Sonoma County is one of my favorite close-to-home vacation destinations, no matter the season. However, the beauty of the region comes alive in spring.
On my most recent trip, I visited the always charming city of Healdsburg, nestled near three major wine regions—the Russian River, Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys—meaning it’s a top spot for wine tastings, among many other delightful activities.
Healdsburg is small, but has a lot to offer. Its central downtown plaza is home to everything you could want: restaurants featuring a variety of delicious cuisines, unique stores and boutiques for shopping, more than two dozen art galleries to peruse and, of course, beautiful tasting rooms to sip on masterfully crafted Sonoma County wines.
“If you visit Healdsburg, bring the kids…and their scooters! Our family starts a beautiful spring Saturday at the Healdsburg Farmers Market, strolling through picking out some fruit or honey sticks, listening to the music for a bit, then meandering to the Plaza where the kids meet up with their friends to play,” said Healdsburg Mayor, David Hagele. “While on the Plaza, grab a few pretzel croissants & donut muffins from the Downtown Bakery, then relax in the shade & enjoy the good life in Healdsburg.”
My last visit to Healdsburg was filled with some of my all-time-favorite spots. Here’s a closer look at what I indulged in during my trip.
Two Thirty-Five Luxury Suites
Upon arriving in Healdsburg, I headed to one of my favorite lodging spots in the area, Two Thirty-Five Luxury Suites. Two Thirty-Five isn’t like traditional hotels; instead of individual rooms, it offers suites with multiple bedrooms, living areas and lots of space for lounging and spending time with friends and family. The large suites are extremely clean and have lots of open space to lounge in when you need a break from having fun in downtown Healdsburg.
Within the suite’s three bedrooms and bathrooms, living area, kitchen and dining space, I felt right at home. Each suite can accommodate six adults, so Two Thirty-Five is the perfect place to stay if you’re traveling with a group, such as a family vacation or a girls’ weekend getaway.
They have four suites available: Fitch Mountain, Orchard, Plaza and Foss Creek. Each of the suites has its own unique style, from bold and modern to sophisticated and cool to rustic to warm and soothing, so each visit can feel a little different than the last if you want to switch it up.
“We just finished a remodel to the Fitch Mountain Suite. We added a big sliding glass door out to the balcony looking towards Fitch Mountain, which brings in this gorgeous morning light, and reconfigured the bathrooms. Now every single one of our bedrooms has an en suite bathroom,” said Two Thirty-Five Manager, Holly Fox. “We’re also launching our event space on the ground floor of our building. This can be a great option for people planning a big birthday party or wedding in Healdsburg looking for a fun, downtown spot.”
The suites are also chock-full of amenities for a comfortable stay, such as large flat-screen TVs, a washer and dryer and free Wi-Fi. Some suites also feature balconies with great views of Healdsburg or Foss Creek, as well as fireplaces.
One of the best things about Two Thirty-Five Luxury Suites is that each suite comes fully stocked, meaning you don’t need to bring any utensils, cookware, wine glasses or anything else to make your suite feel like home. They provided everything I needed to cook a delicious brunch or dinner and share a glass of wine with friends.
Two Thirty-Five is also a great lodging destination because it’s in the heart of everything Healdsburg has to offer. Situated at a great location just a half-block from the plaza, Two Thirty-Five is within walking distance to many of the top shopping, dining and drinking spots in town. I loved being able to enjoy the fresh springtime air on my short walk in town each day.
After checking in to Two Thirty-Five Luxury Suites and getting settled, I headed out into town to indulge in one of the things Healdsburg is best known for: wine tastings. The wineries in Healdsburg have a lot to offer, but springtime visitors will definitely not want to miss the many varietals of Pinot Noir that are produced in the Russian River Valley.
During my visit, I spent time at two Healdsburg wine tasting locations.
Lambert Bridge Winery
The first place I visited was Lambert Bridge Winery, a Dry Creek Valley winery that has occupied the area for over 40 years. Lambert Bridge Winery is located just a short drive from Healdsburg Plaza, making it the perfect spot for a day trip. There, I sipped on outstanding wines crafted by awesome winemaker Jennifer Higgins. Higgins has worked with the team to masterfully create limited production wines which can be found only at the winery for nearly a decade.
Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit for a tasting of their just released Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc. You can expect crisp, clear days as you walk through their gardens and enjoy all the beauty Lambert Bridge Winery has to offer. Be sure to call ahead, they are open by appointment.
Lambert Bridge Winery offers a variety of experiences at its gorgeous property, from tastings in the Redwood Barrel Room or private Cellar Room to picnics in the gardens. Each tasting experience includes insight into the winery’s practices and pairs delectable wines with a selection of cheeses, nuts, fruit and charcuterie.
A visit to Lambert is always special to me. I love the wine and the Lambert Bridge team. During my visit, I opted for the The Cellar Flight offering, their most intimate experience if you are looking to indulge in a connoisseur tasting. This experience includes an enlightening discussion of their unique terroir, vintage variation, and artisanal winemaking practices. “We often joke how lucky guests are as the Cellar Room shares a wall with our Winemaker, Jennifer’s office and often you will see her pop in to join the group. We personally don’t think a tasting experience could get any more personal than that,” said Katie Fay Lambert Winery Hospitality Manager.
“It might sound cliché but it’s truly the people that make Lambert Bridge Winery so special”, Winemaker, Jennifer Higgins.“At the top of the list is our owner of almost 30 years, Patti Chambers, who trusts us all to do our best job. Combine that with a dedicated team of co-workers who are so proud of our wines and our amazing members who feel a sense of home when they walk through the front door, it’s hard for me not to want to deliver my best day in and day out.”
After my visit out to Lambert Bridge Winery, I headed back into the town of Healdsburg to Cartograph Wines, conveniently located in the heart of Healdsburg, just off the Plaza—making it a perfect location for a quick tasting before my dinner reservation next door.
Cartograph produces roughly 2,500 cases of wine each year, specializing in dry, Alsace-style whites, Pinot Noirs and (new last year) sparkling wines. They are known for their sustainable winemaking practices, applicable not only in the vineyard but also in its business structure. The brand was founded by Alan Baker and Serena Lourie, both drawn separately to the Bay Area out of a love for wine and desire to get engaged in the industry. They met at an urban winemaking facility, throwing them into collaboration over wine, which ultimately lead to shared dreams and a life together.
The Cartograph tasting room is open for drop-in tastings—perfect for a last-minute stop as you’re strolling through town. There, you can taste five of Cartograph’s current release wines by the glass, by the bottle or even on tap, which is a unique tasting approach in Healdsburg!
If you have a little more time, for a more indulgent tasting experience, Cartograph offers reservable Winemaker Tastings led by winemaker Alan, including and “Inside Pinot” tasting, (1.5 hours) that gives visitors insights on Cartograph’s winemaking process and lets you taste samples of juices and fermentations that will eventually become crafted Cartograph Pinot Noir wines. For a shorter experience, their “Starscape Vineyard Vertical” and “Perli Vineyard Vertical” tastings also provide winemaking insights at particular vineyards that Cartograph frequents, as well as tastings of numerous wine vintages.
Grab a bite
While in Healdsburg, I always have trouble choosing which restaurants and cafes to visit because there are so many delicious options to choose from! On this trip, I stopped by a few of my favorites in town.
Costeaux French Bakery and Cafe
Few things are better than starting your day with an absolutely delicious breakfast before heading out to explore wine country, which is why I decided to dine at Costeaux French Bakery for brunch on my first morning in Healdsburg. The bakery is located just a short walk from Two Thirty-Five Luxury Suites, so it’s the perfect morning stop for visitors.
The full-service bakery café is open for breakfast and lunch and can be reserved for private events in the evenings. The café serves artisan sourdough breads, cakes and desserts, as well as delicious made-to-order bistro cuisine each day.
