Crab lovers rejoice, because it’s time for the 2015 Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, celebrating this year’s harvest. This ten-day countywide celebration offers all-you-can-eat crab feeds, winery events, brewery tours, restaurant specials and crab fishing adventures (where you can even catch your own crab).
The 16th Annual Crab, Wine & Beer Festival takes place January 16-25, 2015, with an abundance of activities provided by restaurants, winemakers, breweries, fishermen and community organizations who are inviting you to join in the fun. Many activities during the Festival also serve as fundraisers for worthwhile local organizations such as the Lions, Knights of Columbus, Rotary Clubs and a community health center.
Mendocino County, a rural county of striking natural beauty and friendly small towns, is just 90 miles north of San Francisco and 145 miles west of Sacramento. It’s also home to 550 vineyards supplying grapes to over 90 wineries. If you visit the County you can also enjoy local art exhibits, musical performances, and botanical gardens. Or, you can get a little more active with nature trail hikes, horseback riding, canoe rentals, mountain bike rides, or kayaking classes. Then again, you can just go for it and embark on a crab fishing and whale watching adventure, where you can catch up to 10 crabs personally on trips arranged by All Aboard Adventures or Telstar Charters.
We’ll offer highlights of the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival below (including information about the awesome Crab Cake Cook-Off and Wine Tasting Competition on January 24) but you can also follow this link to the extensive Festival Brochure.
2015 Crab, Wine, & Beer Festival: Dining Options
Hungry for some Dungeness Crab? Here are some special events at this year’s Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival:
- January 16 and 17 – Gualala Lions Crab Feed, Gualala Community Center, Gualala (All you can eat Crab, Salad, Bread, and Wine…one seating on January 16 at 6 pm and two seatings on January 17 at 5 pm and 7 pm)
- January 17 and 24 – Crab & Wine Express, Skunk Train, Fort Bragg (A magical trip through a majestic redwood forest to Camp Mendocino for a Crab Louie Salad, French Bread, and Mendocino County wines departing at 10 am both days)
- January 17 – Crab on the Deck, Beachcomber Motel & Spa, Fort Bragg (Gourmet Appetizers paired with Frey Wines at 1 pm)
- January 17 – Crab Feed, Goldeneye Winery, Philo (Dungeness Crab paired with Migration Chardonnay and Goldeneye Pinot Noir at 1 pm)
- January 17 – Willits Rotary Club Crab Feed, Willits Senior Center, Willits (All you can eat Crab, Salad, and French Bread at 6 pm)
- January 17 – Knights of Columbus Annual Crab Dinner, Catholic Church Parish Hall, Fort Bragg (Cracked Crab, Garlic Bread, Green Salad, Wine and Coffee at 6 pm)
- January 17 – Pink Flamingo Crab Feed, Weller House Inn, Fort Bragg (Fort Bragg-style Crab Louis with locally baked Bread, Potato Salad, and Creme Caramel at 6:30 pm)
- January 18 – Sunday Tea with Crab Savories, Weller House Inn, Fort Bragg (Homemade crab dishes and a variety of Teas at 2 pm)
- January 23 – Cioppino Dinner, Pentecost Hall, Fort Bragg (Cioppino filled with seafood, shellfish and crab served alongside Bread, Salad, Dessert, and Coffee with three separate seatings at 4:30, 6, and 8 pm)
- January 23 and 24 –All-You-Can-Eat Crab Feed, Crown Hall, Mendocino (All you can eat Crab, Salad, Bread, Wine and Dessert with Live Entertainment at 6 pm both days)
- January 24 – “Crabulicious” Wine Tasting, Dennen’s Victorian Farmhouse, Little River (Crab Hors d’oeuvres and Navarro Wines at 5:30 pm)
- January 24 – Mendocino Coast Sports Foundation and Fort Bragg Rotary Crab Feed, Fort Bragg Fire House, Fort Bragg (All you can eat Crab, Clam Chowder, Salad and Garlic Bread at 6 pm)
Or, you can explore wonderful restaurants featuring crab-focused dishes in January such as Steamed Crab with Drawn Butter, Saffron and Crab Risotto, or good old-fashioned Crab Cakes. These restaurants include 955 Ukiah Street Restaurant, Aquarelle Café & Wine Bar, Bridget Dolan’s Pub, Café Beaujolais, Cliff House Restaurant, Elk Cove Inn, Little River Inn, Mendo Bistro, North Coast Brewing Company, OCO TIME Sushi, Patrona, Saucy, Silver’s at The Wharf and Wild Fish.
