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   Crab cake from North Coast Breweing Company

   The judges' pick: a crab cake from Little River Inn

Professional and People's Choice winners.

Sea Rock Inn

 Yorkville Cellars.

It's Official: Mendocino's Best Crab Cakes and Wine

Didn't make it to Mendocino’s famous crab and wine festival last weekend? Not to worry. Here’s how to taste the best in show during a weekend getaway, without the expensive ticket. 

Last weekend, while serving as a judge at the Mendocino Crab, Wine, & Beer Festival, I learned just how seriously Mendocino takes crab season. I spent Friday with five other judges from around the country testing local crab cakes and wines for the festival's crab cake cook-off and wine competition. It was a tough and rigorous process, but this is the sort of thing us editors at San Francisco magazine sacrifice our weekends for. We pecked and dissected our way through nearly a dozen rich, fried cakes and swirled, sipped, and spit through 49 white varietals and blends until we distilled our answers down to one winner for each category (and a couple runner-ups). The following day 500 people attended the sold-out festival, where the public cast their own vote for the best crab cakes and wines. Jealous? Not to worry: We did the hard part so you know exactly where to go on your next trip up the coast. Here are the winners and where to find them:

About 17 miles after pulling onto the east side of Highway 128 at the gateway to Anderson Valley, blink and you’ll miss the turnoff for the unassuming entrance to Yorkville Cellars, the judge’s choice for their sauvignon blanc and brut Malbec rose. Visit their country tasting room, open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. About five miles up the road the people’s choice first place winner (and judge’s third place winner), Maple Creek, pours "Artevino," a blush wine, in their farmhouse tasting room.

Meanwhile, on a bluff overlooking the ocean just before the town of Mendocino, the Little River Inn cooks up the judges' pick for the best crab cakes in the county. Get them as an appetizer to the pork confit at dinner in their intimate seaside dining room. 

If you’re up for the trek to Willits, Adam’s Restaurant, which just opened last fall, took the title for people’s choice. In Fort Bragg, Mendo Bistro won second place in both the judge’s pick and people’s choice.

While you’re there:

Eat (beyond crab cakes)

Café Beaujolais offers French bistro fare like bouillabaisse in an upscale but homey setting.

Enjoy the sun-soaked patio of Mendocino Café while indulging in a blackened rockfish sandwich.  

Frankie’s serves local Cowlicks ice cream, with flavors like cranberry apple sorbet and cinnamon.

Sleep

The Sea Rock Inn has about a dozen cozy rooms a mile from downtown, some with porches and wood-burning fireplaces. Exposed wood ceilings give it a mountain lodge feel and homemade continental breakfast (think bacon and ham quiche, raspberry scones, and organic coffee) is served by windows prime for wave watching. Almost all rooms have views of the Pacific, which is steps away. Hint: request a room with a soaking tub that overlooks the ocean.

Pit-stop

Midway between Cloverdale and Mendocino, Boonville makes for a perfect stop to stretch your legs, and grab lunch at Mosswood Market Café & Bakery. Or pick up some of their to-go items and bring them to the picnic tables down the road at Navarro Winery’s tasting room.


Find more weekend getaway ideas here.

Follow Jenna Scatena on Twitter: @Jenna_Scatena