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 relaxing. This time out, our gals decided to choose Healdsburg as a base. Read on for a fun-filled, two-day itinerary.
The morning will find us at Costeaux French Bakery. If a bakery has been open since 1923, as this one has, it has to be doing something right. Just one example of that something is pie, made with wholesome fresh ingredients including pure butter, farm fresh eggs, real vanilla, and unbleached flour. Classic fruit pies are deep-dish 8-inch flaky buttery crust models with seasonal fruits like pumpkin. Besides pastries, the chic café offers quiche, omelets, and a very good salad of mixed greens, Willie Bird smoked duck breast, sliced almonds, chèvre, crostini, and balsamic vinaigrette.
Next, we’ll browse the shops at the 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.
The downtown neighborhood around Healdsburg's historic central 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 nearby Stephen & Walker Trust Winery Limited woos with mini-cheese pairings with its wine tastings. We’ll sample 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.
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 super-local Barndiva, just around the corner. Barndiva chooses the best ingredients from boutique Sonoma County farms and food producers, and serves its mouthwatering dishes in a mahogany barn with pitchforks on the walls. Or maybe we'll choose to dine in the lushly landscaped outdoor patio.
And in case we want to pick up a bottle of wine at our hotel tonight, our next stop is 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 vineyards of the Russian River wine region. 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 Old Crocker Inn, in Cloverdale. The town of Windsor offers national-brand hotels: Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Windsor Wine Country, or Hampton Inn & Suites.
The we head back downtown to Portalupi Wines for more tasting. It’s open late, perfect for a pre-dinner sampling, and the sleek, sophisticated lounge space specializes in Italian varietals like Vermentino and Barbera.
For dinner, the Bardiva Gallery + Bar 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 Guide to Healdsburg restaurants.
Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys
We’ll start off with a free vineyard walking tour, to get some exercise and education while still enjoying fine wines.
No appointment is needed for this self-guided tour. We just stop in the tasting room at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Alexander Valley, to pick up a detailed guide to the vineyard, then follow the signs along the pathway. We’ll walk along the creeks and rows of vineyards, learning about sustainable methods for growing grapes.
After our hike, we’ll stop in the tasting room again, both to sample the vintages and to see the display of movie memorabilia, including movie props, and Coppola’s Oscars and other awards. Designed as a wine wonderland, this chateau-style winery offers a variety of tours and activities, including a swimming pool in warm weather.
Our next stop is the charming, farmhouse-style Medlock Ames Tasting Room. 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 edible garden.
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.
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.
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Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.