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Westside Road & Healdsburg Square Itinerary — A Low-Mileage Countryside, Wine Tasting and Dining Dream Tour

Madrona Manor
Relaxation and Dinner

Day One—Countryside on Westside Road

Breakfast-Madrona Manor

De La Montanya Vineyards & Winery
Hop Kiln Winery
Rochioli Winery
Davis Bynum Winery

Lunch-Picnic from Oakville Grocery Deli @ Davis Bynum

Gary Farrell Winery
Porter Creek Winery

Dinner-Zin Restaurant

Day Two—Healdsburg Plaza

Breakfast-Madrona Manor

Toad Hollow Vineyards
Thumbprint Cellars & Lounge
Selby Winery

Lunch-Restaurant Charcuterie

Front St. Five Winery Complex

Dinner-Dry Creek Kitchen (BYOB)

Day One—Countryside on Westside Road

Start by checking in at the glorious Madrona Manor, less than one mile west off Highway 101 on Westside Road.  Whether your journey was more or less arduous, the elegant décor and comfortable rooms in this historic property are ready to help you relax.  For more than a century, the Manor has been the talk of the town.  The eight-acre estate was renovated, and opened to the public in 1981 on its 100th birthday.  Whether you enjoy the fireplace on a cool night or the pool on a hot day, this will be your home base.  Its expansive, meticulously landscaped gardens and beautiful woods are a favorite setting for weddings, and with the guests.  Be sure to reserve dinner here, along with your accommodation, as Madrona Manor also offers the county’s highest-rated restaurant.  Savor the richness of your elegant soft landing.

When you wake up, you are close to town, but set in the country, and centrally located to our wanderings.  Since there are no restaurants on today’s back road itinerary, after a wonderful breakfast at the Manor, pop into Healdsburg to visit the Oakville Grocery on the Healdsburg Plaza, where we will spend our day tomorrow.  This gourmet market and deli opens at 8am, and is located just a couple of miles into town at the southeast end of the plaza.   You will be fascinated with the marvelous choices here.

Equipped with your ideal picnic, head back past the Manor on Westside Road.  Before long, the excellent signage for De La Montanya Vineyards and Winery, the first stop, leads you down Felta Road and under the Westside Road underpass.  De La Montanya exemplifies what this area does best.  Winemaker and grower Dennis De La Montanya opened this picturesque tasting room in June 2003, but his vineyards have been supplying many big name wineries since the 1990’s.  Dennis holds winery production to just 3500 cases, handpicking and selecting his fruit to obtain optimal flavors, sometimes passing through the property five times as only artisans take care to do.  A delectable Syrah here recently won Double-Gold at a major competition, but supplies might not last long enough until your visit. No worries though, all the wines here are consistently excellent.  While an appointment is recommended through the week, there is almost always someone at the winery.  Call in the morning before you leave to get your food if you haven’t planned ahead.  Open Sat & Sun 11-4:30, (707) 433-3711.

A bit further, the road winds around and turns facing the historic Hop Kiln Winery in the Sweetwater Springs Historic District.  Built in 1905 to dry hops for what was once the major hop area of the West, this tasting room is rustic but spacious, with a bona fide historic feel.  The wines represent the area well too.  Be sure to check out the unusual Rhone varietal Valdiguié, with its complex flavors of anise, blackberry, pepper and coconut.  Open 10-5 except holidays.  Next door to Hop Kiln is famed artisan Rochioli Winery.  Be sure to walk over to try the excellent wines offered for tasting, including one of the most renowned Pinot Noirs of the area.

From the Sweetwater Springs District, continue on Westside Road. slowly winding through several more miles of picturesque views, before arriving at Davis Bynum Winery.  Davis was the first to focus on Russian River Pinot Noir, for which the area is now famous, in 1973.  Now 40 years old, the winery’s 83-acre estate is not visible, but hosts 22-acres of certified organic vineyards.  A Permaculture Garden includes ponds and vernal pools in which fish, water plants and amphibians cohabit, producing food while contributing to the overall health of the vineyard system.  The wines cover quite a range of varietals.  The Rosé of Cabernet Franc has a nice creamy texture and excellent flavor, and the Pinot Noir is a must-have of course. By now you are probably ready for lunch, and there is a lovely shaded picnic area where you might enjoy your break.

Your next stop is Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery.  There are no vineyards at the location, but the Tasting Room commands a stunning, unique view of the Russian River Valley.  This is the longest leg of your journey; be sure as you reach the three-way stop to turn right (staying on Westside Road rather than going across Wohler Bridge).  The winery comes up rather suddenly after a curve in the road, but is well marked.

Gary Farrell learned winemaking as he worked with some of the great pioneers of the area, and was longtime winemaker at Davis Bynum.  The first fruit was crushed at this facility in 2000, and it is only recently that this ethereal tasting room opened.  The wines are by contrast very austere and European in their styling, with low alcohol.  The 2002 Starr Ridge Pinot Noir is deceptively light in body, but the flavors offered are typical of Gary’s style:  complex, interesting and perfectly balanced.

The last stop on your first day's itinerary, as you turn around and backtrack to Westside Road, is Porter Creek Vineyards.  The estate vineyards and winery are adjacent to the creek, one of the major Russian River tributaries, and to the old Mac Murray Ranch.  George Davis is another area viticultural pioneer, and today the winery is owned and operated by father and son.  The wines offered are pure, highly nuanced, and show a wonderful depth of character.  Oak is used carefully, so as not to obscure and overwhelm the fruit.  The Pinot Noir is profound, and an old-vine Carignane is a special treat and value!  Carignane and old-vine Carignane are like two different wines, with soft tannins and rich concentration, the latter matches Mexican, barbeque and other summer foods extremely well.

Return at your leisure to relax at the Manor before heading to Zin Restaurant in Healdsburg.  Just north of the Plaza on Center Street in Healdsburg, Zin's focus is on updating and enhancing American regional dishes, and pairing local wines with seasonal menus.  Reservations are not required, but recommended at (707) 473-0946.  If you would like a dessert wine, coffee or to hang out a bit on a pleasant evening, try Barndiva two blocks south on Center street, just past the Oakville Grocery where you shopped this morning.

Day Two—Healdsburg Plaza

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WineCountry Online Newsletter Editor: Carolyn Lewis

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