One of my favorite regions in the world is California Wine Country. I am spoiled to live only a couple hours away and have the chance to explore it a little more all the time. Within the region, I’ve recently fallen in love with the Healdsburg area. It is the perfect blend of high quality and casual. You get all the benefits of the most populated areas but can enjoy a more laid back local vibe. Now saying that I still recommend exploring the wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma, they are amazing. But sometimes, the crowds and costs aren’t things I want to deal with. When that’s the case I drive a little further up north to Healdsburg.
You’ll find it about 40 minutes north of Downtown Sonoma. A cute square with shops and eateries galore, wine tasting trails, and some impressive properties. You can sneak away for a perfect day or weekend, or add it to your wine country exploration.
Explore the Square
The Healdsburg Square is about as picturesque as you can find. Surrounded by wine tasting rooms from some big names like La Crema to quirky spots like Thumbprint Cellars. In the later, you’ll find tasty wine, but also fun superhero art along the walls. Plus, you can’t help but love their labels.
For shops, they have a couple good bookstores, like my favorite, Copperfield’s Books. This store was well organized with tons of staff recommendations, unique finds and what looked like great author events.
Chow Down on a Burger
If you’re getting hungry, you’ve got some great options to explore. You shouldn’t miss out on the Healdsburg Bar & Grill. With a beautiful patio space, you can enjoy one of the countries best burgers. While it might now be as flashy as a lot of burgers have gotten, with crazy toppings and such, it had such high quality, simple ingredients, that made it one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.On top of that, they carry a wide variety of local beers, ciders, and wines on hand. Plus the rest of the menu was pretty good as well.
Explore the Shed
A unique store you’ll find around Healdsburg is the Shed. This spot is a high-end grocery store, boutique, restaurant and coffee bar all in one. We went into it and explored it twice in one day. Whether you want to pick up snacks to bring along wine tasting, find some great cooking or gardening gear, or sit down for one of the freshest meals you’ve had this is the spot.
Highlighting what is going on locally, this massive, open building will grab you as soon as you see it. Sit outside and enjoy a cup of their special roast, or explore the back patio and learn more about beekeeping.
Wine Taste in Dry Creek
My favorite find in this region yet is Truett Hurst, a small production winery with a ton of character. We stopped in randomly since I saw they had live music on the weekends, and instantly feel in love. Their staff is the perfect blend of knowledgeable and friendly, the wines satisfy just about every craving, and the property is absolutely beautiful.
The property itself has a beautiful outdoor patio, a garden, livestock and runs up right along the river with a perfect sitting area overlooking it.
Dinner or the Pool at Coppola
Another great find just north of Healdsburg is the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. It is hard to describe this place as anything other than unique. You’ll find an amazing restaurant, a vast amount of Coppola film memorabilia, and a pool. Yes, that’s right, a winery with a pool.
You can spend an afternoon lounging in the sun by the pool while sipping on their frozen wine cocktails. Or explore the property with a variety of wine tasting tours.
I do have to admit, that the restaurant is my favorite part of the property. Whether you want to dive in with their lush tasting menu and wine pairing, or just enjoy their savory burger, you can really enjoy it on any budget.
The Perfect Wine Country Escape
The more I’ve gotten to know the different wine country regions throughout California I’m finding that the two most important things for me are the quality of the establishments and a casual comfortable feel. The biggest named areas have often lost that second piece of the equation that leads to a great experience.
Luckily, there are areas like Healdsburg where you’ll find a great experience in not only the places you’re exposed to but also the people. Enjoy amazing food, wine and shops while feeling like you’re exploring your own backyard.
The welcoming people are really what puts Healdsburg above the rest in the California wine regions. Have you been? What were you favorite spots? Or where are your favorite comfortable getaways?
For more information about Napa & Sonoma check out these great books on Amazon including Fodor’s Napa & Sonoma, Frommer’s Napa and Sonoma day by day, and Lonely Planet San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country Road Trips.