The 2011 Michelin Guide San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country released its star ratings on Tuesday, welcoming Mirepoix of Windsor and Applewood Inn of Guerneville into the ranks of one-star restaurants for the first time.

Notoriously frugal with its stars, the 2011 Michelin Guide was a bit more generous this year, showering a total of 39 restaurants with one-star awards, up from 34 last year. One-star awards are given to places offering cuisine "prepared to a consistently high standard."

"We really can't believe it at this point," said Bryan Bousquet, who has owned Mirepoix with her husband Matthew for nine years. "It's always been a thought for us, but we were never sure how to go about it."

For the first time in five years, two Wine Country restaurants shared the highest ranking of three Michelin stars, given to restaurants with "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey."

The Restaurant at Meadowood, led by Executive Chef Christopher Kostow, leaped from two stars to three, sharing that elite status with the French Laundry, which has been alone at the top for the past five years.

"We're thrilled and humbled by the whole thing," Kostow said. "We look at our kitchen as a cast of underdogs ... but we've always believed in our dynamism and youth and energy. To see a very happy and young kitchen reach this level is really a testament to our staff."

The two-star category narrowed slightly from four to three restaurants this year, with Cyrus of Healdsburg maintaining its two-star category for the fifth year in a row. Two Michelin stars means "excellent cuisine, worth a detour."

"It's a guide with an international presence, and they have a bat to swing," said Nick Peyton, co-owner and maitre-d' of Cyrus. "We're honored by their two stars, and we would dearly love to be in Meadowood's position and be elevated to three."

The "famously anonymous" Michelin Guide hires its own cadre of professional inspectors who dine anonymously, pay their bills in full and are trained to use a consistent and independent selection process. Only 91 venues in the world have earned the coveted, three Michelin stars.

Worldwide, there are 26 Michelin guides that cover 23 countries and three continents. Michelin plans to debut a Chicago guide on Nov. 17, joining its New York and San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country guides.

"San Francisco is famed for its diversity — its people, its politics, its scenery and, of course, its food," Michelin Guides Director Jean-Luc Naret said in a press release. "The Bay Area is also a particularly fertile farming region ... This is quite simply one of the finest culinary regions in the world."

Naret, who is expected to step down from his post at the end of this year, made phone calls to the Bay Area winners on Tuesday morning to personally notify them.

The owners of Mirepoix were standing outside their 2-year-old daughter's preschool when they received the call. By mid-day, they had already planned a small celebration with chef/partner Ben Davies.

"We're converging to have a glass of champagne," Bryan Bousquet said. "And then we're going to get to work."

The Bousquets, who reinstituted a tasting menu at Mirepoix after opening Bistro M in Windsor last January, planned to attend the Michelin cocktail party Tuesday night at San Francisco's Clift Hotel.

Bruce Frieseke, executive chef of the Applewood Inn and Restaurant, also hoped to attend the party after stopping at his kitchen to work.

"It's completely amazing," Frieseke said. "We're a little bit off the beaten path, but to get that kind of recognition is really amazing."

The Applewood Inn, a 10-room bed and breakfast nestled in the redwoods along the Russian River, was purchased by Carlos Pippa and Sylvia Ranyak last November. Frieseke was told to keep doing what he was doing: California cuisine, based in regional traditions and Old World techniques. That strategy paid off.

"The guide is dispersed so far across the country and the world," Frieseke said. "It's not going to change our base. It's just going to add on that little extra that keeps us working at a high level."

The Michelin Guide comes on the heels of the Zagat San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants 2011, a guide based on frequent diner surveys that was released in September. While the two guides share a similar look — a burgundy red cover and slim, pocket-sized format — each offers a unique viewpoint.

"It's different when you get 3,000 people who give subjective feedback than when you have 10 critics who are trained to regard things with a certain, standardized eye," Peyton said. "They all have their own bent ... and certain places are going to do a little better in each one."