I love visiting Healdsburg whenever the opportunity presents itself— the town is a delightful mix of outstanding food and wine as well as plenty of activities to do and sights to see. It is one of the best places in wine country, and is worth a visit for your next getaway.
Here’s a look at some favorite highlights during my recent trip to Healdsburg and the surrounding area, from delicious meals to incredible scenery.
Things to do
Relish Culinary Adventures Cooking Class
Relish offers culinary events on a wide range of topics from wine country cuisine to ethnic specialties, DIY canning to children’s cooking workshops, cheese making to wild mushroom foraging. In addition, Relish hosts activities that bring people together in the kitchen, such as private cooking parties and corporate team-building events. All of their events feature seasonal, locally-grown, locally-produced ingredients whenever possible, including olive oil, artisan cheeses, north coast seafood, farm fresh produce, locally-ranched meats, premium wines, handcrafted beers, and much more.
“Fresh local trend is on steroids in Healdsburg and sustainability is a theme as well. Activities like the farmers market and Tuesdays in the Plaza are small and intimate so the experience is as well. After just a couple days you’ll feel like a local,” said Lucy Lewand, Healdsburg resident and owner of Camellia Inn, a charming 1869 Victorian Bed and Breakfast just steps away from the Healdsburg Plaza.
Walk through the picturesque Plaza, and you’ll discover numerous little shops and galleries that make the town truly unique. Whether you’re looking for that perfect wine country gift to take home, renowned artwork or locally produced foods and beverages, you’re certain to find it.
“Healdsburg is the kind of place that moves all of your senses. As if the mountains dotted with timber, the rolling vineyards filled with rows of grapes and serene Russian River flowing around the town weren’t enough to fill you with peace, this vibrant town is brimming with authentic craftspeople who have dedicated their life to their craft,” said Brian Sommer, Healdsburg Resident and GM of Hotel Les Mars, which is located in the heart of town and is styled after a luxurious French Mansion.
Russian River Rose Company
Located in the Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg, Russian River Rose Company offers gorgeous garden tours Spring and Fall. The display garden, open to the public, features more than 600 varieties of rare roses perfectly suited for Northern California’s environment. The owner of Russian River Rose Company shared a few of her favorite roses with us and they include:
- Gruss an Coberg – a beautiful apricot Hybrid Tea introduced in 1927. This rose is gorgeous, fragrant, a good cut flower and easy to grow!
- Polka – a magnificent climbing rose from 1996. Huge, very ruffly apricot flowers on a vigorous, disease- resistant plant the will easily grow to 10-14 feet.
- Excellenz von Schubert – a cute little climbing Polyantha rose from 1909. The flowers are fragrant pom-poms of mauvy pink that cascade down in clusters.
- Owner’s favorite (non-rose) flowers in the Fall are our “Zowie” Zinnias planted in the butterfly garden and a favorite of the Monarchs and Pipevine Swallowtails. They look like circular rainbows on a stem.
Spring tours have ended, but mark your calendars for late summer and Fall, that’s when the garden comes back into a beautiful bloom. Tours are back open to the public at that time, during several special weekend events and other days by appointment. “The cooler days and nights of Autumn allow the colors of the garden flowers to glow more richly and the fragrances to remain strong, said owner, Jan Tolmasoff . “The Butterfly garden is alive with winged visitors of all kinds and the rose hips make their annual appearance. We use the hips (the seed pod of the rose) for teas and jams, in flower arrangements and for beautiful garden color all winter long! Top it all off with the color of the surrounding vineyards and it is glorious!”.
Lambert Bridge Winery
One of several outstanding wineries operated by female winemakers, Lambert Bridge Winery is the home of wines made by Jennifer Higgins. Jennifer worked in Italy for two years before coming home to take a tasting room job while going through medical school. However, she ultimately decided to follow her passion for winemaking, and has developed a truly artistic touch to her processes. Lambert Bridge winery is absolutely worth a stop for a walk-in tasting.
