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Once sleepy Hopland bustling with places to explore

If You Go

Stay:

The Thatcher

Landmark, Victorian-era, 18-room hotel

Phone: 707-723-0838

E-mail: stay@thatcherhotel.com

Web:

www.thatcherhotel.com

Campovida Piazza

Eleven-room inn. Home to Stock Farm Restaurant

Phone: 707-744-1977

E-mail:

hello@stockfarmhopland.com

Web:

www.stockfarmhopland.com

Eat:

The Golden Pig

Farm-driven restaurant with specialty cocktails, lunch and dinner

Phone: 707-670-6055

E-mail:

info@thegoldenpig.com

Web:

www.thegoldenpig.com

Bluebird Cafe

Locally popular, longtime cafe. Open for breakfast and lunch

Phone: 707-744-1633

Rock Seas

Fine dining, open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday and weekend brunch

Phone: 707-670-6054

Web:

www.rockseas101.com

To do:

Campovida

Restored and renamed Fetzer Valley Oaks Culinary Center

Phone: 707-400-6300

Web:

www.campovida.com

UC Research and Extension Center

Docent-led hikes and classes

4070 University Road

Phone: 707-744-1424

Web:

www.ucanr.edu

Solar Living Center

Vanguard of sustainable living; 12 acres of earth-friendly living to stroll

Phone: 707-472-2403

Web:

www.solarliving.org

Country Porch Antiques

Eclectic collection of oldies

Phone: 707-744-1007

Wine:

Sip Mendocino

Emporium of Mendocino wines with tasting bar

Phone: 707-744-8375

E-mail:

shop@sipmendocino.com

Web:

www.sipmendocino.com

Brutocao Vineyards

Four-generation farming family with tasting room in old high school

Complimentary tasting, Bocce ball courts

Phone: 707-744-1066

E-mail:

customerservice@brutacoa.com

Web:

www.brutocaocellars.com

Beer:

Hopland Tap

Reimagined old Hopland Brewery

Phone: 707-510-9000

Web:

www.hoplandtaphouse.com

The four-block stretch along Highway 101 with no stop signs known as Hopland has quietly reinvented itself into a reason to hit the brakes and explore.

Named for the plant crucial to brewing beer, Hopland, population 817, remains a hamlet but can no longer be called “sleepy.” New businesses occupy once-shuttered 19th-century buildings, and the town’s mainstays are sprucing up. A collection of wine-tasting rooms, shops, cafes and restaurants are bustling, while not relinquishing an inch of historical charm. More than a quick stop, Hopland has emerged as destination-worthy.

Getting there is a glorious drive. Highway 101 traffic calms past Healdsburg, with the bucolic, vineyard-quilted valley spreading out toward soft hills before giving way to craggy peaks as the road, curving upwards, begins to leave Sonoma County behind.

“Experience Mendocino County: Wilderness Waves Wineries,” reads the official road sign as you cross into the county. To that, another “W” should be added - weed.

If you have any doubt, directly on your right after crossing the bridge over the Russian River is the entrance to the Solar Living Center, where you will find the only solar-powered cannabis dispensary in the United States.

Here, in 1994, John Schaeffer built his Real Goods’ Solar Living Center, a 5,000-square-foot, straw bale-constructed, solar-powered building; 12 acres of surrounding debris-laden land opened as an oasis of ponds, trees and gardens designed to demonstrate earth-friendly living for people, flora and fauna.

Last year, Schaeffer announced the sale of the entire site to cannabis distribution company Flow Kana.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being pioneers,” he said, “introducing new ideas to the public with the hope they’d mainstream. And then going out to look for the next new thing.”

The straw-bale building now houses Flow Kana’s tenant dispensary, Emerald Pharms. Whether you’re a first-timer wondering what a dispensary is like, or stopping by to make an herbal purchase, you’ll walk into a light-filled space with a friendly, informed staff on hand eager to spread the message.

