in charming McMinnville to collaborate, compare, contrast and, well, imbibe. From Oregon to California to Burgundy, New Zealand and beyond, IPNC provides an academic examination of the grape’s finest expressions, along with some serious partying.
And while not technically a B&B, the Hotel Oregon in downtown McMinnville is the place to hang your hat. Part of the unique McMenamin’s group, this funky hotel epitomizes much of what makes Oregon cool: great microbrews and local wines, better coffee than just about anywhere, and music— all served at a ridiculously affordable price.
Where: McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon, 310 NE Evans Street in McMinnville, Oregon. 888-472-8427, mcmenamins.com/hoteloregon
Getting There: Check out Virgin America’s sassy new service to PDX, also serviced by Southwest and Alaska Air. The town of McMinnville is about an hour outside Portland.
When to Go: Buy tickets online as soon as possible for the International Pinot Noir Celebration, July 27-29, as it sells out every year. Ditto on booking hotel rooms and airfare for the best rates. ipnc.org
Don’t Miss: The Saturday night salmon bake held outdoors under the stars at Linnfield College. It’s the best salmon you’ll ever eat, served alongside an amazing feast where attendees pop and pour once-in-a-lifetime pinot noirs.
Room Rates: McMenamin’s starts at just $79 for the most basic of rooms, with many options available at higher price points.