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Girls Getaway to Healdsburg

It’s time to plan a Sonoma Wine Country getaway with girlfriends. Pick any area of Sonoma County and, within just a few miles, there can be great variation — from oceans to forests, tiny towns barely a few blocks long to bustling cityscapes, and working dairies to trendy ice cream shops.

A successful getaway in Sonoma County is as easy as picking a destination, driving or flying to Sonoma County's Charles M. Schulz (STS) Airport, unpacking, and relax relaxing. This time out, our gals decided to choose Healdsburg as a base. Read on for a fun-filled, 2-day itinerary.

Downtown Healdsburg

The morning will find us at The Parish where, even before we look at the menu, we will ask for beignets and chicory café au lait. The French pastries are rolled out by hand, quick fried to feather lightness, then dusted in powdered sugar, which gets all over our hands, mouths, and the table.

The coffee is rich but smooth, with an intriguing hint of fennel. We’ll linger in the cozy cottage — if we’re lucky, scoring a seat on the porch or patio — savoring chef-owner Rob Lippincott’s New Orleans specialties like eggs Benedict mounded with poached eggs, sweet lump blue crab meat, silky hollandaise and tangy shallots on crisp buttered French bread.

Next, we’ll browse the shops that share the same Mill Street Antiques Plaza. The hodgepodge collections are put together by private curators, inventory changes often, and it’s impossible to leave without finding at least one must-have treasure among the vintage costume jewelry, kicky retro clothing, or bargain price handmade furniture pieces.

Healdsburg Plaza brims with wine tasting rooms, and there’s always something new to explore. Thumbprint Cellars is a favorite for its chic setting of brick walls hung with colorful monk portraits, porthole style wine racks, and the colorfully labeled bottles themselves, decorated with big thumbprints.

We’ll sit in the groovy grotto lounge and sample Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah; Russian River Valley Pinot Noir; and Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Viognier.

The Stephen & Walker Trust Winery Limited nearby woos with complimentary cheese pairings, including truffle salt cheese and honey and walnut cheese. We’ll taste Dry Creek Zinfandel, Russian River Pinot Noir, and port and,  in between, we can admire the store’s art gallery.

There are dozens of great boutiques on these small blocks of paradise. Find special and unique handbags, scarves, wallets, and travel accessories at Clutch, and custom handmade furniture, fine woodwork, and uncommon home décor and art at Dovetail Collection. And One World Fair Trade is another worthy stop-in, brimming with unique Third World-crafted jewelry, musical instruments, toys, scarves, pottery, and much more.

Lunch will be at Oakville Grocery, soaking up the sun on the dog-friendly patio and people watching on this always bustling corner. Lines are usually long at the deli counter, where staffers make big, beautiful sandwiches to order, like the fresh mozzarella layered with tomato, basil leaves, and golden balsamic vinaigrette on a sour baguette; or fried Petaluma chicken with smoked bacon, remoulade, house-made dill pickles, Swiss, and lettuce on a Dutch crunch roll. A bottle of superb artisanal ginger ale is a must. Looking for something more? A great restaurant with farm-fresh, beautiful dishes is Barndiva, just around the corner.

We’ll still be in the mood for food (always!), so next we’ll visit the Healdsburg SHED, a market, café, and community gathering space designed to highlight the best of the local farming culture. In addition to kitchen and gardening gear, the market offers deii treats and delicious to-go snacks. We’ll fill our baskets for a midnight snack at our hotel tonight.

And we’ll pick up a bottle of wine for that midnight feast at our next stop, Banshee Wines. One of the newer tasting rooms off the Plaza, it’s a modern, art-filled space with reclaimed wood floors and walls, distressed leather furniture, spinning vinyl records, and a vintage communal table for sampling Sonoma County Pinot Noir and Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

Then it will be time to check in, at the Raford Inn, a short drive away along country roads and nestled right in the Russian River vineyards. It feels like a whole other world, here, surrounded by vast open spaces, peaceful quiet, and the stars at night.

Other lodging suggestions within an easy drive include Healdsburg’s Madrona Manor, with its Michelin-starred restaurant. Go further afield and check out Geyserville Inn, in Geyserville, or Auberge on the Vineyard, in Cloverdale. The town of Windsor offers national-brand hotels: Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn, or why not rent a beautiful vacation home for the weekend in Healdsburg?

The we head back downtown to Portalupi Wines for more tasting. It’s open daily until 7 p.m., perfect for a pre-dinner sampling, and the sleek, sophisticated lounge space specializes in Italian varietals like Vermentino and Barbera.

For dinner, the Gallery + Bardiva Bar & Bistro serves as an art gallery by day, but offers classic cocktails and drinks at night, with a farm-to-table bistro menu Wednesday to Sunday. Or, enjoy an elegant dinner in a beautiful 1881 Victorian mansion at the Michelin-starred Madrona Manor Wine Country Inn & Restaurant, with a seasonal menu of the freshest local ingredients, including those from the estate’s onsite organic garden. Or find the cuisine you crave in our listings of Healdsburg restaurants.

Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys

We’ll be off to a day of vineyard walking tours, to get some exercise and education while still enjoying fine wines. No appointments are needed for the self-guided tours — we just stop in each tasting room to pick up a detailed guide to the vineyard, then follow the signs clearly marked along the pathways as we explore and discover up-close how vines are pruned and what the different varietals look like.

We’ll start at Mauritson Winery in Dry Creek Valley, then visit the famous Francis Ford Coppola in Alexander Valley, continuing on to the magnificent architecture that is Stryker Sonoma Winery in Alexander Valley.

Stryker is nearly next door to the charming, farmhouse-style Medlock Ames Tasting Room and Alexander Valley Bar (a speakeasy hidden in the back), so we won’t be able to resist sampling the organically produced Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. We can sit on the patio and enjoy the fragrances of the garden that supplies herbs and fruit for the speakeasy cocktails.

Lunch brings us back to downtown Healdsburg, at Willi’s Sea­food & Raw Bar for an in-depth focus on the ingredients that make this area so special. We’ll eat Point Reyes and Drake’s Bay oysters, local Dungeness crab, and locally caught ceviche.

We’ll also enjoy locally raised duck, made into carnitas with smoked chile-pear barbecue sauce and green papaya slaw on a soft roll, Sonoma County lamb and mint on skewers, and “mac ’n’ cheese studded with local uni, chives, and sweet bay scallops.

No girls’ getaway is complete without some pampering, and Spa Dolce awaits on nearby Center Street, with hot stone aromatherapy massages, European facials, and seaweed body wraps.

Then, we’ll put on pretty dresses and treat ourselves to dinner at Mateo’s Cocina Latina downtown. We could visit the many boutique farms of Healdsburg to fill out shopping bags, but chef Mateo Granados does it for us, then combines the pristine Sonoma County ingredients with Yucatan flavors and French finesse.

That results in mouthwatering dishes such as Green Star Farm chicken marinated in annatto seed adobo with baked calasparra rice, Rancho Gordo Sangre de Toro bean ragu; or thinly sliced slow-cooked beef in Yucatán condiments with local potatoes, red onions, frijol colado, and sea salt tortillas.

We’ll take a break from wine, for his marvelous handcrafted tequila cocktails, like the Paloma Hermosa of Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lime, grapefruit juice, and agave nectar.

We’ll toast to our happiness, friendship, and all that is Healdsburg. Then we’ll tuck in for the night, and dream of our next adventure.  

Looking for more girls getaways? Try:

Girls Getaway to Sonoma County - 3 day itinerary
Girls Getway to Sonoma Valley - 1 day

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.