Don’t miss the adjacent retail store with its jam-packed shelves displaying Mother-Nature-approved products you never dreamed existed. When asked what she thought exceptionally noteworthy, saleswoman Lily Martin responded, “Everything!” while pointing out the reusable paper towels and beanies outfitted with solar headlamps.

Pick up a map and explore the surrounding oasis. Swing your arms and let your mind run free while walking the Lavender Labyrinth; wonder what it would be like to move into Tumbleweed Tiny House; read the signs explaining why trees are growing out of the roofs of a collection of junked, 1960s-era muscle cars; or just follow the paths and enjoy the birdsong.

With the Solar Living Center representing “today” at the south end of the town, Country House Antiques takes on “yesteryear” at its north end with an ever-changing, eclectic collection of oldies cramming every inch of what was once the town’s hardware store.

In between stands Hopland’s undisputed landmark, the Thatcher Hotel, named for its 1888 builder William Thatcher. Through the years, a series of owners blessedly left its ornate Victorian exterior unchanged. The last closure kept it shuttered more than a decade.

With its turreted and cupolaed exterior freshly done up in trendy dark-charcoal gray, the front doors swung open last year to an interior that thoughtfully mixes the past with today. Gone is the Old West atmosphere of previous ownership, its flowered and striped wallpaper removed in favor of a palette of soft grays with shades of white and blue. The magnificent, original bar claims center stage as you enter. The library, a quiet place for a read and cup of tea, remains untouched, as does the creak in the stairs that lead to 18 spacious rooms furnished in minimalist style.

The Thatcher’s reemergence as town centerpiece is largely because of husband and wife team Anna Beuselinck and Gary Breen. They moved with their young family to Hopland 10 years ago with the dream of bringing Valley Oaks, the acclaimed culinary center opened in 1983 by the fabled Fetzer winemaking family, back to life. The center and touchstone gardens that had attracted foodies and chefs from all over the world, began a slide into decline and eventual closing. “It was in sad shape,” Beuselinck summed up.

After a year of intensive renovation, and renamed Campovida, meaning “field of life,” the gates swung open for wine tasting, garden touring and special events.

The couple also opened Campovida Piazza in town, an 11-room inn with a restaurant named in honor of the original Campovida land, a stud ranch known as Stock Farm. Campovida supplies Stock Farm’s kitchen with organically grown produce, providing the farm-to-fork connection important to both Beuselinck and Breen.

If You Go

Stay:

The Thatcher

Landmark, Victorian-era, 18-room hotel

Phone: 707-723-0838

E-mail: stay@thatcherhotel.com

Web:

www.thatcherhotel.com

Campovida Piazza

Eleven-room inn. Home to Stock Farm Restaurant

Phone: 707-744-1977

E-mail:

hello@stockfarmhopland.com

Web:

www.stockfarmhopland.com

Eat:

The Golden Pig

Farm-driven restaurant with specialty cocktails, lunch and dinner

Phone: 707-670-6055

E-mail:

info@thegoldenpig.com

Web:

www.thegoldenpig.com

Bluebird Cafe

Locally popular, longtime cafe. Open for breakfast and lunch

Phone: 707-744-1633

Rock Seas

Fine dining, open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday and weekend brunch

Phone: 707-670-6054

Web:

www.rockseas101.com

To do:

Campovida

Restored and renamed Fetzer Valley Oaks Culinary Center

Phone: 707-400-6300

Web:

www.campovida.com

UC Research and Extension Center

Docent-led hikes and classes

4070 University Road

Phone: 707-744-1424

Web:

www.ucanr.edu

Solar Living Center

Vanguard of sustainable living; 12 acres of earth-friendly living to stroll

Phone: 707-472-2403

Web:

www.solarliving.org

Country Porch Antiques

Eclectic collection of oldies

Phone: 707-744-1007

Wine:

Sip Mendocino

Emporium of Mendocino wines with tasting bar

Phone: 707-744-8375

E-mail:

shop@sipmendocino.com

Web:

www.sipmendocino.com

Brutocao Vineyards

Four-generation farming family with tasting room in old high school

Complimentary tasting, Bocce ball courts

Phone: 707-744-1066

E-mail:

customerservice@brutacoa.com

Web:

www.brutocaocellars.com

Beer:

