Mendocino County Crab Wine and Beer Festival: To Heck with Domoic Acid

Crab and BeerThe good news is there’s still time to join in on the 2016 Mendocino County Crab Wine and Beer Festival, a wonderful opportunity until January 31 to celebrate the County’s offerings. 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. This countywide crab, wine and beer celebration offers family-style crab and cioppino feeds, gourmet seafood-themed dinners, food and wine pairings, fishing and whale watching adventures.

Unfortunately, domoic acid levels have been too high in local crabs to allow this year’s event to feature Mendocino County-harvested crab. Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin that is related to a “bloom” of a single-celled plant (Pseudo-nitzschia) and while crustaceans, fish and shellfish are capable of accumulating elevated levels of domoic acid without ill effects, those elevated levels pose a significant health risk to people if consumed. The California Department of Public Health lifted an advisory along the coasts of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties a few weeks ago, but Mendocino County crabs are still testing too high.

Crab and Beer, to be found at Mendocino County Crab Wine and Beer FestivalWe’ll offer highlights of the Crab Wine and Beer Festival and the County’s offerings below (including information about the awesome Anything But Crab Cake Cook-Off and Wine Tasting Competition on January 30) but you can also follow this link to the extensive Festival Brochure.

2016 Crab Wine and Beer Festival:  Dining Options

Hungry?  Here are some of the special events still coming to this year’s Mendocino County Crab Wine & Beer Festival:

  • January 29 – Cioppino Dinner, Pentecost Hall, Fort Bragg (Cioppino filled with seafood, shellfish and crab served alongside Bread, Salad, Dessert, and Coffee at a benefit for Mendocino Coast Clinics with separate seatings still having room at 4:30 and 8 pm)
  • January 29 and 30 – All-You-Can-Eat Crab Feed, Crown Hall, Mendocino (All you can eat Crab, Salad, Bread, Wine and Dessert at 6 pm with Live Entertainment at 8 pm and a Grand Raffle at 9 pm both days)
  • January 30 – “Crabulicious” Wine Tasting, Dennen’s Victorian Farmhouse, Little River (Crab and other seafood Hors d’oeuvres and Navarro Wines from 5:30 pm to 7 pm)

Dungeness Crab on PierYou can also explore restaurants featuring crab-focused dishes such as six-time award-winning Crab Cakes from Adam’s Restaurant (Willits), a southern-style Champagne Brunch Buffet at Elk Cove Inn (Elk), Fresh Cracked Crab at Little River Inn (Little River) or Crab-and-Beer pairings enhanced with live Jazz Friday and Saturday night at North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg). Or, you can enjoy restaurants such as 5200 Restaurant & Lounge in Little River (four course-dinner with optional wine and beer pairings) or Saucy in Ukiah (wood-fired pizza and ocean-based specials with over a dozen draught beers). Other Mendocino County restaurants offering special seafood menus during the Festival include 955 Ukiah Street Restaurant (Mendocino), Chop Chop (Ukiah), Hopland Tap House (Hopland), Patrona Restaurant (Ukiah) and Point Noyo Restaurant and Bar (Fort Bragg).

If you’d rather create your own party, you can purchase freshly caught seafood 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 in both Fort Bragg (707-964-7000) and Mendocino (707-937-5879).  We also adore Westside Renaissance Market (Ukiah, 707-462-0083), specializing in locally produced foods such as breads, cheeses, wines, beers, and other “to go” foods made by a range of local chefs.  For dessert, we heartily recommend Kemmy’s Pies, available at stores in Fort Bragg, Laytonville, Mendocino, Redwood Valley, Ukiah and Willits.


2016 Anything But Crab Cake Cook-Off & Wine Tasting Competition

Crab Cake Cookoff at Crab, Wine and Beer FestivalOne of the most popular events of the Mendocino County Crab Wine & Beer Festival is the Crab Cake Competition.  For 2016, that throwdown evolves into the Anything But Crab Cake Cook-Off & Wine Tasting Competition on Saturday, January 30, challenging local chefs, cooks, and caterers to pull out all of the stops. This year’s battle will be over Shrimp Cakes, Salmon Cakes, Seafood Cakes, and whatever other surprises the chefs bring, which means new flavors to pair with local wines and beers between noon and 3 pm in the Big White Tent at the corner of Main and Spruce in Fort Bragg.  So come sip and savor “Anything But Crab” Cakes and then cast your votes and see how your opinions compare to those of the Professional Judges.

Mendocino Coast Clinics Logo (2)In between bites and sips you can also participate in Silent and Live Auctions (and a Raffle!) to help raise money for the Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC), a non-profit community health clinic dedicated to providing quality patient-centered health care to all coastal residents. MCC provides the only Pediatric, Obstetric and Behavioral Health Clinics on the North Coast. Their Teen Clinic is heading into its sixth year, and MCC’s dental clinic is the only dental office in the area treating the uninsured.

The 2016 Anything But Crab Cake Competition Chefs include:

Maple Creek Winery, participating in Mendocino Crab Wine and Beer Festival

Maple Creek Winery

Over 20 wineries will be pouring at the Competition, including Bonterra Organic Vineyards, Edmeades Estate WineryGoldeneye, Graziano Family of WinesHandley Cellars (2015 Judges’ Choice Winner)Husch VineyardsKnez Winery, Lazy Creek Vineyards, Lula Cellars, Maple Creek Winery (2015 People’s Choice Winner), Navarro Vineyards, Roederer Estate, Seebass Vineyards and Toulouse Vineyards. For a complete list of participants and details for the Competition please go here.