If you’d rather create your own party, you can get your own freshly caught and cooked crab from local sources such as Noyo Fish Company (Fort Bragg, 707-964-3000) and the Fish Peddler (Ukiah, 707-272-4422). For accompaniments, we suggest dropping by Harvest Market, a specialty grocery store with high quality offerings in both Fort Bragg and Mendocino. We also adore Westside Renaissance Market in Ukiah, a neighborhood market that specializes in locally produced foods such as breads, cheeses, wines, beers, produce, meats and other “to go” foods made by a range of local chefs. For dessert, we heartily recommend something from Kemmy’s Pies, available throughout the County at stores in Fort Bragg, Laytonville, Redwood Valley, Ukiah and Willits.
2015 Crab Cake Cook-Off & Wine Tasting Competition
One of the most popular events of the Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival is the Crab Cake Cook-Off and Wine Tasting Competition. On Saturday, January 24, this year’s throwdowns occur between noon and 3 pm in the Big White Tent at the corner of Main and Spruce in Fort Bragg. Come sip Mendocino wines, sample the Crab Cakes and then cast your votes and see how your choices compare to the opinions of the Professional Judges.
In between bites and sips at the Crab Cake Cook-Off and Wine Tasting Competition you can also participate in a Silent Auction to help raise money for the Mendocino Coast Clinics. This local, non-profit community health clinic is dedicated to providing quality patient-centered health care to all coastal residents. In the last fiscal year they handled over 50,000 patient visits and the clinic provides medical, dental, OB/GYN, mental health, pediatric, and geriatric services. In addition, 2015 will mark the 5-year anniversary of their Teen Clinic, offering an array of health care services and education to local youth.
The 2015 Crab Cake Competition Chefs include:
- Monica Almond from Flavors of el Mundo
- Phil Castro from Saucy
- Mike Delaney from Edmeades Estate Winery
- Marc Dym (2014 People’s Choice Winner) from Little River Inn
- Scott Effinger from Cliff House Restaurant of Fort Bragg
- Jesse Elhardt from Crush Italian Steakhouse
- Loretta Evans from North Coast Brewing Company
- Margaret Fox from Harvest Market
- Julia Kendrick Conway from Assaggiare Mendocino
- David LaMonica from Café Beaujolais
- Nicholas Petti (2014 Judges’ Choice Winner) from Mendo Bistro
- Karina Ulrich from Karina’s Catering
Over 20 wineries will be pouring Mendocino County wines at the Competition, including Bink Wines, Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Edmeades Estate Winery, Graziano Family of Wines, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Maple Creek Winery (2014 People’s Choice Winner), Philo Ridge Vineyards, Ray’s Station (2014 Judges’ Choice Winner), Roederer Estate, Toulouse Vineyards, and Yorkville Cellars. For a complete list of participants and details for the Competition please go here.
In addition to crab cakes and wine, Cook-Off attendees will also be able to enjoy brews from Anderson Valley Brewing Company and North Coast Brewing Company, cheeses from Pennyroyal Farm and Farmstead Cheese, pie from Kemmy’s Pies, a sweet treat from A Sweet Affair, and coffee from Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Tickets are $85 per person and you can purchase your tickets here but you should hurry because ticket prices increase on January 12.
2015 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival: Wine Tasting
Mendocino County, “America’s Greenest Wine Region®,” has 16,400 acres planted to wine grapes. There are plenty of wineries for you to explore and as an added bonus many wineries are offering crab and wine pairings in their tasting rooms during one or both weekends of the 2015 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival. These include Bink Wines, Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Edmeades Estate Winery, Handley Cellars, Jaxon Keys Winery, McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room, McNab Ridge Winery, Pacific Star Winery, Phillips Hill Winery and Simaine Cellars, among others. In addition, there are some other special wine tasting activities you should know about.
At any time during the Festival (January 16-25), you can enter a drawing for a VIP Grand Prize Package after visiting only three wineries and getting your 2015 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival Passport stamped. If you visit three destinations on each of two separate Wine & Beer Trails in Mendocino County then your chances of winning are doubled.
You can find passports at the back of the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival program. The 128/1 Trail includes wineries such as Balo Vineyards, Bink Wines, Drew Wines, Meyer Family Cellars, Roederer Estate, Seebass Vineyards, and Yorkville Cellars. The 101 Trail includes Campovida, Graziano Family of Wines, McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room, Nelson Family Vineyards, RIVINO, and Testa Vineyards.
