Once sleepy Hopland bustling with places to explore
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.