Active vacations abound in Sonoma County small town
Picture a gorgeous Sonoma Valley day, you on a bike, leisurely making your way from wonderful winery to wonderful winery. Sound appealing? Then Healdsburg, Calif. needs to be on your vacation planning list. The wine country town has it all—a perfect blend of wine tasting, gourmet food, shopping and active options for taking it all in.
“We’re not Napa.”
You’ll quickly discover that Sonoma County is very proud of its own wines and activities, and doesn’t particularly want to be lumped in with better-known neighbor Napa County. The wineries surrounding Healdsburg are famous for pinot noir, zinfindel, chardonnay and sparkling wines, among others.
For example, gorgeous Jordan Winery, atop a hill outside Healdsburg, makes only world-class cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and has been doing so for 40 years. Rather than a traditional tasting room, Jordan offers “tours and tastings” by reservation only, including the “library tasting,” which includes an artisan cheese pairing, the “winery tour and library tasting,” which includes hors d’oeuvres pairings posttour, and the three-hour “estate tour and tasting,” which includes a three-mile guided tour of the 1,200-acre estate with tastings and pairing along the way.
Jordan has also started offering a guided walking tour of the vineyards and gardens several times a year, an excellent way to discover how top-quality wine is grown. (jordanwinery.com/visit)
Another long-held family winery, Wilson Artisan WineriesdeLorimer Winery, also in a lovely setting, features sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and primitivo, among other wines. (Primitivo is closely related to zinfindel.) The tasting room is open daily, but reservations are needed for the special “wine and food pairing” and “wine, cheese and chocolate pairing” (highly recommended). (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bike, paddle, walk, cook…with wine
Whether you’re up for a full-on bike adventure, or just want a day of riding through slightly hilly country, stopping at several wineries and enjoying a picnic lunch, Wine Country Bikes has the tour for you.
Entertaining and informative guides accompany you on the Classic Dry Creek Valley tour, for example, you start in Healdsburg at 10 a.m., returning at 4 p.m., and along the way, visit wineries such as Quivira, a leader in the growing “bio-dynamic” system of cultivating grapes, and features, among other wines, an outstanding rosé, Martorana Family Winery, where the tasting room samples, among other wines, estate-grown chardonnay and zinfindel, and DaVero, also certified bio-dynamic and producing strictly wines made from Italian grape varietals, such as vermintino and sangiovese.
All of these wineries also offer tastings and tours for those not on the bike tours. (winecountrybikes.com)
The Russian River area is famed for chardonnay—and for water adventures. You can spend a pleasant afternoon canoeing down the river with SOAR Inflatables. Watch for otters, herons, turtles and other wildlife as you work up an appetite for a meal in town later…maybe with a glass of chardonnay. (russianriveradventures.com)
Walkers will enjoy a stroll through Healdsburg with Wine Country Walking Tours, taking note of the historic central plaza (which features free concerts Tuesday nights May-August), and stopping in at the several tasting rooms the town itself houses. (winecountrywalkingtours.com)
Cooks should not miss the chance to take a class at Relish Culinary Adventures, where genial owner Donna del Rey and staff help you create an entire meal, using locally sourced ingredients, and of course paired with local wines.
Relish also offers “Progressive Culinary Adventures” through Healdsburg and “Farm-to-Table Culinary Tours” where you’ll meet local artisan cheese makers, olive oil producers and family farmers. (See sidebar for a recipe from Relish.) relishculinary.com
Wining, dining and checking in
Healdsburg’s restaurants are famous even in a state famous for famous restaurants. Try trendy Spoonbar for their crafty cocktail menu and innovative appetizers. Craft beer lovers will find the foam of their dreams at Bear Republic Brewing Company.
Locals love old-timey Costeaux’s French Bakery for lunch, renowned for its French onion soup, French dip sandwiches, and, of course, house-baked breads and desserts. Foodies cherish Valette, the dream-cometrue of two local brothers who make the area’s bountiful produce, locally sourced meats, seafood and wines the stars of the menu. Indulge in the “Chef Valette’s ‘Trust me’ Tasting menu,” $15 a course, minimum four courses.
While in town, drop in at The Taste of Tea for a nonalcoholic tea-tini, Chef Nez’s signature ramen, and a great education in the art of selecting and brewing tea.
Healdsburg accommodations range from luxury B&Bs, such as the Honor Mansion, to upscale boutique hotels, such as h2hotel and Hotel Les Mars, to the much larger Best Western Dry Creek Inn, which offers suites as well as single rooms.
Detailed help in planning your trip is provided by the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau website, healdsburg.com