One of the benefits to living in San Francisco is its proximity to so many great weekend destinations. Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Big Sur, Carmel, Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino are all within driving distance, and completely doable for a weekend escape from city life.
One of our favorite weekend spots is the town of Healdsburg, which is located in Sonoma County, along the Russian River. This town has definitely undergone a transformation over the last two decades, as the critically-acclaimed wine regions of Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valley made it a popular tourist destination; high end hotels, fancy restaurants, and a revitalization of the town square quickly followed.
Last Saturday we headed up to Healdsburg to celebrate my husband Jack’s birthday. Lately we’ve started doing Saturday-Monday weekend trips (instead of Friday-Sunday), as this allows us to avoid the heavy traffic out of the city on Friday evenings, and gives us a bit more time to unwind from the week before packing and leaving town. In addition, the Sunday night hotel rate is often cheaper than Friday night. We still ended up having two full days in wine country (Saturday and Sunday), and we were able work on Monday (arriving a couple hours late, avoiding rush hour traffic).
The town of Healdsburg has an adorable town center located right off highway 101. There are several high end hotels, wine tasting rooms, and a variety of great restaurants located within walking distance of the town square. Hotel Healdsburg and h2hotel are sister hotels located in this area; we prefer h2hotel, as it tends to be slightly more affordable, attracts a younger crowd, and has comparable amenities to Hotel Healdsburg (it also houses Spoonbar, a swanky spot with great cocktails). These hotels tend to be pricy and often book up during busy weekends. There are other smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts in the area, though we have yet to stay at any of these. Another options is to stay in an AirBNB or VRBO property on or near the square.
Jack and I first visited Healdsburg together in December of 2007, for our first “dating anniversary.” We had our first fancy tasting menu experience at the now-closed Cyrus restaurant, which was located in the Hotel Les Mars. Cyrus offered incredible food and wine, with service that Jack described as “a symphony,” until it closed its doors in 2012. We are still hoping that owners Douglas Keane and Nick Peyton open Cyrus 2.0 someday in the near future.
But until that happens, there are plenty of other incredible (and more affordable) restaurants in the Healdsburg area. Our favorite is Scopa, arguably one of the best Italian restaurants in the Bay Area (another favorite is La Balena in Carmel – more to come on that later). The pastas at Scopa are to die for (Tomasso’s Sugo Calabrese might be my favorite pasta dish outside of Italy), and everything we’ve eaten there is top notch. Their sister restaurant Campo Fina is located around the corner and offers a similar menu, has a nice outdoor space with a bocce court, and can accommodate larger groups than Scopa. We also tried a new restaurant last weekend named Valette; we really enjoyed the scallop appetizer and risotto special.
Don’t tell the French, but our favorite wine in the world is the Pinot Noir from Healdsburg’s Russian River Valley. Williams Selyem, Kosta Browne, Rochioli, and Bacigalupi are all fantastic and offer a variety of delicious wines. This last weekend we spent a little more time exploring the Dry Creek region, and the standout winery from that area was A. Rafanelli. We look forward to exploring Dry Creek more in upcoming visits, as well as nearby Alexander Valley. The Healdsburg square also has a number of tasting rooms if you want to drink closer to town and avoid driving.
While Jack and I tend to focus mostly on food and wine when we are in Healdsburg, there are many other ways to spend your time. The square is a great place to stroll and shop, as it has many unique stores and modern art galleries. I always love to peruse the books at Copperfield’s Books, a local independent bookseller (growing up in Petaluma, Copperfield’s holds a special place in my heart). There are also several spas located in and around the hotels on the square. For active outdoorsy types, there are some great hiking, cycling, and trail-running spots in the surrounding area. Healdsburg certainly has something for everyone.
h2hotel: www.h2hotel.com 219 Healdsburg Ave. (707) 922-5251. Eco-friendly. $300-500/night.
Hotel Healdsburg: www.hotelhealdsburg.com 25 Metheson St (at Healdsburg Ave.) (707) 431-2800. $300-600/night.
Scopa: www.scopahealdsburg.com 109 Plaza St, Suite A (on the square). (707) 433-5282. Tues-Sat, 5:30-10pm. Parties of 6 or fewer. Takes reservations via phone.
Campo Fina: campofina.com 330 Healdsburg Ave. (707) 395 4640. Open 7 days a week, 11:30am-10pm (shorter, all-day menu from 2:30-5:30pm). Takes reservations via phone. Good for large groups. Nice outdoor space available.
Valette: www.valettehealdsburg.com 344 Center St. (707) 473-0946. New restaurant that replaced Zin (Zin’s owners Jeff and Susan Mall are now executive chefs at Rancho Pescadero in Todos Santos). Dinner daily at 5:30pm; lunch Fri and Sat 11:30am – 2:30pm. Takes reservations via phone and OpenTable.
Spoonbar: spoonbar.com 219 Healdsburg Ave (inside h2hotel). (707) 433-7222. I’ve never eaten there, but it’s one of our favorite spots for cocktails.
Williams Selyem: www.williamsselyem.com 7227 Westside Rd. (707) 433-6425. Great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel. Be sure to lay down their wines for a few years (check their website for “optimal drinking windows”). Wine club has a wait list. Tastings by appointment for members only.
Kosta Browne: www.kostabrowne.com Amazing Pinot Noir. No tasting room. Wine club with wait list.
Rochioli: www.rochioliwinery.com 6192 Westside Rd. (707) 433-2305. Tasting room hours: Thurs-Mon 11am-4pm; Tues-Wed by appointment only. Picnic tables available if you want to pack a lunch and enjoy a glass (or bottle) outside. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc. Their single vineyard wines are incredible, though only available to wine club members for purchase (their wine club has a lengthy wait list – we’ve been on it for several years).
Bacigalupi: bacigalupivineyards.com 4353 Westside Rd. (707) 473-0115. Tasting room open 11am-5pm. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Syrah. Wine club available (no wait list). Great family owned and operated winery with personal service. Many other wineries buy their grapes from Bacigalupi. They have great events available for wine club members (Pinot & Paella party, Harvest Celebration, etc.)
A. Rafanelli: www.arafanelliwinery.com 4685 West Dry Creek Rd. (707) 433-1385. Tastings by appointment only. Family owned and operated winery in the Dry Creek Valley. Drier, hotter climate than Russian River Valley. Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons. Beautiful property with personal service.
Copperfield’s Books: www.copperfieldsbooks.com 106 Matheson St. (on the square). (707) 433-9270. Sun-Thurs 9am-7pm; Fri-Sat 9am-8pm.
What are your favorite wineries, restaurants, hotels/B&Bs, and activities in Healdsburg, CA?