If you curl your nose at the name of a cottage stay in Boonville, CA called Sheep Dung Estates, you’re not alone. Being the last stop on a road trip from Los Angeles to Mendocino County combined with the curious name, my expectations were minimal.
With only one Main Street and total population of 1,400, it would seem impossible to get lost in Boonville, yet we did. My boyfriend pulls up to the address given and a locked gate greeted us, with a fire station and a storage unit on either side. This can’t be right, even if it’s named Sheep Dung.
I’m thinking, ‘Is this some kind of practical joke they play on clueless urbanites who stay only in Four Seasons and Hilton hotels because it’s familiar?’
I get out and start pacing the sidewalk for something resembling a hotel, a hut or even a teepee at this point. Looking like a typical lost tourist with consternation plastered on my face and eyes glazed over, someone shouts from a distance, “Can I help you with something?”
Feeling embarrassed that a world traveler like myself can’t find an address in a small town and I have to say ‘sheep dung’ to a stranger, I mumble something about finding a Boonville cottage.
Two euro-dressed, New Yorker subscribing types emerge and introduce themselves as the owners of Sheep Dung Estate's Downtown Boonville cottage among two other properties including Long Valley Ranch, a 500 acre resort ranch in nearby town Ukiah, and The Other Place, a cottage overlooking Boonville.
The gracious couple, Ann and Aaron Bennett, opened the gate we first stopped at and walked us past a few basic houses until the road ended in a pre-fab cottage that could be featured in Dwell Magazine. Like an unexpected treasure, hard to find but worth the effort.
They opened the sage-green cottage revealing shadeless wall-to-floor windows framing eye-soothing views of mature California Oak trees and an Anderson Valley vineyard beyond.
After a quick tour of the place and how to operate the wood burning stove, Ann scurried Aaron out of the door and said, “Let’s leave them be, I’m sure they want to rest already.”
And with that we explored the intimate cottage: a cozy bedroom, bathroom and full kitchen tastefully done with modern, simple décor. The fridge was stocked with thoughtful goodies like locally made granola, fresh milk, orange juice and Mendocino wine.
Reveling in the silence and stillness of Sheep Dung Estate’s downtown Boonville cottage, I went outside to enjoy the purple and red hues of the sunset and noticed the Japanese soaking tub.
Time to hit the swinging town of Boonville for dinner. Since it was a few hundred yards off Boonville’s main street, we walked to find a restaurant (a novel concept for Los Angelenos).
The town was as still as our cottage at 8 pm, so we settled on the closest and quite possibly the only eatery open: Lauren’s. Lauren’s is like the diners my grandparents knew - homemade food using local products, family owned and operated. Between it’s funky décor with colored pencils and paper at the tables for guests to draw the next menu cover and the downright sophisticated eats like the cauliflower soup, Lamb Crostinis, and grilled artichokes, we were thrilled.
At 9:30 pm, with nothing else to see in Downtown Boonville, we returned to the cottage with visions of reading by the wood-burning stove in sweet stillness.
Despite chilly temperatures the following morning, the outdoor Japanese soaking tub overlooking the vineyard was calling me. To start the day breathing in the crisp, fresh air while soaking in a tub in complete privacy was one of those peaceful moments I live for. If it is cold outside, I recommend boiling some water ahead of time as the hot water tank runs out before the tub is filled.
What started out as dazed and confused, ended up a dreamy experience, like we were went away to our own vacation home among Northern California’s wine country.
Rather than a pile of excrement, Sheep Dung Estates' Boonville cottage was like a freshly cut bouquet of wild flowers.
The most time efficient option in getting to Boonville, CA would be to fly into the Santa Rosa Airport, rent a car and take the 45 minute drive. Other options that include a scenic drive on HWY 128 is to fly into San Francisco Airport, Oakland Airport or Sacramento Airport, rent a car and drive about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Boonville is like Mayberry, only a hipper more liberal version. It is also in the heart of Mendocino wine country and makes a great central base to explore either direction: the ruggedly beautiful coast or Ukiah, Hopland and other more inland towns. A great excuse to visit Boonville is the rocking Boonville Beer Festival hosted by local Anderson Valley Brewing Company on May 12, 2012. For more Boonville highlights, Sunset Magazine did a great feature on the sights, shops and suppers to try.
www.sheepdung.com From $140 - $200 a night.