It is a dichotomy that the wine country, which is fundamentally rural farm country, might also provide the foundation for fine dining venues. Unlike the farm country of the central valley, Sonoma wine country is both rural and cosmopolitan. This dualism is clearly a result of the romance of wine which is a well documented draw to tourism. The Restaurant at the Applewood Inn maintains this Yin-Yang balance by offering Michelin Star rated (2 years running) fine dining in a country chic setting along the Russian River surrounded by redwoods and vineyards in Guerneville, California.
The Applewood Inn and Restaurant share an aura of total seclusion like a romantic hideaway in the woods. After parking, one easily finds the way to the second floor of the barnlike structure only to discover a rustic and cozy dining room. Nicely appointed with a screened in terrace and two large fireplaces, one at each end, the restaurant is warm and calming. The staff did a phenomenal job in welcoming arriving guests and creating that feeling that they have been waiting for you.
In response to some advance work, the table was preset with a sparkling Bortolotti Prosecco on ice from Valdobbiadene and a dozen roses. Thanks go to Sandy at reservations for those arrangements. Chefs Tyja Taube, a Ukiah native, and Michelle “Shelley” Cerneant, recently recognized as one of the ten best women chefs in America, like many Sonoma County chefs, have focused their menus around local meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables (much from their own gardens) in producing exceptionally fresh, crisp and flavorful dishes seasonally adjusted to accommodate what is available.
The Duck Confit and Massachusetts Diver Scallop with Mendocino Uni, Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes and Saffron Butter were perfectly prepared and beautifully presented.
The entrees of California King Salmon and the Grilled Fillet of Beef Tenderloin were equally splendid. The Salmon was prepared with a Panang Curry Stewed Peanuts and accompanied by a Tempura Soft Shell Crab, Black Rice, Chinese Long Beans and Cilantro.
The Beef Tenderloin had a colorful accompaniment of Bone Marrow Bordelaise, Rosemary Potatoes, Morel Mushroom Conserva and Summer Squash. Mouth-watering and cooked to perfection.
The 2007 Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon, not on the wine list, was an excellent pairing and clearly deserved the Wine Spectator 94 pts it has received. Chewy and thick with flavor, this rich Cab is full-bodied with flavors of blackberry and mint.
The final dish, not a dessert, but the selection of three cheeses, was a pungent and sweet ending to a truly memorable dining experience. The chefs have created a culinary oasis among the redwoods and vineyards and the well-trained staff executes and delivers.
Prices are moderate for higher end cuisine ranging from $10-$16 for Starters and from $27-$38 for Entrees.
The Restaurant at the Applewood Inn is located about 16 miles west of Highway 101 (River Road exit just north of Santa Rosa) on Highway 116 about 100 yards from the intersection of River Road and Hwy 116. 13555 Highway 116, Guerneville, CA 95446. Telephone 707-869-9093 or OpenTable for reservations.