Where to go in Healdsburg
This once-sleepy town is now a top destination in Wine Country. Here’s why.
Banshee Wines // PHOTOGRAPHY BY GRETCHEN GAUSE
Downtown Healdsburg, a quaint hamlet built around a picturesque plaza dotted with redwood trees and fountains, isn’t very large. But it’s bursting at the seams with acclaimed
restaurants, posh boutiques, art galleries, a tea spa, and charming hotels, making it one of the hottest destinations in Sonoma County. Here’s how to make the most of a weekend on the historic square.
Renovated earlier this year, the ultramodern Hotel Healdsburg is just steps from the plaza, right in the middle of all the action. The hotel mixes steel, reclaimed wood, and sleek furniture to create a chic vibe, with balcony views to match. Relax by the private outdoor pool and hot tub (and bar), or grab a small bite next door at Charlie Palmer’s acclaimed restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen. hotelhealdsburg.com.
Get into relaxation mode at the Spa Hotel Healdsburg, a retreat specializing in “farm-to-spa” treatments that feature products crafted with ingredients from Sonoma County farms. The Meyer lemon–sage massage is heavenly, incorporating essential oils of Meyer lemon and sage in a whipped soufflé cream to relieve tension and rejuvenate the senses. hotelhealdsburg.com/spa.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Brothers Dustin Valette and Aaron Garzini had a lifelong dream of opening their own restaurant in Healdsburg, and after years of planning, their vision was finally realized when Valette opened last spring.
Chef Valette is nothing short of creative. The plate is the canvas, and local produce and proteins are the paint. He crafts seasonally inspired items like day boat scallops en croûte and Hawaiian ahi poke served with a Strong Arm Farm kombu and wakame salad. Valette also smokes and cures all his own meats, so try the charcuterie.
Pair your entrée with a glass of wine or a craft cocktail, such as The Doc Holiday, which includes Templeton four-year rye, house-made amaro, sorghum, and valerian bitters. Don’t skip dessert—the toasted brioche with hibiscus gastrique and salted brown butter ice cream is a delicious riff on French toast. valettehealdsburg.com.
Rise and Shine
Start the day off right with a cup of java from Flying Goat Coffee. Housed in the historic Masonic Building just off the plaza, Flying Goat has been serving gourmet coffee for more than 20 years. The homey-yet-modern café sources beans from Costa Rica, Honduras, and several South American countries, as well as Ethiopia and Kenya, for its espressos and lattes. flyinggoatcoffee.com.
With coffee in hand, walk over to Costeaux French Bakery for breakfast. This full-service, open-air bakery and café is known for its artisanal breads and desserts, and breakfast is served all day. For a decadent dish, order the pain perdu (French toast) made with cinnamon-walnut bread and doused in Vermont maple syrup. Or for something more savory, get the deep-dish Costeaux quiche, featuring Black Forest ham, spinach, mushrooms, and Jarlsberg and cheddar cheeses. costeaux.com.
Something to Sip
Local sips abound on and around the square. The ultramodern Banshee Wines features leather furniture, vinyl on the record player, and a communal tasting table that welcomes first-time sippers and wine aficionados alike. Started by three San Francisco friends, Banshee is known for its Pinot Noir, so settle in, and sip wines crafted by winemakers Noah Dorrance, Tim Milos (Stags’ Leap, Opus One), Ross Cobb, and Katy Wilson. bansheewines.com.
Afterward, go to Stonestreet Estate Vineyards’ tasting room for wines from the 20-year-old, family-owned winery. Stonestreet’s industrial vibe and marble-topped tasting bar beckon, and a whimsical nature wall display (think branches, dried leaves, and flowers) by artist Paulo Ferreira adds charm to the space. Chat with a wine expert as you enjoy estate and single-vineyard wines, such as a native yeast–fermented Chardonnay. stonestreetwines.com.
With so much California wine splashing into glasses, locals go crazy for wine from other terroirs. Enter Bergamot Alley, the one tasting room where you’ll find all non-California wines—and all the locals. Pair curated European pours with game nights, live music, and half a dozen types of grilled cheese sandwiches, and you’ll never want to leave. bergamotalley.com.
If you need a break from wine, check out Sonoma Cider, a locally owned and operated cider company run by a father-son team. Founder David Cordtz (the father in the duo) was an early pioneer of the craft cider movement, and he and his son, Robert, have made a collection of cool and unique ciders, such as The Jax—an apple-cinnamon cider inspired by breakfast cereals—and The Anvil, a bourbon-infused cider. Taste these concoctions and other seasonal offerings at the new tasting room less than five minutes from the square. sonomacider.com.
Shop and Snack
Healdsburg Shed offers everything from handcrafted housewares to fermented goods to responsibly farmed fare that changes with the seasons. One highlight is Shed Café, which draws crowds for cuisine by award-winning chef Perry Hoffman. Try light bites like the pickled quince with chestnuts, rosemary, and chicory; and the lamb shoulder with pipicha, mole, charred radishes, and sunflower sprouts. Eat your snack on the street-facing patio, and then meander through the shop to browse for porcelain plates, steel crepe pans, and gardening trowels. healdsburgshed.com.
