Here’s where “perfect” lives. It’s all wine, all the time, in perfectly manicured surroundings. Sonoma County, Healdsburg in particular, is one lovely stop, with fabulous restaurants and a worry-free existence. Gracious and well heeled.

A fall morning at the Ferrari-Carano Winery.

Healdsburg emanates the finer things in life – food, wine, friends and fun! Small town individuality is what makes Healdsburg, located in California’s Wine Country, unique. It has charm, tempting five-star cuisine and winding roads through awe-inspiring vineyards.

The population of Healdsburg is small, just around 11,000, and there are 40 wine tasting rooms in town that stay open late, so visitors can tour wineries in the country and come back to town for a few more tastings!

I spent a long weekend in this heart of wine country last fall and kicked off my trip in Dry Creek Valley at the Ferrari-Carano Winery. We found lovely gardens that are amazing all year round, with fish ponds, foot bridges and winding paths throughout more than five acres.
There’s no charge for the tour, only for the tastings and events.

The next stop was Sbragia Family Winery; its history in Healdsburg dates back to 1904, when grandfather Sbragia came from Tuscany. Today, Ed runs the business with his son Adam, and the rest of the family helps out, too. Ed’s father Gino provided a legacy that Ed continues with the Sbragia name on the label since 2001.

Dragonfly Farm is an organic flower farm located in the Sonoma Wine Country’s Dry Creek Valley. 

They source grapes from 50 family-owned acres, where they have been farming for more than 100 years in historic Dry Creek Valley. Tastings start at $20 per person, including a breath-taking view of Dry Creek Valley from the terrace, which is famously photographed often. There are many marriage proposals taking place on the terrace, and weddings occur here – about 12 per year! A lot of hand harvesting is done using a curved-blade knife, just like 100 years ago, and they harvest the grapes at night.

The owners say, “We pick at night! It’s better to pick grapes when it is cool. We bring in big lights to illuminate the vineyards. All vineyards are sustainably farmed.

Walk among acres of wild roses at Dragonfly Farm

”The Soda Rock Winery is located in Alexander Valley, where Antoine is the winemaker and has been doing wine for 30 years. Ken and Diane Wilson’s winery consists of restored, historical buildings with beautiful surroundings. This is an amazing place and is a must!

Dragonfly Farm is also located in Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Valley and offers a variety of fl oral design and arrangement classes. They’ve been in business for 25 years, and originally grew specialty vegetables, which segued into lots of food and fl owers grown here. However, fruits and vegetables are now secondary. Dragonfly provides flowers for restaurants, events and deliveries. In addition, they feel that gardens should be shared, and offer kids’ art classes, yoga, night meditations and team building exercises. There’s always something going on here!

Oysters at Will’s Seafood, an airy, lively seafood cafe with a raw bar serving tapas, lobster rolls and more plus a broad wine list.

The Wine Country Walking Tour was next, focusing on food and wine pairing. On this excursion we’re told that here in the U.S. we treat wine as a cocktail, and in Europe wine is a food group. The four-hour tour includes all wine and food for $89. We enjoyed touring close by restaurants and sampling more delectable wines.

Our fi rst stop on the walking tour included Healdsburg Shed, which is a unique place for weddings, special events and cooking classes, with demonstrations on the first floor and event space with a commercial kitchen on the second floor.

Our next stop was Steven & Walker Winery, where pairings are custom created for guests with a lot of thought going into it.

 

Cafe Lucia creates spectacular shrimp dishes. Cafe Lucia offers “new Portuguese cuisine” celebrating varied and complex fl vors of Portugal via quality Sonoma County ingredients.

More tastings were poured and sampled at Williamson Wines with fl ights of whites and reds. Fortunately, our tour ended at the Russian River Tea Company, with white, green, black and herbal teas – hot or cold. This is a lovely urban tea store in a wine country setting. While there are numerous great restaurants here, all serving delicious local wines, here are several that are highly recommended. Willie’s is a cool and green fresh oyster bar, which serves tapas, crab cakes with big reviews, beet salad, sour dough bread and fresh peel’um shrimp.

Café Lucia is a family owned, Portuguese restaurant. Manuel is the chef and his sister, Lucia, runs the front of the house, along with her two daughters. “We try to do unique cuisine. On the menu are sardines, tripe “menudo” and braised octopus, to mention a few. This brother and sister duo shares their passion for food and their Portuguese heritage, and the desire to fulfi ll the American dream. Items from the Tasca Board are served with Portuguese wine.

Guests love the ‘cocktails’ at Shed, a local food-focused outfit hosting a market, cafe and fermentation bar in a modern setting with events.

“This is our way to hang on to it (culture) for our kids,” the owners said. “Why are we here in it? Thrilled to offer what goes with our wine!”

Others include Mateo’s Cocina Latina, for a mix of Yucatan and French cuisine by Chef Mateo Granados; Chalkboard Restaurant’s Executive Chef Shane McAnelly, with much of their freshness coming from the restaurant’s own vegetable and herb garden and The Parish Café, with Cajun and Creole specialties.

 Accommodations:

There is a large selection of lovely, locally owned boutique hotels and historic properties. Healdsburg Inn on the Plaza is perfect. My very lovely room had lots of windows and overlooked the plaza. The plaza is surrounded by various shops, including art galleries, bookstore, clothing store and tasting room.

Downtown Healdsburg is charming, the ideal venue for a romantic weekend.

In the park are lemon trees, a gazebo and a fountain.

Other accommodations worth noting are Hotel Healdsburg with five room types and suites; The Guest House Healdsburg – a B&B; Best Western Healdsburg, which is very popular for wine country weddings; Two Thirty-Five, a boutique hotel in Healdsburg that is popular for large groups visiting California’s Wine Country; Hotel Les Mars and Calderwood Inn.

A delightful salad served at Mateo’s Cucina Latina, a hip restaurant that earns buzz for its local, sustainable inventive Yucatán fare, tequila bar and garden patio.

Here is one comment about northern Sonoma County’s Healdsburg that seems to sum it all up: Healdsburg is the belle of the trendy wine country ball who prefers to be out in the vineyards sampling zinfandel on the vine.

Find out more about Healdsburg by visiting the Sonoma County CA Visitors Bureau at healdsburg.com.

Cynthia Calvert
Author: Cynthia CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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A trained journalist with a masters degree from Lamar University, a masters from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as extensive coursework toward a masters of science in psychology from the University of New Orleans, Calvert founded the Tribune Newspapers in 2007. Her experiences as an investigative, award winning reporter (She won Journalist of the Year from the Houston Press Club among many other awards for reporting and writing), professor and chair of the journalism department for Lone Star College-Kingwood and vice president of editorial for a large group of community weeklies provides her with a triple dose of bankable skills that cover every aspect of the journalism field. Solid reporting. Careful interviews. Respect and curiosity for people and places.