If you’re looking to indulge a bit more, book a private tasting in either their redwood barrel room or in their private stone-lined cellar room. This opulent tasting includes an enlightening discussion of their unique terroir, vintage variation, and artisanal winemaking practices. Each wine is accompanied by a curated selection of local cheese and charcuterie. Delish! “We take a lot of time perfecting our food and wine pairings. A great match-up can elevate the entire experience, making the wine truly shine,” said bubbly winemaker Jennifer Higgins. “Lambert Bridge is a very special place and we pride ourselves on sharing a warm and friendly environment with our guests”.
Diane Wilson founded her winery in 1993 in a century-old tin barn, and continues to produce standout wines from that very location. During my visit, I enjoyed a private tasting on their patio with a breathtaking view of Dry Creek Valley. A chance to sit, relax and enjoy a wine flight outdoors. It was there I learned more about Diane who won a Best of Class award for her wine early on in her career, a rare achievement for someone without formal training in winemaking. Today she continues to operate her winery with her daughter Victoria.
Susie Selby founded Selby winery in 1994 along with her father, David K. Selby. Dr. Selby was a war veteran, an artist and a spinal surgeon who traveled all over the globe to perform his surgeries. On these trips he developed a taste for old-world wines that he began sharing with Susie. Susie began experimenting with winemaking in an apprenticeship, then eventually worked her way up the ladder, working as a Forklift Driver/Cellar Master, an Assistant Winemaker and finally branching out to develop her own winery. Today she runs Selby Winery. “My father certainly inspired me to love wine, but it was very courageous for me to stay in the industry even after he passed away unexpectedly, only three years after we started the brand, said Susie Selby. “It’s been a magical journey of art, science, and nature that truly makes me exceptionally fortunate today.”
Selby Winery produces over sixteen different varietals .
“I think the women winemakers we visited are inspiring because, as in many professions, it’s hard for women to make a name for themselves…there are many barriers to entry and being a winemaker is a difficult profession,” said Kathy Babcock, Marketing Manager at Healdsburg Tourism Development. “There are also unexpected personal things that life throws at you…as was the case with Susie Selby, who carried on after her father’s early death. Very inspiring. Diane Wilson has helped build Wilson Artisan Wines into a very solid brand with multiple wineries, each with their own personality. Jennifer Higgins at Lambert Bridge took her degree in bio-chemistry to the land and embraced it fully, producing some of the area’s premiere wines.”
More Tasting Hot Spots
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery
Located in Dry Creek Valley, Ferrari-Carano has long been a globally respected name in wine. The winery is absolutely gorgeous, and now is the perfect time to visit, as the valley and gardens are lush, green and colorful! Taste wines upstairs at their classic wine bar, or downstairs in the Enoteca where limited releases and reserve wines are poured. Find a wine you really love and want to enjoy a glass or bottle on the spot? Choose to sit outside on Il Terrazzo overlooking the vineyards and valley, or inside upstairs or down. Ferrari-Carano also offers a variety of local cheeses, salamis, crackers, Volo chocolates and more. “Our winery is a special place with many tasting and touring options, as well as acres of beautiful gardens to stroll through. Garden enthusiasts, wine aficionado or novice, there’s something for everyone,” said owner, Rhonda Carano.
The gorgeous Jordan Winery Chateau overlooks nearly 1,200 acres of
rolling hills and vineyards dedicated to agriculture, hospitality and
conservation. The property is open by appointment only and includes 112 acres of grapevines, 18 acres of olive trees, a one-acre garden, two lakes and several grazing pastures.
You’ll also enjoy wine and olive oil tastings with a wide array of food pairings.
Located in Dry Creek Valley, Cast Wines is a smaller winery that produces high-quality vintages in small batches. But the wines aren’t the only reason to visit Cast Wines—there are some gorgeous views of the valley to soak in and a perfect patio space to do so in. It’s a laid-back, authentic winery that is certainly worth a visit if you’re looking to kick back and relax.