Healdsburg has the most art galleries per capita of any city in Northern California. The Paul Mahder Gallery exhibits the works of international artists and local artists, such as Cynthia Jarvis and Chris Beards, and San Francisco’s Migdalia Valdes’ innovative black-and-white photographs of everyday life. paulmahdergallery.com, healdsburggalleries.com.
If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, grab a seat at Kinsmoke, Healdsburg’s newest BBQ joint. Slow-cooked Southern barbecue meets West Coast grilling at this down-home eatery by Brad Barmore and J.C. Adams, who also own Kin in Windsor. Locals swear by the six house-made, finger-lickin’-good sauces. Try them with the St. Louis–style pork ribs, or go for The Chopper—a sandwich stuffed with pork shoulder and brisket, dressed with Kinsmoke’s barbecue sauce, and served on a roll from
Costeaux French Bakery. kinsmoke.com.
Beignets and Breakfast Po’Boys
New Orleans native and chef Rob Lippincott serves up French-Creole inspired fare at The Parish Cafe, where the menu is almost as homey as the yellow facade of the Victorian house–turned-restaurant. On Sundays, breakfast is served all day. Whatever time you go, treat yourself to a plate of beignets dusted in powdered sugar and served piping hot. Or
be adventurous, and opt for the breakfast po’boy, a traditional Southern sandwich featuring Black Forest ham, eggs, cheese, spinach, and tomatoes. theparishcafe.com.
Hit the Trail
There’s no better way to enjoy scenic Wine Country than on two wheels. If you’re staying at Hotel Healdsburg, borrow a complimentary bike from the front desk, and head out for a spin on Foss Creek Pathway. This one-mile trail parallels the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad tracks and is lined with public art. (Keep an eye out for the metal Death Star.) To rent bikes, or to take a bike tour, visit Spoke Folk Cyclery located in a large hangar a couple blocks from the square. ci.healdsburg.ca.us, spokefolk.com.
Step into the contemporary Ereloom, and you’ll find a well-curated selection of styles for him. From casual John Varvatos knits, to Blind Barber grooming products, to leather bags by Aunts and Uncles, Ereloom’s handcrafted accessories and stylish threads will keep his closet up-to-date. ereloom.com.
For the trendsetting woman, Punch is a stylish and contemporary shop offering strappy Dolce Vita heels and Jeffrey Campbell booties, playful maxis and rompers, and handmade silver-and-turquoise necklaces and rings. shoppunchclothing.com.
Rest your feet at The Taste of Tea, a new tea bar, restaurant, and spa. The bar doesn’t serve alcohol, but rather tea infusions and specialty drinks, such as the Moonstone—a concoction crafted with Moonlight white tea, fresh mint, and Sonoma lavender syrup served in a vanilla sugar–rimmed martini glass. Interested in the healing properties of tea? Book a tea facial or a foot soak in the tea spa. thetasteoftea.com.
When in Rome
For rustic Italian cuisine, get a table at Scopa, a cozy eatery serving authentic pizzas and pastas made with seasonal ingredients. Start with the grilled baby octopus with confit potatoes and smoked paprika aioli before feasting on the house-made ravioli stuffed with ricotta and smothered in fresh tomato-basil sauce. Pair with a glass of Two Shepherds’ 2012 Pastoral Rouge Rhône Blend, with bright red fruits and just a hint of tannins. scopahealdsburg.com.
A Sweet Treat
Before you head home, stop by Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar, a tasty haven offering inventive seasonal ice-cream flavors—like cornflake crown maple and Japanese purple yam—and to-die-for pies made from scratch. (Peach-blackberry pie, anyone?) Browse the whimsical handmade wares on the shelves, and take home a tub of your favorite flavor—
we won’t judge. thenoblefolk.com.
An Ultimate Tasting Experience
Explore a garden, expansive vineyards, and two lakes at Jordan Vineyard and Winery.
Ten minutes from Healdsburg, Jordan Vineyard and Winery is worth the drive. The picturesque estate boasts four types of grapevines, olive trees, two lakes, and a garden that supplies chef Todd Knoll’s culinary creations.
Book the $120 Estate Tour and Tasting for a three-hour excursion that begins with breakfast on the shaded patio, prepared by chef Knoll, and continues with a scenic drive through the estate. The tour takes you to the lake for wine and nibbles, and ends at the vista room, where you’ll savor 360-degree views of the Alexander and Russian River valleys while sipping the winery’s award-winning Cabs.
Taste: The fruit-forward 2012 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon lingers on the tongue with notes of blackberry, black cherry, and cedar, finishing with a silky mouthfeel.
Bonus: Join Jordan’s free loyalty program, and stockpile enough wine club points to earn an overnight stay in one of Jordan’s three guest suites outfitted with wood-burning fireplaces, claw-foot tubs, and spectacular views. jordanwinery.com.