I'll admit it. I have Healdsburg envy. It's not that my longtime
hometown of Napa isn't one of the most desirable spots on earth. It is.
It's just that the heart of Northern Sonoma wine country is so darned
charming with its walkable historic center square, chic shops, sleek restaurants,
new upscale hotels, rows of Victorian homes, and quaint winding roads
leading to family owned wineries serving exceptional wine.
Over the past few years Healdsburg has managed to subtly add big-city
luxury to its small-town charm and wide-open vineyard expanses, making it
into an even more glorious destination. Visit any of the following favorites
and see if you don't have the hots for Healdsburg.
Healdsburg's historic downtown square is the perfect place to get
your bearings, grab a cup of coffee or picnic provisions, browse some
of the region's favorite restaurants, and shop until you or your credit
Next, jump in the car and hit the region's myriad vineyards, which specialize
in everything from Sauvignon Blanc to Zinfandel and everything in between.
For me, the best wine tastings come with outstanding atmosphere, which is
why I always stop at Preston Vineyards. At this family owned stop you'll
find just as much vintage country charm swirling around as you will Rhone
varietals, estate-grown produce, and freshly baked bread—as well as plenty
of picnic benches in case you simply must sit down and devour the bounty
immediately. (6192 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, 800-305-9707,
www.prestonvineyards.com) Nearby is Bella Vineyards & Wine
Caves, perhaps the most lifestyle-oriented
winery I've ever visited. Truth be told, I'm so enamored of the century-plus-year-old
olive trees and oh-so-chic tasting cave, which is fancifully decorated with
hanging lamps and café tables, that I'd pay a visit even if their various
Zinfandels weren't flat-out fabulous. Fortunately, however, they are just
that. (9711 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 866-572-3552, www.bellawinery.com)
Not all that long ago Healdburg hotel options were limited to exceedingly
charming B&Bs, small inns, and basic motels. But in 2001, Hotel
Healdsburg changed all that by opening a genuinely country-chic hotel on the square.
With a spa and a Charlie Palmer-run restaurant attached, it was the foundation
for downtown's evolution and continues to be a choice spot for shacking
up. (25 Matheson St., Healdsburg, 800-889-7199, www.hotelhealdsburg.com) But without question Les
Mars Hotel, with its new old-world elegance oozing
from every handcrafted corner, is the entire region's most luxurious place
to rest your head. (72 North St., Healdsburg, 877-431-1700, www.lesmarshotel.com)
Neighboring chic Les Mars Hotel is the region's finest dining room
Cyrus. Styled after the opulent destination restaurants of the Burgundian
countryside and manned by culinary supertalent Douglas Keane and legendary
maitre d' Nick Peyton, it's a dream dining experience rich with caviar,
champagne, and seasonal local delights that are equal parts beautiful
and delicious. (24 North St., Healdsburg, 707-433-3311,
cyrusrestaurant.com) At the other end of the chic spectrum is Barndiva, downtown's sexiest
spot, which merges sweet country charm and city smarts through décor such
as nests, pitchforks, concrete floors, and a dramatic centerpiece bar.
Mingling on their "modern country food" at the bar or in the
garden has become popular pastime—especially among the younger hipper
wine country reveler. See you there? (231 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-431-0100,