“Our Cast Experience Tour is our most interesting tasting experience. We walk guests through the vineyard and the winery, with tastings all along the way, and discuss all aspects of creating our wines. There’s just something special about tasting the grapes that went into a wine you enjoy, or experiencing a new vintage still in the barrel,” said owner Jack Seifrick.
Where to eat
Costeaux French Bakery
Costeaux is must visit french bakery and cafe that is famous for its artisan sourdough breads, desserts and cakes. Stop in for breakfast and lunch, or just to grab some of their mouth-watering baked goods. Some popular café dishes include the duck breast sandwich on their seeded deli roll, croissant breakfast sandwich as well as the Parisian sandwich from their grab and go case. On the sweeter side, the chocolate crinkle cookie and princesses cake take top spots, not to be overshadowed by the mocha Florentine.
The history of Costeaux dates back to 1923 when the bakery was then established as the French American Bakery. Over the years, the bakery changed hands and names a few times. In 1972, Jean & Annie Costeaux purchased the business and renamed it. A decade later the bakery was purchased by Karl & Nancy Seppi. “My dad learned the art of baking from Jean Costeaux, while my mom sold the breads and baked goods at the counter. They kept the Costeaux name and built upon it,” said Will Seppi, Costeaux President. Costeaux is a Healdsburg gem and has been involved in many community events including a previous guiness book of world record win for making the World’s Largest Pumpkin Pie. The 6 ft pie pan is normally on display in the café.
SHED won a James Beard Award in 2014 for its stunning restaurant design, but it’s not just the atmosphere that makes it special. The combination market, café, fermentation bar and gathering space for events embraces the beauty and dignity of farming. It’s a dining experience you won’t forget! Much of the food served is grown within a 10-mile radius of their kitchen, allowing SHED to support small family ranchers and farmers and to feed the freshest, healthiest, most delicious food possible.
“Some of the best farms, wine and dining in the world can be found here amongst art galleries and boutique retail shops. The warmth of being greeted by a friend at each of these businesses is something that makes Healdsburg special,” said Sommer.
Run by acclaimed winemaker Pete Seghesio, Journeyman is a modern neighborhood butcher shop, known for their wine and salumi pairings. (and famous meatballs) In the late 1800s, Seghesio’s grandparents settled in Sonoma County from Italy. As lifelong farmers, they recognized the promise of the land, and began two traditions still be honored today: winemaking and crafting artisanal salumi, sausage, and cured meats.
“We are the North Bay’s only USDA plant curing salumi…and, at the hands of a local winemaker with generations of experience fermenting both products,” said co-owner Cathy Seghesio. Journeyman also makes smoked bacon from wine barrels and their own fresh and smoked sausages. Don’t forget to pair your fare with local wine offerings.
Walk by Spoonbar on a summer night when the “walls” are open and you can’t help but want to step in for their dining experience. Spoonbar’s focus on fresh, locally sourced produce has made dishes like the roasted beet salad with kumquats, manchego cheese and truffle honey a popular choice. The restaurant often adds a variety of specials to the menu, such as Fried Chicken Wednesday, which features crispy southern fried chicken, warm honey mustard potato salad, haricot verts, sweet peas, Nashville hot sauce butter, and apple honey.
This Summer, the focus is on seafood and some highlights include beausoleil oysters with smoked champagne mignonette and lobster and asparagus gazpacho with citrus fennel yogurt. Their cocktail program is also known for creative twists on classic drinks. “Guests enjoy the New East Side cocktail that features Hendrick’s gin, cucumber foam, yuzu and mint, and lime. The Jalopena Business is also a crowd favorite with Hanson cucumber vodka, raspberry puree, jalepeno tincture, lemon and ginger,” said Circe Sher, owner of Spoonbar.
There is plenty to see, do and taste in Healdsburg, giving you more than enough reason to plan your next weekend getaway to Sonoma County. Whether you are interested in culinary tourism or are simply looking for a beautiful spot to spend some time in solitude and take a break from the cares of your everyday life, you’ll leave refreshed and invigorated and ready to return again soon.