Ever since multiple wildfires raged through bucolic wine country and neighborhoods in Sonoma County and Napa Valley, one message is clear. The region is resilient, rebuilding and open for business. Some of that business — namely tourism, through hotels, restaurants, and wineries — was very slow to come back in the weeks and months afterwards. January and February are traditionally slow and quiet months, but now that spring is in the air, folks are finding their way back to all that wine country has to offer.
In Sonoma County’s northern reaches, Healdsburg and the surrounding wine regions — Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley — emerged mostly unscathed by flames and smoke. With more than two dozen wine tasting rooms you can walk to, great eateries, artisan food producers and hotels all around a central square, Healdsburg makes a great base camp for exploring by foot. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss.
Upon arrival head to Flying Goat Coffee for your caffeine fix, grab a cinnamon sugar muffin and you’re ready to hit the square.
Longboard Vineyards: Catch a wave at Longboard Vineyards, where surf meets vines. Hang 10 and sip Pinot Noir, Syrah, a Merlot that you might actually like and a traditional method sparkling wine in Longboard’s SurfLounge.
Siduri Wine Lounge: If you’re a Pinot lover, this is your spot. Winemaker Adam Lee makes covetable Pinot Noir sourced from vineyards in nearby Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and beyond, to the Santa Lucia Highlands, Sta. Rita Hills and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Breathless Wines: Celebrate your time in Healdsburg with a glass of sparkling wine from one of the town’s newest tasting rooms. Three sisters have a hand in this label, and, if you’re game, you can learn the art of sabering open a bottle of bubbly with a sword (Sabrage Experience, $69).
Journeyman Meat Co.: When you need a lunch break, head here for some of the best artisan charcuterie around. Winemaker and salumi maker Pete Seghesio comes from a wine family, but fell in love with all sorts of sausage on travels through Italy.
He brought old world techniques home, and now creates some of the best Calabrian (spicy), Finnochioa (with fennel) and, yes, bacon we’ve ever had. Try the locals’ favorite lunch, the Bacon Burger ($12), with ground bacon in the patty. while you’re there, be sure to try a flight of Seghesio’s Journeyman and San Lorenzo wines.
Fermentation Bar at Shed: Wine isn’t the only fermented beverage in wine country. Shed is a destination for artisan food, pantry items, home goods, gardening materials and more. You can grab a latte or a glass of wine, but we like stepping up to the Fermentation Bar to quench our thirst. You’ll find a selection of housemade shrubs, those fabulous vinegar-spiked drinks, made with sparkling water or tonic, fresh herbs and fruit. You’ll also find housemade kombucha.
Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar: For an afternoon pick-me-up it’s hard to resist Noble Folk’s farm-to-scoop handcrafted ice creams. With flavors like Black Sesame-Coconut, Almond-Cardamom and Pistachio-Cherry, we we won’t judge you for ordering a double scoop.
Spoon Bar: Happy Hour here means local wine, craft brews and farm-to-glass cocktails along with elevated bar bites. And if you are staying at the H2 Hotel (Spoon Bar is on the hotel’s ground floor), you can be lazy and request the Gin & Tonic Bar Cart in your room. It’s stocked with everything you need for the classic cocktail as well as ingredients for a wine country twist.
Barndiva: Head here for a rustic, wine country vibe and an ever changing menu of seasonal farm-to-table dishes. Sit out on the garden patio, or for a more casual affair, nosh on French bistro-inspired bites and sip craft cocktails at Barndiva’s Gallery Bar & Bistro.
Valette: Down the street at Valette, tuck into chef Justin Valette’s house cured charcuterie and signature Day Boat Scalloops en Croute, presented tableside in a dramatic show of pouring a Champagne beurre blanc into the souffle-like dish.
The Parish Cafe: Put some New Orleans in your mouth at this bright and cozy house of Creole and Cajun cuisine. Do not skip The Parish Cafe’s baseball-sized light-as-air beignets, even if that’s all you eat. Of course you might as well order a king-size fried oyster Po-Boy.
SingleThread: For a mega-splurge, score a table at Michelin two-starred SingleThread for an unforgettable 11-course tasting menu sourced from the restaurant’s farm just north of Healdsburg.
H2Hotel: Check into this sister property to Hotel Healdsburg. Industrial chic meets wine country at this eco-inn, complete with a green roof, bamboo floors and self-serve complimentary water service (still or sparkling). Wake up to a glorious breakfast buffet, with fruit, yogurt, granola, egg dishes and housemade pastries served with Flying Goat’s coffee and teas.
The DuChamp Healdsburg: Art and design come together in a serene setting behind the walls here. There are only six casitas, each with its own patio and cool industrial decor. Escape here for total privacy and relaxation.
I would love any new discoveris