Hopland Tap

Reimagined old Hopland Brewery

Phone: 707-510-9000

Web:

www.hoplandtaphouse.com

East of Campovida, University Road winds upward to the 5,358-acre UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. For 70 years the center’s mission has been to explore better ways for the agricultural community to manage natural resources and practices. In recent years, the mission extended into the public at large. On the second Saturday of each month docent-led hikes are scheduled. February’s “hike” was a 1-mile walk to visit with the center’s new lambs. “Other hikes range in difficulty on paths covering oak forest to chaparral with themes ranging from wildflowers, to wildlife tracking to wildfire management,” said Hannah Bird, community educator.

Back in town, at Sip Mendocino step into a space devoted to the county’s wines. At least 150 labels are displayed; a tasting bar invites sampling or buying by the glass. If you’d like a little something to eat while sipping, a chalkboard suggests that a pulled-pork sandwich or charcuterie be delivered to munch on at the tasting bar or carried out to Sip’s sunny patio.

The takeaway comes from The Golden Pig, located in a 2017 redo of a 19th-century saloon. Both the restaurant and Sip are owned by local rancher Julie Golden. Signature cocktails, such as the bacon-infused Pig Old Fashioned, accompany a menu described by Golden as casual and, most importantly, locally farm-driven.

Two other eateries are on the main drag. The ever-popular Bluebird, with its vintage neon sign lighting up at dusk, has operated continuously as a cafe for nearly 70 ?years. Open for breakfast and lunch, its owner for the past 25, Robert Paul, describes Bluebird as a place to catch a hearty meal with plenty of entertainment thrown in.

What kind of entertainment? “Bickering, neighborly bickering,” he said with a laugh.

The decor of the second, Rock Seas, showcases owner Roxanne Hampl’s artistic talent - mosaics and tables hand-crafted from burlwood - and her love affair with the kitchen. In the tiny Victorian built to house the local preacher of the long-disappeared church next door, expect to dine on exceptional culinary creations from a menu that leans toward seafood pulled fresh from the Mendocino coast.

Several wine-tasting rooms hold forth along the main drag. Brutocao Vineyards, family farmed for four generations, claims center stage in what was Hopland’s 1922-1963 High School. Along with complimentary wine tasting, pick up a set of Bocce balls for play on one of six regulation courts. New to the game? Printed instructions included.

While Hopland is now surrounded by vineyards and love of wine, a frosty mug can still be had at Hopland Tap.

Two years ago, Ron Lindenbusch was driving north on his way to visit Ukiah friends. He’d just said goodbye to his job as chief of marketing and sales for Lagunitas Brewery. Not ready to retire, his dream of what to do next centered on a juicy burger downed with a cold beer. Entering Hopland, his mind returned 25 years to a time spent as tavern manager for the then-Hopland Brewery, the first brewpub in California. He remembered it as a fun time. “Call it kismet or whatever you like,” he said, “a ‘for lease’ sign was on the building.”

Hopland Tap opened, adding “new” and “original,” while paying tribute to the beloved old brewery. Fourteen craft beers are regularly on tap; juicy burgers are on the short menu, along with grilled cheese sandwiches that are a far cry from a slice of Velveeta tucked between two pieces of Wonder Bread. Saturday nights are “vinyl night,” with one and all invited to bring pre-1990 records for turntable spinning. Collectors contribute their favorites; others perhaps one that turned up as they were cleaning their garage, amplified by Lindenbusch’s private collection. Tables and chairs are pushed back and the dancing begins. “Everyone seems excited about having what is old become new again,” Lindenbusch said with a satisfied smile.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct information about Real Goods’ presence in Hopland, Fetzer Winery’s presence in Hopland, the hours for the business the Golden Pig and the spelling and website of Brutocao Vineyards.

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