On the weekend of January 24-25, the Destination Hopland organization is offering Barrel Tasting 101, a two-day event along the Upper Russian River Valley on the Highway 101 corridor. Experience wines straight from the barrel, talk with winemakers, and purchase futures of your favorites at a discounted price. From 11 am to 5 pm, the 14 participating tasting rooms will also all be offering crab-themed wine pairings.
Tickets for Barrel Tasting 101 may be purchased at the door for $30 per person, but if you go here soon and get your tickets in advance, they are only $15 per person. Some of the wineries participating include Campovida, Graziano Family of Wines, Nelson Family Vineyards, Saracina, Seebass Vineyards and Testa Vineyards.
For more ways to savor Mendocino County wines alongside Dungeness Crab, the 2015 Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival also offers special Winemaker Dinners. The 2015 Dinners are on January 18 (Signal Ridge Vineyard at Coq Au Vin in Philo), January 21 (McFadden Vineyards at Crush Italian Steakhouse in Ukiah), January 22 (Navarro Vineyards at Trillium Café in Mendocino and Roederer Estate at Café Beaujolais in Mendocino), and January 30 (Scharffenberger Cellars at Silver’s at The Wharf in Fort Bragg). Please contact the wineries and/or restaurants to check availability.
2015 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival: Beer Fun
To explore the beer offerings in Mendocino County during the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, you should know about:
Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Boonville) – a Brewery whose grounds include picnic groves, horse pastures, and an 18-hole Disc Golf Course. Their tap room is open daily and they offer tours twice a day. AVBC will be pouring at the Crab Cake Cook-Off and are also a Passport participant.
Mendocino Brewing Company (Ukiah) – this American Craft Brewer of full-flavored traditional ales also has an Ale House with a pool table, a dart board, a 40” TV, and free WiFi. Their Happy Hour (Mon – Fri, 4 – 6 pm) offers dollar-off brews as well as hot dogs and polish sausages for just $2.49.
North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg) – a microbrewery and pub, they will offer a different crab specialty on the menu each evening including appetizers, soups, side dishes, and entrees. NCBC will be pouring at the Crab Cake Cook-Off and are also donating beer for the Cioppino Dinner in Fort Bragg.
Ukiah Brewing Company (Ukiah) – the brew crew here focuses on creating hearty and robust ales and lagers and the kitchen crew uses the finest local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. UBC was the first certified organic brewpub in the US .
2015 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival: Lodging
If you need a place to stay in Mendocino County, you should know that several hotels and inns are having specials during the 2015 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival. You can find discounts of 10% off at Piazza de Campovida (Hopland), 20% off at The Grey Whale Inn (Fort Bragg), or 30% off at Albion River Inn (Albion) Sundays – Thursdays or the Gualala Country Inn (Gualala) Fridays – Saturdays. If you visit during the week, you can find 2-for-1 rates Sundays – Thursdays at the Beachcomber Motel & Spa (Fort Bragg) and Beach House Inn (Fort Bragg).
Alternatively, some hotels are offering package deals such as:
- Brewery Gulch Inn (Mendocino) – If you stay two nights or more mid-week, there is a 15% discount off regular rates and Crab will be featured in the cooked-to-order breakfast as well as the light dinner buffet with local wines and beers (both meals are included in room rate).
- Emerald Dolphin Inn (Fort Bragg) – If you stay two nights or more, package includes lodging for two, continental breakfast, unlimited miniature golf passes, two tickets for the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, and a bottle of wine upon arrival.
- Little River Inn (Little River) – The “Crab Tour Package” includes a two-night stay, a bottle of wine, and a half-day crabbing experience leaving from Noyo Harbor which includes setting out pots, whale watching, and pulling in up to 10 crabs each (with cooking and cleaning of crabs available for an additional charge).
Please check with the hotels for availability, limitations, and/or any exclusions.
Gorgeous Mendocino County contains majestic redwoods, rugged seaside, gourmet restaurants, unique inns, picturesque villages, premium wineries, fun microbreweries, and plentiful outdoor activities spread around its 2.4 million acres. The local wines and beers are delicious, and fresh Dungeness Crab is a seasonal treat. Don’t miss out on the 2015 Mendocino County Crab, Wine and Beer Festival, an outstanding collection of ways to celebrate these things yourself.
For our personal recommendations for wineries and restaurants in the area (when you’re not busy with Festival activities), please use the drop-down menus on the navigation bar above (under “Favorites By Wine Region”) to find ideas for the Upper Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley and Yorkville Highlands areas.