Costeaux has a long history in Healdsburg, having opened in 1923 on the property just next door to the current location. Although it has endured several name changes and has been passed down to new owners over the years, the level of quality cuisine it produces remains unchanged. The bakery has won numerous awards for its creations and has come to be known as “the” bakery in Healdsburg.
“As a community hub, Costeaux is great place to meet up with family and friends,” said owner Will Seppi. The bakery café is warm and welcoming for parties of one to many. Guests enjoy our fresh squeezed orange juice, Bella Rosa Coffee and variety of pastries. Costeaux is a great brunch spot as guests can enjoy a meal in our café or al fresco dining on our covered patio and breakfast is served all day.”
Some of their most popular dishes are the duck sandwich served on their seeded deli roll, croissant breakfast and of course the classic eggs benedict.Of course, if you’re in a rush, you can’t go wrong with their on-the-go sandwiches or one of their many decadent signature desserts!
After a long day of exploring soaking up Healdsburg’s tastings rooms, shops and galleries, I arrived at Valette for my dinner reservation.
The menu at Valette is delicious and renowned, showcasing creations by Chef Dustin Valette. Valette works closely with the many farmers in the Sonoma County region to create farm-to-table cuisine featuring locally grown produce. Open Table awarded Valette the “Best Food” award in contemporary American cuisine for 2019—and this is just one of the many recognitions Valette has received since its opening in 2015.
When dining at Valette, you’ll have your pick of masterful dishes, from Okinawan Sweet Potato “Falafel” to Honey Brined Duroc Pork Porterhouse to Charred Wagyu New York Steak, as well as a delightful selection of appetizers. If you’re up for anything, try the “Chef Valette’s ‘Trust me’ Tasting menu,” which includes at least five courses that will give you a taste of everything Valette has to offer.
At the Valette bar, you’ll find a carefully selected list of local wines that were picked to match the restaurant’s cuisines. You’ll have a wide array of wines to choose from, including locally produced wines from Sonoma County. If you’re in the mood for something different, Valette also offers a selection of creative cocktails. The Ticking Thyme Bomb, featuring OSCO #5 gin, Green Chartreuse, lime, orange and thyme, is sure to get you in the spirit of spring.
One of the things I love about Valette is that it is intimate and welcoming. Chef Dustin Valette and his brother & co-owner, Aaron Garzini are the BEST! While the food is sophisticated and high-end, the ambience of the dining room is approachable, comfortable and fun! The décor is rustic and warm, and their team is always friendly.
Journeyman Meat Co.
Another unique stop to indulge in great food was Journeyman Meat Co. Journeyman is a cool and modern butcher shop, salumeria and tasting bar. Here, guests can sip on wines from the family’s vineyard and other locally produced varietals while tasting handmade salumi, sausages and other house-made artisanal cured meats. “We pour the wines we make with our kids. Both sides of my family have been making wine for over a century, said owner and vintner Pete Seghesio.
It’s true, Journeyman butcher shop draws from years of experience by owner Pete Seghesio and his family traditions of winemaking and meat curing and crafting. Seghesio’s grandparents emigrated from Italy and instilled their traditions on future generations, relying on the bountiful land of Sonoma County to hone their crafts. After years of following family traditions, Seghesio studied under world-famous butchers in Italy and transferred his skills into building his local business.
Today, Journeyman brings delightful meat and wine pairings to Healdsburg visitors. The tasting experience at Journeyman is sure to be unlike any other, especially since the shop’s menu changes seasonally in accordance with the availability of local herbs and vegetables. My time at Seghesio’s butcher shop is always a highlight of my trips to Healdsburg, and I highly recommend their salumi board. It tastes great and is reasonably priced for such a generous offering.
“Journeyman Meat Co. is special to me because it’s legit,” said Seghesio. “It’s an Italian designed facility with Italian components and following a methodology that I learned in Italy. Using heritage pork, the highest quality ingredients, low fermentation temperature in individual fermenters, time and patience.”
A blissful springtime visit
Healdsburg is such a wonderful destination that I look forward to visiting a few times a year - especially in Spring. Whether you’re looking to get away with a partner, a group of friends or your family, there’s something for everyone.
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