Voyages: Coastal Cool | AspenTimes.com

Voyages: Coastal Cool

by Kelly J. Hayes

There is nothing like a drive down the Northern California coast.

The cliff-hugging, perpetually winding roads. The peek-a-boo-fog. The crashing, bigger-than-seems-possible waves. The other-worldly California condors. The screaming sea lions. This magnificent Never Never Land defies time and attracts Peter Pans and Wendys each year from the world over to its mystical mountains and shores.

A trip to what is arguably the California coast's most scenic county, Sonoma, also gives wine lovers a chance to visit many of the most currently heralded wine regions on Earth, including the cool climate Sonoma Coast AVA with its Fort Ross-Seaview-sub-appellation, along with the fertile Russian River Valley. Chardonnay and pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast grown in the coastal mountain ranges on rugged and, in most cases organic, vineyards are the talk of the wine cognoscenti.

The unique combination of wines, vines and seaside splendor inspired my wife and me to head out on a spring "Rockies to Russian River" road trip once the ski lifts closed in our home town of Aspen. The only question was where to bed down on our Pacific sojourn.

Timber Cove Karma

After a bucket list stroll through the redwood forests of Humboldt County to the north, we made a sunset drive down Highway 1 to Timber Cove Lodge, set on the cliffs of the Sonoma Coast near the town of Jenner. While we'd driven by the beautiful property many times on previous trips, we had heard it had been recently renovated. We were unprepared for what awaited.

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With a design inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright circa 1963, and a seaside location straight out of an Ansel Adams print, Timber Cove has always been visually stunning. But time and the elements had taken their toll over the last half-century. It, to say the least, needed some work.

This past year, after the property was acquired by a pair of hotel adventurers, Michael Barry, the owner Ironwave Hospitality LLC, and Jens von Gierke, co-owner and operator of the hotel, a complete renovation of the entire hotel was completed from the bones up.

The design team, consisting of San Francisco-based architectural firm Gensler, along with celebrated Los Angeles-based design firm Novogratz, paid strict attention to maintaining the connection with the landscape by using an earth-tone color palette allowing the structure to seamlessly interact with its surroundings. Local artwork was installed throughout the interior and the dominating design elements relied heavily on redwood and stone to enhance the natural feel.

The result? Everything that was old is now new again and the property is as welcoming as it ever was with an updated, contemporary twist.

The first thing visitors see as they veer off Highway 1 is a towering pole erected on a hill behind the lodge. Designed by artist Beniamino Bufano, the Peace Statue Monument soars 93 feet above the cliffs, as an iconic symbol of beauty, spirit and tranquility. We knew we were in a place of karma.

We entered the large great room with a high, wood-trussed ceiling encompassing an ample living area that revolved around a wood-burning fireplace (not to mention an extremely appealing and well-stocked bar). Set off to the ocean side, the Cal-contemporary Coast Kitchen restaurant featured a cluster of comfortably tilted tables angled toward floor-to-ceiling windows that showcased the rocky coast.

This is a place where architecture and nature meld. The buildings are built into rocks that sit atop the alternately roiling and calm seas that surround the property on three sides. A mile-long trail fronts the lodge and allows guests an opportunity to discover individual vista points and make them their own as they gaze out over the boundless Pacific.

The 46 completely redesigned rooms and suites have a clean, beach cottage feel with modern and retro pieces accenting the bright lines. There are turntable record players in each room and guests can pull vinyl of their choice from a music library in the lobby. Records range from early '60s cool jazz to the psychedelic sounds of the San Francisco Summer of Love. Very groovy.

While it would be tempting to check into the lodge and just hang for a week or so, the proximity to the vineyards, back roads and wineries of the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA beckon. Hirsch Vineyards, Fort Ross, Flowers and Peay Vineyards are all up and over the hills and dales that make up the region. It can be 60 degrees and foggy on the coast and then 80 and sunny a mile away, around the next bend.

This may be the most dramatic wine region in California and the lodge at Timber Cove is the perfect place to experience it.

The Birds and Bodega Bay

Speaking of the 1960s, if you saw it, you never forgot the power of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller, "The Birds." This epic film was shot and took place just down the coast in the scenic and very bird-friendly town of Bodega Bay.

We had to go.

The Bodega Bay Lodge is the westernmost outpost of the exceptionally welcoming Woodside Hotels family of inns that include wine-centric properties in both Napa (Napa Valley Lodge) and the Carmel Valley (Bernardus Lodge and Spa). It sits just south of the town of Bodega Bay and is a hop, skip and back-road jump from the Russian River Valley and Westside Road, arguably the Rodeo Drive of California pinot noir.

Not as rustic as Timber Cove, The Bodega Bay Lodge's hotel experience is more traditional in scope. The Lodge vistas are more tranquil than energetic as it sits perched above a bird sanctuary and marsh that is a part of the Bay itself

Eighty-three guest rooms are laid out in terraced buildings composed of local timber and natural stone that offer views stretching out over the marsh to the Pacific. Fishing boats head out the channel through the fog each morning as surfers ride the beach break just down the road from the hotel.

Golfers and spa lovers will find fairways, or solace, at the property. Or both. The beachfront Robert Trent Jones Jr. Scottish-style links, the public course at "Links at Bodega Harbour" are a short stroll away. And the intimate spa provides a plethora of services, including a Cabernet Grape Seed Scrub. After tee time, a spa session and an afternoon swim in the infinity pool above the bay, the time is right for some coastal cuisine at Drakes, the casual but sophisticated dining room with the views of the bird sanctuary. Duck and Merry Edwards pinot anyone?

For us the highlight of the stay on the bay was an afternoon putting the fat tires of the hotel's complimentary beach cruiser bikes on the sand on Doran State Park right down the hill. The low tide ride in the fresh Pacific breeze was a total California experience and one to which we will return.

The Bodega Bay Lodge provides wine country proximity, comfort and a complete Sonoma Coastal package of amenities. Far from cookie-cutter, the hotel keeps four beehives and a collection of owl houses on property.

It is truly "of" Bodega Bay.

IF YOU GO …

Bodega Bay Lodge

103 Coast Highway One

Bodega Bay, California 94923

Phone: (707) 875-3525

Email: reservations@bodegabaylodge.com

Located 60 miles north of Golden Gate Bridge

Timber Cove

21780 Highway One

Jenner, California 95450

Phone (707) 847-3231

http://www.timbercoveresort.com” target=”_blank”>Sections-ATW-ATW_InfoBox_Body”>http://www.timbercoveresort.com

Rates at both properties vary by season but start around $225.

Check properties for dates, rates and availability.

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