We present three different day trips to Healdsburg in Wine Country
Ask a Healdsburg resident to describe this hamlet in northern Sonomoa Country and the reply will likely be couched in temporal terns: old Healdsburg or new? Before 2001 the town had family restaurants and just a sprinkling of visitors from far away. Then came the swanky Hotel Healdsburg and chef Charlie Palmer's acclaimed restaurant Dry Creek Kitchen- followed by boutiques, Michelin-starred eateries and of course, tourists,. Today Healdsburg is a remarkable syntheses of old and new- of small-town friendliness and big-city chic, of very good wine and equally good food. Here's what to do in Healdsburg and the surrounding valleys of northern Sonoma in just under three days.
9:00 am, start in Marin County (at the San Anselmo Inn of course!) and start driving North via Highway 101.
11:00 am. First stop Copain Wines, just off the highway in the Russian River Valley. Winemaker Wells Guthrie is acclaimed for his stylish Chardonnays and elegant Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. The winery is set on a high hill with dramatic views. Tasting by appt only, at 11:00am and 2:00pm. www.copainwines.com
1:00 pm. Continue to the enter of Healdsburg and have lunch at Bistro Ralph, a fixture on the town's plaza for more than 20 years. This casual Cal-French spot is a winemaker favorite, and its wine list reflects that. The daily fish special and the frisee salad are always good bets. Or head to the nearly year-old Campo Fina, where you can order and meatball sandwich on ciabatta bread and play a round of bocce.
2:30 pm. The Hand Fan Museum is a two block walk down Healdsburg Ave. The tiny museum is stuffed with examples, some more than 100 years old. There are also a number for sale, priced from $20.00 to $150.00.
3:30 pm. Walk to the Flying Goat Coffee for a pick me up. My favorite was the Optimist's Blend, as much for it's name as its mild, well-balanced flavor.
4:00 pm. There are several multi dealer antiques markets within walking distance. Healdsburg Vintage feels as if it's been around for decades but is less than a year old- and a tad swankier than the others. I found linens and kitchenware from the 1950's and '60s. Two other favorite markets require some patience and poking around: the disorderly but charming Antique Harvest and Mill Street Plaza. Other suggested stops are the Plaza Gourmet and Healdsburg Shed.
7:00 pm. Eat dinner at Scopa next door to Bistro Ralph. It's a but tucked away but the noise of the restaurant will guide you there. The crowd is lively, well-dressed and multi generational, and the menu pays homage to traditional Italian fare (Nonna's tomato braised chicken is a signature dish). The wine list is half Italian and half local.
9:00 am. Indulge in New Orleans style beignets (five to a serving!) or shrimp and grits at Parish Cafe. Two blocks from the square this newish spot uses local ingredients in traditional Crescent City fare.
11:00 am. Visit Skewis Wines little metal sided tasting room, situated in an enclave of wineries at the southern edge of town. The fenial Hank Skewis has been making small-production Pinot Noirs since 1994 and knows a lot of great vineyards in Sonoma and the Anderson Valley of Mendocino. "I like a pretty vineyard," he confessed.
11:30 am. Head back down-town, stopping by the Oakville Grocery Co. a gourmet food shop on the square, for some picnic provisions.
Noon. Drive a couple miles north on Healdsburg Avenue and turn onto Chiquita Road to Duchamp Winery's Slaughter-houses space, an abbatoir that transplanted New York artist Pat Lenz turned into a gallery. Her fiberglass installations, by turns whimsical and thought provoking, are scattered around the property; be sure to take a look inside Duchamp's head.
12:30 pm. Head north on West Dry Creek Road to the rolling hills of the Dry Creek Valley. Stop at Quivira Vinyards and Winery to visit the large organic garden, Ruby the pig and the beautiful chickens (yes beautiful really is the word), and to taste the terrific Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc, made in limited quantities. Ask for Ron Washam, a raconteur and local character who works the tasting room on Sundays. Drive a few miles further north to Preston Vineyards, one of the most bucolic spots in the valley. Buy a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc and a loaf of bread and eat lunch at one of the picnic tables scattered around the property.
8:00 am. Buy a flaky sticky bun across the plaza at Downtown Bakery and Creamery. Locals show up early and tourists roll in a bit later.
10:00 am. While Ramey Wine Cellers' location may be less than beautiful (across from a collision center and next to a vet clinic) the wines are first rate. Winemaker Davis Ramey is one of the masters of Chardonnay and Cabernet.
11:30 am. Capture Wines estate straddles Sonoma and Mendocino counties, but the proprietors hold private, by appointment only tastings of their superlative Sauvignon Blancs and Bordeaux style reds in a Victorian house.
Noon Drive about 1- minutes to the rather grand gates of Francis Ford Coppola Winery for a break from serious wine sampling. In addition to tasting room, there's a swimming pool, cabanas, a bocce court, a teepee and two restaurants. Have lunch at the poolside cage or on the terraces of Rustic, which features an Argentine grill. Check out the movie memorabilia. After a couple of hours head back south on Highway 101. There's plenty more food and wine for another visit, another time.
These are exerpts from the Wall Street Journal article by Lettie Teague