Travel Guide: Quaint and Charming Healdsburg in Sonoma County

Travel Guide: Quaint and Charming Healdsburg in Sonoma County
Relax and overlook the vines at Comstock Wines during a tasting. Photograph courtesy of Comstock Wines

The perfect launch point for a jaunt through Sonoma County, Healdsburg displays a quaint, charming energy with several new ventures rejuvenating things this summer. The Matheson restaurant, a highly anticipated concept from popular chef Dustin Valette, takes over a historic building. Marine Layer Wines opens an airy, modern tasting room right on the plaza. The owners of Michelin three-star honoree SingleThread will open plant-based eatery Little Saint. All this attention means you’ll need reservations for most tastings and a solid plan to eat, sleep, drink, and play your way around. Best bets? Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Gourmet Pairings
Comstock Wines, a boutique winery featuring world-class products, offers a relaxed setting with a wonderfully thoughtful staff. Treat yourself to the to-die-for wine and wood-fired pairing ($75 per person). Chef Jude Affronti creates dishes such as a Thai chicken skewer with peach chutney to accompany the award-winning Viognier, and house-made sausage with summer squash and cherry gastrique to highlight flavors from the 2017 pinot noir. A five-taste flight is available in classic or zinfandel varietals ($30 per person); on Sundays, go for the wine and grilled cheese flight ($75 per person).

Central Digs
Eliminate driving and still be in the middle of the action at Hotel Healdsburg, where you’ll stay in modern, spacious rooms ($489 and up) with comfy upholstered chairs, garden or plaza views, and oversize bathrooms. Hearty breakfast is complimentary, as are bike rentals to sightsee on two wheels. The garden pool and spa provide excuses to stay in and rejuvenate. Down the street you’ll find partner property h2hotel, LEED certified for its sustainable practices. The rooms here are simple with sleek lines ($339 and up).

The food at Valette is as beautifully presented as it is delicious. Photograph courtesy of Valette

Hometown Flavor
Sonoma County-born brothers opened Valette in 2015, featuring sophisticated and surprising food in a small-town, friendly atmosphere. Artistic presentation astonishes, from the Hawaiian ahi, poke style with kombu emulsion and crispy nori ($17), to scallops en croûte with squid ink in the pastry and Champagne-caviar beurre blanc ($21). Put yourself in chef Dustin Valette’s very capable hands with the “trust me” tasting menu ($18 per course, five-course minimum). The spot just off the plaza is the exact place where the brothers’ great-grandfather ran bakeries.

Picnic Tasting
Family-owned Dry Creek Vineyard, celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, was founded by David Stare, who defied local advice and planted what he wanted—sauvignon blanc. Next to the ivy-covered building is a large grassy area with plenty of shade where pets are welcome. Bring your own picnic supplies from historic Oakville Grocery with plenty of gourmet options that will pair beautifully with the tasting at Dry Creek ($25 per person).

The Whole Barn
Fun neon signs on the rustic barn alert you to the intrigue behind the iron gates at Barndiva. Have lunch or dinner in the garden setting with lights hanging from large trees and the sound of water features. Don’t dare miss the goat cheese croquettes with lavender honey ($10). Innovative cocktails abound here. Fit in with the locals in your comfortable shoes, as heels can be treacherous in the grass.

French Inspiration
For Parisian flavor in Healdsburg, start with a visit to Costeaux French Bakery. Indulge in pain perdu made with cinnamon walnut bread ($14) or the popular deep-dish quiche ($14). Continue the theme with a visit to Jordan Winery and Vineyard, which provides several tasting options in a formal setting with an old-world vibe. Try the library tasting with four wines and small plates ($45 per person) or Paris on the Terrace, a bistro lunch with pairings ($110 per person) through this month.

Rooms and suites at Farmhouse Inn provide luxurious tranquility. Photograph courtesy of Farmhouse Inn

Total Indulgence
When it’s time for pampering, Farmhouse Inn is the place. With a Michelin-starred restaurant on the property—about 20 minutes from Healdsburg—the inn specializes in luxurious details. Upon arrival, choose a complimentary sample from a display of locally made bath salts and soaps for use in deep, jetted bathtubs. Double-sided fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, nightly wine tastings near outdoor swing beds, and s’mores by the fire pits are a few of the surprises that await. The inn celebrates its 20-year anniversary with a package including a bottle of wine, credits for the spa and farmstand, and more ($825 per night).

Aug. 28: Santa Rosa Beer Fest. Craft brews, a beer garden, music, food, and games await at this event tied to Marathon Weekends. Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa, santarosabeerfest.com

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