Join the celebrating
this weekend as gray whales migrate along the North Coast
by George Lauer
The second half of Mendocino's annual tribute to watery migrants of
the Pacific unfolds this weekend, mostly in the Fort Bragg
area and mostly to the sound of beer cascading down the side
of a glass.
The first half of the 22nd annual Mendocino Coast Whale Festival,
March 6 and 7, featured wine tasting in the village of
Mendocino. This weekend's offerings revolve
around beer tasting in Fort Bragg.
And if you haven't had your whale wishes filled by the end of the
month, the second annual Redwood Coast Whale and Jazz
Festival is scheduled April 2-4 in Gualala.
Gray whales, swimming between Baja California and Alaska, pass
close enough to be seen from shore in many places.
Humans organize whale watching walks and cruises, wine, beer
and food tastings, arts and crafts fairs and children's
activities to coincide with the spring swim.
Catching a glimpse of a whale tail or a spout is certainly a
highlight for many festivalgoers, but even if grays keep a
low profile, there's plenty to see, do and taste.
"I just thought it was wonderful...all of it," said M.J. Korbol of
Stockton, who spent the first whale weekend in Mendocino
earlier this month.
"We shopped, we tasted wine all over town, we walked down to the
headlands and saw a pretty large pod of whales.
We saw spouts and tails. That was awesome," Korbol
said. "I imagine if you went out in a boat you'd get
right up next to them, but they really do come close to
Wine and whales
Festival veterans appreciate a good red as much as a good
"We've been coming for the Whale Festival for years," said Alice
Plummer of Eugene, Ore. "Mostly it's for wine tasting
with friends. The whales aren't that much of an
attraction for us. We have a boat in the San Juan
Islands and we're used to seeing them up close. It's a
wonderful experience, thought."
The Gudmundsons from Chico have made it to Mendocino for the past
10 Whale Festivals.
"This year I don't think we ever made it down to the water to
actually look at whales, but we sure tasted a lot of good
wine," said Paul Gudmundson.
"This was the first year we actually stayed in Mendocino. All
these years we've been driving back to Fort Bragg and after
sipping wine all day, that's not really a good idea,"
This weekend, the reds and whites shift from merlots and
chardonnays to ales and Pilseners.
Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m., at least 15 California microbrewers
will pour their wares--Pilsners, stouts, ales and more--at
Eagle's Hall, at the corner of Corry and Alder in Fort
Bragg. Admission is $20.
Chowder tasting is scheduled 11 a.m. till the chowder runs out at
Town Hall, corner of Main Street and Laurel in downtown Fort
Bragg. Four tastes for $5.
Also planned this weekend are the annual 5K and 10K Whale Run and
Walk on the beach, whale watching from Noyo Harbor charter
boats, a classic car show and guided whale walks at the
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and in some Mendocino
Coast state parks.
Cabrillo Light Station and Preserve--about midway between
Mendocino and Fort Bragg--plans activities for all ages this
weekend--games, educational whale walks, gray-whale
exhibits, marine science displays and guided tours.
The light station also has artifacts from the shipwreck Frolic on
This weekend's activities include a marine art exhibit featuring
work by celebrated marine life artist J.D. Mayhew at the
Mendocino Art Center on the corner of Little Lake Street and
Kasten in the village of Mendocino.
Two all-you-can-eat dinners are planned in Fort Bragg on
Saturday--fish at Pentecost Hall and corned beef and cabbage
at Lion's Hall, both beginning at 4 p.m.
The first weekend in April, whale watching and taste-bud tickling
make room for jazz in the second annual Redwood Coast
Gualala Whale and Jazz Festival. The three-day event
features performances by The Pier Group, The Eric Shifrin
Trio, The Larry Vuckovich World-Class Sextet and the
A chowder cookoff with expert tasters picking their favorite and
rank-and-file tasters making the Peoples' Choice will
feature chowders from several local eateries.
*The Press Democrat,
Santa Rosa, California,
Thursday, March 18, 2004.
You can reach Staff Writer George Lauer at 521-5220 or