By: Kirsten Akens
Not quite a two-hour drive north of San Francisco, the small Sonoma Valley town of Healdsburg makes a great home base for exploring California wine country. Read on for our recommendations of eight great reasons to visit the town and its immediate surrounding area.
1. Wine: Because we’re in the heart of Sonoma Valley, we have to start you off with wine and two of our favorite wineries. Soda Rock Winery’s home is the original site of the Alexander Valley General Store and Post Office, and records show wines have been made here since 1880. Current owners Ken and Diane Wilson have lovingly restored many of the buildings, and there are small touches of history across the property. Visit the tasting room for their Bordeaux varietals, but don’t miss a peek into all their public spaces. The history of Alexander Valley Vineyards goes back to the ’60s. Three generations later, Wetzel family members still run and work the estate. Go for the wine — AVV focuses primarily on blends. Stay for a tour of their half-acre of cool (literally) underground caves and family cemetery.
2. Olive Oil: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention another major production in the area: olives — and in this case, Dry Creek Olive Company. You’ll find Dry Creek housed at Trattore Farms, an estate that features 10 acres of olive trees in addition to 15 acres of vineyards (producing under the Trattore Estate Wines label). Tastings here involve both wine and olive oils, and if you’d like, you can add in a property tour of some pretty spectacular views from their Kawasaki Mule.
3. Flowers: We could have spent a whole day at Dragonfly Farm, home of Dragonfly Floral. More than 1,500 rose varieties bloom here among a wide variety of sustainably and organically grown plants. Wander the grounds, cluck at the chickens and ducks, oogle the air plants. Bring a picnic lunch and a blanket, soak up the relaxing environment, and grab a bouquet for your hotel room.
4. Outdoor action: Healdsburg features a cute town square, and surrounding blocks of interesting homes, business and other venues. It’s all easily walkable, though you might consider renting a bike as well if you want to get a little farther afield. Or just stay at h2hotel and you can borrow a public bike for free as part of your nightly fee. (It’s just one of the sweet perks at the LEED Gold certified eco-chic property in the heart of Healdsburg.)
5. Eats: It’s hard to find a bad meal in Healdsburg, but two of the tastiest are at Dry Creek Kitchen and Mateo’s Cocina Latina. Chef/owner Charlie Palmer focuses on Progressive American dishes at the upscale Dry Creek — and it’s worth planning ahead for his five-course tasting menu. Chef Mateo Granados’ restaurant features Yucatán flavor, French training, and convivial charm. Think tasty appetizers like tortilla cones of guacamole topped with pomegranate seeds.
6. Sweet Treats: Cupcakes with names like Southern Miss (Dry Creek peaches in a brown sugar cake) and the Miller (with Meyer lemon olive oil lemon curd) make happy mouths at Moustache Baked Goods. Blackberry raspberry ice cream and salted honey pie kick butt at Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar. With sweets like these in Healdsburg, we wouldn’t judge you if you passed on dinner altogether.
7. Non-Wine Drinks: If you’re seeking a creative local/organic/seasonal cocktail, we’ll send you back to h2hotel to try Spoonbar. Need some caffeine to keep you moving? Try a local roast at one of Flying Goat Coffee’s two cafés. Or if you’re needing a good non-alcoholic refresher, stop by the Fermentation Bar at SHED and give one of their house-made kombuchas, kefir waters or shrubs a taste.
8. Shopping: Independent bookstore lovers rejoice! Both Levin & Company Community Booksellers and Copperfield’s Books will serve all your reading needs. Just a bit off the square, those on the move might want to pop by “America’s Winiest Running Store,” Healdsburg Running Company. More generally, there are tiny boutiques and galleries like Lime Stone, Fideaux, and One World Fair Trade hidden up and down the streets, so if you’ve got the shopping bug, follow it.
For more information, visit the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau: http://www.healdsburg.com
About the Author:
Kirsten Akens is a freelance writer, traveler, and restorative yoga evangelist. She’s a lover of books, Boston terriers, blogging, (cowboy) boots, Browncoats & baked goods. And she has an unnatural affection for alliteration. Follow Kirsten @kirstenakens on Twitter.