We have been to the old Hopland Inn on four occasions beginning in 2003. There is something about this old Victorian mansion that keeps us going back for more. But after our last visit, we may not visit again.
First, a little history: The inn opened in 1890 and was called the Thatcher Inn, owned by William Wallace Thatcher. Originally, the hotel had 44 rooms with no indoor plumbing. Rumor has it that it was a brothel, so no need to stay long enough to need a bathroom. The hotel was sold several times and eventually remodeled into 22 rooms. A beautiful library with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a lovely bar were added. In 2001 a group of businessmen associated with the local wineries purchased the inn and continued to make renovations.
In 2007 a young and well-respected chef along with some partners purchased the Inn from this group. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a great article in their Thursday datebook pages about the Hopland Inn and its gourmet fare. That’s when we returned for a second trip and the place was alive with locals and tourists. The food was terrific and the bar a happening spot. Sadly, when we returned less than a year later the chef was gone and the bar and restaurant had closed down. The inn remained opened but most of the fun was gone. Eventually the hotel was put up for sale for 1.9 million dollars. The next year, a hopeful sign for the Inn, was when a group of local Native Americans purchased the hotel. They had exciting plans for revitalizing the Hopland Inn and making it a popular lodging spot for this Mendocino wine country region.
Last week we held are 6th annual Bocce tournament at the beautiful Brutocao Schoolhouse Plaza in Hopland We made reservations to stay two nights at the Hopland Inn. Unfortunately, there is no other lodging in Hopland other than the Hopland Inn. Ukiah is 15 minutes away with an assortment of lodging and dining but we wanted the convenience of being able to walk the town to wine taste and of course play Bocce. Well as it turned out the Hopland Inn was a huge disappointment. The place is not ready for prime time. For example, when we arrived around noon the place was totally locked up. A sign said they would return later in the afternoon. They have so few visitors, so they do not seem to have someone on duty at all times.
The beautiful bar was open at dinner hours and the bartender was very friendly and courteous, but he did not really know how to tend bar. We had to tell him how make a Manhattan and some other drinks. The beautiful library is now where dinner is served. It is cozy and small but will suffice unless they attract more visitors. The service was slow and the food just average at best. There were several other minor inconveniences but we won’t get into those now.
Needless to say, we won’t stay at the Hopland Inn again unless some dramatic changes take place. Perhaps they will eventually get their act together but it does not seem likely to happen any time soon. One thing for sure, the wineries hold the key. If wine country lovers flock to this area, Hopland will be the place to stay. It is possible Hopland can become a great wine destination town. We don’t see a lot of PR work by the wineries other than the Passport Weekends they conduct twice a year. The wineries are a refreshing change of pace from what one experiences in the Napa Valley or Sonoma, and that is the niche they need to promote. They are making very good wines and many in the excellent category. The price for most of their wines is under the $20 mark and that is what people are buying these days. The problem is how do you become a destination wine town without having a terrific place to stay and at least a handful of gourmet dining choices. We wish both the Hopland Inn and the wineries good fortune, but it is not going to happen unless the wineries and the community get to work promoting this lovely and serene area of Mendocino County. The Hopland Inn is going to have to make some financial investments to bring the hotel up to snuff for the wine country visitor.