Mention a visit to the wine country in California, USA and Napa Valley instantly comes to mind.
I am convinced, however, that it is in the nearby town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, where you can truly find a slice of heaven in one hand (and a profound glass of Zinfandel in the other).
The charming and historic town of Healdsburg is tucked between the gorgeous Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek valleys, making its central location the perfect base for visiting numerous world class wineries in Sonoma county (there are over 60 wineries within a 10-minute drive!)
Surrounded by mountains and vineyards, Healdsburg is laid out around a town square lined with quaint shops, boutique hotels and world-class restaurants.
Its real appeal however, lies in its small-town feel oozing with rustic charm and too-good-to-be-true local hospitality, providing the perfect combination of rural flair with a high level of sophistication.
h2hotel – 219 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg | 707 922-5251
The uber cool industrial meets eco-chic hotel design built to LEED Gold green building certification
Its accessible and great central location (just off Healdburg Square), walking distance from numerous eateries and shops, including Bovolo Cafe, Bistro Ralph, Flying Goat coffee, Oakville Grocery Co., and the Downtown Bakery and Creamery.
The super friendly, super helpful & super knowledgeable staff
View the complete review of h2 hotel here
Moshin Vineyards – This family-owned vineyard and winery specialises in small lot, hand-crafted wines and features with great pride, its Pinot Noir . A unique feature of the winery is the use of gravity for moving the wine through the entire process. Four tiers have been built on the slope of the land to allow the wine to move from crush, to press, to barrel then to bottle. This gentle method helps preserve the delicate and subtle aromas and flavours of Pinot Noir. Oh, and if you are lucky, they might still have 1 or 2 bottles of their exquisite Whisper in the Dark (Zinfandel Port) available for sale – only 121 cases of darling little 375mL bottles were produced – hurry! – 10295 Westside Rd, Healdsburg | 707.433.5499
Chalk Hill – Pulling in to the driveway at Chalk Hill estate is at once both magical and surreal. Of the expansive 1400-acre estate, a mere 350 acres are planted to create a patchwork of vineyards. The remainder is wild California grasslands, heritage oaks, organic culinary and ornamental gardens. To fully appreciate its grandeur, estate tours are available at $20/person. Foodies can book a culinary tour ($75/person) which will include a visit to the Furth’s private culinary garden as well as a sit-down tasting of estate wines paired with a sampling Chef Didier’s exquisite cuisine in the Pavillion. Do try their 2007 Estate Red which obtained 95 points by Robert Parker. Beauty. – 10300 Chalk Hill Rd, Healdsburg | 707.657.4837
Michel-Schlumberger – Thanks to our lovely guide, Samantha, we had such a wonderful experience at this off-the-beaten-track Bordeaux house in Wine Creek Canyon. The wine estate hosts several events throughout the year so be sure to check the events calendar regularly – previous winery events have included The Nature Series with the likes of Bee Day, Bird Day and Critter day as headliners- go figure! Tours of the estate, wine & cheese pairing and wine tastings are also available by appointment. – 4155 Wine Creek Road | 800.447.3060
Porter Creek – Proudly fronted by a shed-turned-make-shift tasting room and the family’s enormous woolly dog, this winery presents a different experience set in an intimate and friendly environment. Porter Creek’s Carignanes (pronounced karen-yawn), Zins and Viogniers are among some of highly rated wines that are available for tasting. – 8735 Westside Rd, Healdsburg | 707.433.6321
Flying Goat Coffee – It’s hard to believe that these guys only have 3 stores (2 in Healdsburg, 1 in Santa Rosa) to their name because they have the best darned coffee ever! A number of single origin’s are available in addition to their 3 blends, of which I absolutely adore Expresso No. 9. Make this your first pit stop when you roll into Healdsburg! – 324 Center Street, Healdsburg | 707.433.3599
Spoonbar – This funky restrobar resides in the h2hotel and serves Modern Mediterranean cuisine. Making decisions can be difficult here because everything on the menu sounds fab. Slowly chew through the menu with Warm Flatbread to start (with choice of spread – try smooth spicy feta & Moroccan eggplant) and a glass of wine. For starters, whet your appetite with Oysters from around the bay and a selection of small bites, tapas style. For mains, Steak Frites (well marbled) are excellent here, as is the Spoonbar Burger. For dessert, complete the meal with Cannoli ‘Cigars’, an old fashion street treat filled with sheep’s milk ricotta and daily flavors. Yum.
Tip: For a truly memorable dining experience, sit at the counter to interact with chefs as they prepare your meal. Request for bespoke oyster shooters from chef Louis and be prepared to be blown away!
Bovolo Cafe – You wouldn’t stumble upon this locals’ favourite by accident unless you happen to be perusing books at Copperfield’s bookstore in downtown Healdsburg. Do make the effort to wander through the bookstore to locate this Pork specialty café and try their world famous (melt-in-your-mouth) pork cheek sandwich with roasted peppers and salsa verde. To finish, polish off a scoop of homemade peanut butter ice cream and you’re all set to continue with half a day’s work of wine tasting.
Fun fact: They make their own bacon & salumi from non-confinement, heritage pork that is antibiotic and hormone free!! They also make their own certified gelato with no additives, just clover milk or ripe fruit and sugar. I approve!
Bistro Ralph – It’s easy to miss this much loved little joint tucked away discretely along Healdsburg Plaza but once inside, the vibe is convivial and often rowdy with seats filling fast with regulars. Hearty Californian-French favourites here include Chicken Livers, Lamb Burger and the very tall and impressive 1000 shoestring fries. – 109 Plaza Street, Healdsburg | 707.433.1380
Downtown Bakery & Creamery – Peer into their window and you’ll understand why locals and non-locals alike flock to this old-fashioned full-service bakery. The aroma of freshly baked sourdough bread alone will lure you into the bakery where you are further charmed by the myriad of breakfast pastries, croissants, scones. muffins and specialty cakes. – 308 A Center Street, Healdsburg | 707.431.2719
14 feet – This neat little store across the road from Flying Goat Coffee specializes in one-of-a-kind vintage industrial and mid-century pieces. Their collection includes furniture, pottery, lighting, textiles and found objects, and also features quirky collections from emerging artists. Unique collectibles include adorable hand crafted sheep sculptures, convict “wrap sheets” from the 50’s and 60’s containing their original photos and fingerprints, and hand felted stones which can be used as paperweights or featured on their own. – 325 Center Street, Healdsburg | 707.433.339