Mendocino County, California
Just north of the San Francisco Bay Area, Mendocino County stretches from the coast to the mountains east of Highway 101. It's a great region for joyrides, with a ton of beautiful roads and places to stop. First up is Boonville.
Harpin’ Boont and Bahl Hornin’ in Boonville, California
Yes, indeed, there is some strange talk in Boonville, California. And though it may have had its heyday 100 years ago, the unusual language called Boontling still finds its way into daily conversation in this little Anderson Valley town. With a colorful vocabulary of over 1,000 words, it’s pretty much all you need to shoot the breeze with your neighbor.
Boontling was most widely used between 1880 and 1920 here in Anderson Valley's largest community where about 500 people lived. There are opposing theories of how Boontling originated. One theory claims that young men created it in the hop fields for linguistic entertainment. Another, that it was the women and children who started it. Whatever the case, it caught on as a useful language and eventually developed into the entire community’s lingo, excluding rival regional outsiders like Fog-eaters (coastal neighbors) and Poleekers (nearby Philo residents). Piking (traveling) to the briney (coast/ocean) with some kimmies (men) and sharkin’ (using Boontling to confuse people) those Poleekers and Fog-eaters along the way might have brought a good bohoik (laugh) for harpers (Boontling talkers) back in the day. But nowadays not too many people go around harpin’ boont (talking Boontling). There’s no question, however, that there’s some serious bahl hornin' (good drinking) going on here. And ain't that earth (the truth).
In fact, my favorite reason for coming to Boonville is to drink, as some of the finest craft beer in California is made here. At Anderson Valley Brewing Company, bahl hornin', is their creed. They are probably the largest promoter of the old language, as it happens to be a perfect marketing tool for their steinber (beer). A look at their chalkboard brew menu reads like a Boontling primer:
Poleeko Pale Ale: Philo, second-largest community in Anderson Valley
Hop Ottin’ IPA: Hop workin'
Heelch O’ Hops: All o' the hops
Horn of the Beer: Drink of the Beer
Huge Arker: A large bomb
The tasting room’s selection can be overwhelming, so I suggest you settle in for a while and taste away. They don’t serve food, though, so if you’re hungry for something to go with that pint or flight, head over to the Redwood Diner or Buckhorn first and grab a burger to go. AVBC doesn’t mind you enjoying it in their tasting room. Oh, and bring your dog pal too! It’s a dog-friendly place for friendly dogs.
Speaking of drinking, there’s also good wine in these parts. Anderson Valley is known for its Pinot Noir and there are a handful of tasting rooms within a stone's throw of the brewery.
Pedestrian-friendly Boonville can also be a fun place to browse and find eclectic things, especially at The Farmhouse Mercantile with its rustic homey stuff. Then there’s Rookie-to Gallery down the road with a wide selection of hand-crafted jewelry, art and fine crafts. And don't miss John Hanes Fine Art Gallery, Farm Chicks Antiques and the Laughing Dog Bookstore.
For such a small town, there are a number of good places to eat in Boonville, so hold out and stop here if you're hungry (skip Cloverdale and Ukiah). Also, most places have a patio or outdoor seating available, so your best dog pal can usually join you.
The Boonville Hotel Restaurant, Table 128: The nicest place in town, with a prix fixe dinner on select days. Outdoor patio.
The Redwood Drive-In: Breakfast, burgers + fries, checkout the old map of Boont while you’re there. Outdoor seating.
The Buckhorn: Good pub fare, good vibe. Lunch and dinner. Outdoor seating.
Paysanne: Aww, just look at it. It’s an ice cream shop. Outdoor seating.
Mosswood Market Cafe: Bakery, café and deli, breakfast and lunch. Outdoor seating.
Boont Berry Farm: Coffee shop, small grocery and deli in a little hobbit hole. Outdoor seating.
Aquarelle Café and Wine Bar: Dinner on select days.
Lauren’s: Homestyle lunch and dinner on select days.
Boonville General Store: Deli, lunch and breakfast. Outdoor seating.
There are a couple ways to get to Boonville, and they are both beautiful drives. Heading north on Route 101, get off at the northernmost Cloverdale exit and take Route 128 north for a beautiful drive through rolling hills and vineyards. If you’re closer to Ukiah, take the Boonville-Ukiah Road (Route 253) for a 25-minute up-and-over twisty ride with breathtaking views.
Heck, why not stay the night in Boonville? There’s an RV park right in town at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds, more camping just up the road in Hendy Woods State Park and Indian Creek County Park and the beautiful Boonville Hotel, where you’ll also want to stay and enjoy a sumptuous prix fix dinner on the weekend. Or, for a real treat, stay at the Philo Apple Farm's guest cottages, right next door to Hendy Woods State Park.
Want to know more about Boontling and Boonville’s history? Try these resources:
Boontling: An American Lingo; With a Dictionary of Boontling by Charles C. Adams