In addition to food and alcoholic beverages, Cook-Off attendees will also be able to enjoy beer from North Coast Brewing Company and coffee from Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Tickets are $85 per person and you should purchase your tickets here soon (by January 27).

2016 Crab Wine and Beer Festival:  Wine Tasting

"Honey" at Lula Cellars

“Honey” at Lula Cellars

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 many wineries are offering crab and wine pairings in their tasting rooms during next weekend as part of the 2015 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival. These include Bink WinesCesar Toxqui Cellars, Handley CellarsKnez Winery, McFadden Farm Stand and Tasting Room, Phillips Hill Winery, Simaine Cellars and Terra Sávia. On January 31, Lula Cellars will hold an open house featuring crab cakes matched with their wines, hosted by Honey (the official winery dog).

2016 Wine and Beer Trails

2016 Wine and Beer Trails

At any time during the Festival (January 22-31), you can enter a drawing for a VIP Grand Prize Package after visiting only three wineries and getting your 2016 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 VineyardsKnez Winery, Phillips Hill Winery and Roederer Estate.  The 101 Trail includes Graziano Family of WinesMcFadden Farm Stand & Tasting RoomNelson Family Vineyards and RIVINO.


2016 Crab Wine and Beer Festival:  Winemaker Dinners

Dungeness Crab, ready to goFor more ways to savor Mendocino County wines alongside great food based on crab or other seafood, the 2016 Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival offers special Winemaker Dinners on January 27th and 28th. On Wednesday, January 27, there’s a five-course tasting menu with wine and crab as you meet not only the winemakers but also the fishermen at Wild Fish in Little River (707-937-3055).

On Thursday, January 28, there are four different winemaker dinners: Greenwood Ridge Vineyards at Bewildered Pig in Philo (707-895-2088), Graziano Family of Wines at Albion Schoolhouse in Albion (707-961-3463), Navarro Vineyards at Trillium Café in Mendocino (707-937-3200) and Roederer Estate at Café Beaujolais in Mendocino (707-937-5614).


2016 Crab Wine and 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 daily at 1:30 pm.  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, the North Coast Brewing Company has developed a strong reputation for quality having won more than 70 awards in national and international competitions. They also present Jazz dinner concerts every Friday and Saturday starting at 6 pm.

2016 Crab Wine and Beer Festival:  Mendocino County Attractions

Mendocino County offers 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. During the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, some of the attractions you may want to seek out include:

Mendocino Skunk Train

Mendocino County Skunk Train

2016 Crab Wine and Beer Festival:  Lodging

If you need a place to stay, you should know that several hotels and inns are having specials during the 2016 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival.  You can find discounts of 10%-30% in some places and significant discounts on the third night of a stay in other places (ranging from 50% to 100% off that third night). Here are just some of the packages and specials you can find:

Beachcomber Motel & Spa

Beachcomber Motel & Spa

Beachcomber Motel & Spa on the Beach (Fort Bragg) – Their “Fab Crab” package for 2 comes with a $30 spa credit, champagne and chocolates, two nights’ stay and two tickets to the Fort Bragg Rotary annual crab feed.

Brewery Gulch Inn (Mendocino) – Midweek stays of two or more nights are discounted 15% and crab will be featured in special dishes in the gourmet cooked-to-order breakfast and light dinner buffet (with Mendocino County wines and beers), with both meals included in the room rates (Sunday – Thursday).

Elk Cove Inn and Spa (Elk) – Stay two nights at full price in one of the luxurious oceanfront accommodations, and each additional night is 50% off (and there is a champagne brunch offered daily).

Fairfield Inn & Suites (Ukiah) – During the Crab, Beer and Wine Festival there is a special rate of only $109 per night for a King Bed (for 1-2 guests).

Gualala Country Inn (Gualala) – There are specials all month long, with two nights for the price of one (Sun-Thur) or a 30% discount (Fri-Sat).

Little River Inn (Little River) – You can splurge on the “Sleep with the Crabs” package including a 2-night stay in an Ocean View Fireplace Room, a ½ day crabbing excursion, a bottle of Little River Inn Chardonnay, and Breakfast and Dinner for Two for $725, or the Ocean View Fireplace Rooms alone start at $159 (Sun – Thur).

Ravenridge Cottages (Yorkville) – When you stay here for two nights, your second night is 50% off (Sun – Thur).

Surf Motel & Gardens (Fort Bragg) – If you’re thinking of making the Crab, Wine and Beer Festival a family outing, you may want to know that Surf Motel & Gardens offers multi-room suites with full kitchens, BBQ grills, and they are pet-friendly (and even have a fenced dog park).

Please check with the hotels for availability, limitations, and/or any exclusions. You can find more information on lodging in the area at the Visit Mendocino website, and Festival specials in the Crab, Wine and Beer Festival Brochure.


Mendocino County Crab, Beer & Wine Festival LogoGorgeous 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 (when domoic acid doesn’t get in the way).  Don’t miss out on the 2016 Mendocino County Crab, Wine and Beer Festival, an outstanding collection of ways to celebrate these things yourself.

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