I say “wine country,” you say… bikes and hikes? I say “tasting room,” you say… olive oils? I say, if you’ve never traveled to Healdsburg, California, what are you waiting for?
A charming blend of rural agriculture and world-class resorts, sophisticated wineries and traditional olive orchards, Healdsburg is everything you didn’t expect from wine country. About 80 miles north of San Francisco International Airport, Healdsburg is surrounded by several of Northern California’s finest regional wine appellations, including Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley. With over 100 world class wineries and tasting rooms, you’ll discover plenty of reasons to visit and even more excuses to return.
The Vineyards Await
For a true vine-to-barrel-to-glass experience, visit one of the many vineyards in Healdsburg. You’ll meet impassioned families whose vines have prevailed over generations and those who are first-generation owners and winemakers. Recommended are Dry Creek Vineyard (DryCreekVineyard.com), the first new winery in the area following Prohibition; Quivira Vineyards and Winery (QuiviraWine.com), a biodynamic “farmery” and the first organic vineyard in Dry Creek Valley; and Simi Winery (SimiWinery.com), the oldest continuously operating winery in Healdsburg (since 1876) that’s been producing wine in the same stone cellar since 1890. Set up a formal tasting with friends or just drop in during tasting hours to experience the distinct terroir, borne from the seasonal sun and winter rains, coastal breezes, and Dry Creek Valley’s unique soil.
Connect with the scenic countryside views on a tasting tour with WineCountryBikes.com and see why Bicycling magazine calls Healdsburg one of six best cities for a bike vacation. Or hike amid more than 800 acres of Sequoia sempervirens in Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Reserve for a true nature-inspired vacation.
Downtown Will Delight
If you prefer a less strenuous pace, downtown Healdsburg’s historic plaza provides a shopper’s solace with unique boutiques, vintage haunts, and ambitious endeavors like SHED, a modern grange that’s part market, part community gathering place. Be sure to connect with Wine Country Walking Tours to learn the art of wine and food pairings. Plan to take their interactive four-hour tour, where you start with an introduction to Healdsburg history and quickly embark on a journey of wine and food pairings. Local winemakers and restauranteurs infuse their passion into every sip and bite you experience.
Insist on stopping in Portalupi’s tasting room, where Jane Portalupi and Tim Borges, a husband and wife team, have trademarked wine bottled in milk bottle-inspired glass. Influenced by their rich Italian heritage and years of experience in the wine industry, they’ll expose your palate and mind with pairings like never before. You’ll also want to stop by the patio at Mateo’s Cocina Latina for the freshest Yucatan food you’ll ever eat. Mateo Granados comes from a family of butchers and got his first restaurant experience as a dish washer. Now he delights in visiting with locals and tourists who imbibe at his tables.
For dinner, your choices include barbeque and Japanese, tapas and authentic Mediterranean fare, but you can’t go wrong at Bravas Bar de Tapas on Center Street, voted one of the top 20 tapas restaurants in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure and a Top 100 Bay Area Restaurant for three years running, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
For the ultimate dining experience, Valette Headsburg will leave you wondering why every restaurant can’t be this special. Like Mateo, Dustin Valette learned the business with a dishrag in hand, only he forged an ID card so a restaurant would hire him at the age of 13. Now, more than 20 years later, he’s returned to his wine country roots to dazzle his diners with a menu he’s crafted with the help of his brother, Aaron Garzini. Their goal: provide a canvas for local farmers, winemakers and artisans to showcase their craft. And they achieve this to perfection!
A Place to Lay Your Weary Head
Healdsburg’s charm is not limited to wineries and restaurants, their accommodations abound and vary from quaint lodging to national chains. Honor Mansion sets the standard for hospitality. Located off the bustling city square, Honor Mansion offers guests a choice of staying in the main house or a private retreat with a secluded patio and outdoor tub. All guests begin each day with a full gourmet buffet breakfast in the dining room and enjoy appetizers in the early evening, as well as all the amenities each guestroom has to offer. Within the four-acre property, enjoy the lap pool, competition croquet, a PGA putting green, tennis, basketball and bocce ball courts, and private spa services.
For more information, including a calendar of events, see Healdsburg.com.
Text and photos by Pamela Hammonds