With the fall harvest underway and lush summer vines gone golden, this is a special time of year in the Northern California Wine Country. We often think of towns such as Sonoma, Napa, and St. Helena when considering a visit to this idyllic region, but it is the Sonoma County town of Healdsburg that has transformed itself in recent years as a must-visit destination.
Healdsburg has thoughtfully preserved its small town charm, yet also welcomed newer restauranteurs, small businesses, and artisans that similarly honor the character of the area. And, don’t forget the more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms nearby whose nectar from the terroir drew you here to begin with.
Come see what Healdsburg has to offer, and you will soon realize that this unique town is spectacular regardless of season:
WHERE TO STAY
With light-filled glass corridors, oak wood floors, soaring ceilings, and plush guest rooms, the Hotel Healdsburg is central to everything and on the town square. It marries breath-taking design with contemporary comforts, and highlights include the secluded pool surrounded by lush olive trees, a full-service spa, and Charlie Palmer’s famed Dry Creek Kitchen. Take time to enjoy a local Zinfandel while sitting by the lobby-living-room’s spectacular concrete and glass fireplace.
The hotel’s younger, modern, and hip sibling, H2, offers rooms with private patios or balconies, public bikes to borrow, complimentary weekend morning yoga classes, and has a vibrant dinner and happy hour scene at their in-house restaurant, Spoonbar.
For those wanting to stay in an intimate setting off the beaten path, the Duchamp Hotel has 6 private modern cottages that are minimally designed and big on refined details.
Healdsburg has thoughtfully preserved its small town charm, yet also welcomed newer restauranteurs, small businesses, and artisans that similarly honor the character of the area.
WHERE TO SHOP
One could stay all day at The Shed, a hybrid shopping and dining spot housed in a gorgeous modern-agrarian-warehouse building. Take time to shop their collection of curated housewares like bay laurel wood serving boards and stackable ceramics, plus local olive oils and wine vinegars from their pantry.
For furniture, home goods, and décor accessories, visit the St. Dizier Home showroom and Limestone and, if you love farmers’ markets, then the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning (behind the Hotel Healdsburg) will impress you with local, organic pumpkins and apples of the Fall season.
For refined casual clothing and shoes, head to Looking Glass for brands like Frame Denim, Balenciaga, Good HYOUman, and Natalie Martin.
WHERE TO EAT
Healdsburg is far from short on great dining options and leading the list is Campo Fina, an Italian restaurant serving tasty, traditional fare in a contemporary setting, complete with an outdoor bocce court. Don’t miss the small bites like polenta or arancini, or the wood-fired Pizza Affumicato (with roasted eggplant and smoked mozzarella), or the famous Nonna’s Tomato Braised Chicken.
For the most gorgeous outdoor dining experience in town, go to Barn Diva, whose back patio and garden are also a popular wedding venue. Two local brothers from Geyserville run Valette, and you can’t leave town without trying their Warm Black Mission Fig Salad or Arugula Wrapped King Salmon.
Lastly, don’t overlook the Healdsburg Bar and Grill. Their macaroni and cheese mixed with fiscalini cheddar and mustard, and the truffle parmesan fries, are decadently dreamy.
Start your morning off like a local with coffee from Flying Goat Coffee, and a donut muffin (not much more info needed) from Downtown Bakery. If you have a sweet tooth, then head to Noble Folk, run by two Sonoma County natives who specialize in unique ice cream flavors like Blackberry Rosemary and Matcha Almond Green Tea, even heritage pies made with varietal grains like buckwheat and faro.
TASTE: IN TOWN
Several tasting rooms are either on or near the town square. Among some of the most charming ones are Banshee Wines, La Crema, Sanglier Cellars, Stonestreet, Thumbprint Cellars, and Hawley. For wine tasting gone posh, try Portalupi.
TASTE: AMONGST THE VINES
Healdsburg is surrounded by three appellations: the Dry Creek Valley, the Alexander Valley, and the Russian River Valley. The warm days and cool nights provide ideal conditions for grape growing, and many wineries have beautiful tasting rooms amongst the vines just outside of town.
The grand dame is Ferrari-Carano, an estate with vast gardens and sweeping views, and where you can book a winery tour that starts every day at 10am. For an intimate spot on the valley floor, take a picnic (get sandwiches early from Oakville Grocery in town), and go to Dutcher Crossing and sample their amazing Zinfandels and Cabernets.
Visiting Quivira is an amazing experience in that it is a winery and organic biodynamic farm. They have 120 raised beds of organic produce plus 93 acres of vineyards to gaze upon; it would be hard to spend an afternoon in a more beautiful place.
Have you been to Healdsburg? Where do you love to spend fall in northern California?
Images via Nanette Wong