Healdsburg, in northern Sonoma County, is an overnight success, 150 years in the making.
While hops and prunes were the reason many farming families settled in northern Sonoma County, today Healdsburg is a rising star in the already bright constellation of Sonoma County wines. Three wine valleys – the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River—meet near Healdsburg. Other noted wine regions like Chalk Hill and Knights Valley are nearby.
A good way to explore the many wineries of Healdsburg is to visit the tasting rooms that dot the plaza, interspersed with art galleries and boutiques. (Insider tip – Bob Johnson Art Gallery, 314 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-529-3755, is a great stop to meet local artist and raconteur Bob Johnson, and to pick up a map of local art galleries.)
Another good way to get a sense of Healdsburg and northern Sonoma County is a multi-day pass from Wine Road. Their one-day wine pass includes special offers from wineries in the area, including complimentary wine tasting and discounts on buying wine. Neaby wineries include Wilson Winery, Rodney Strong, Ferrari-Carano, Pezzi King, Dry Creek, Mill Creek, Armida, Foppiano and many others. Find all Healdsburg wineries here.
Often compared to Yountville and St. Helena, its glitzier cousins in neighboring Napa Valley, Healdsburg holds the charms of a small, agricultural community with the amenities of a world-class wine and food destination.
In Healdsburg, farmers come to town to buy work boots while well-heeled visitors stroll into Costeaux French Bakery (417 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-1913) for fresh pastries and delicious breakfasts. At the center of town is the Healdsburg Plaza with an old-time band shell that's still being used for concerts and civic gatherings. A small fountain entertains children while large redwood trees stand on the corners, watching over friends meeting for coffee and visitors enjoying the sun.
The Russian River runs through the outskirts of the town, and visitors have to cross over it when coming from nearby Windsor on Old Redwood Highway. A renaissance of the river among locals includes the Russian River Festival—a month of activities hosted by Sonoma County Regional Parks. There's also increased interest in the Steelhead fish that run up the river in winter, celebrated with an annual festival held at nearby Lake Sonoma.
Overnight options include Madrona Manor Wine Country Inn & Restaurant, which offers posh lodgings and inventive cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. And the nearby towns of Windsor, northern Santa Rosa, Geyserville and Cloverdale are also good options for places to stay when exploring northern Sonoma County and the Healdsburg area.