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Living in the Bay Area, we tend to be a little spoiled by the weather, water and most importantly wine. Driving just under 70 miles from San Francisco, there is a gem of a city nestled along the Russian River in Sonoma County Wine Country known as Healdsburg.
Here, you will experience unforgettable hospitality and luxury within the city and the surrounding Sonoma County Wine Country, which is home to restaurant concepts ranging from casual dine-in or out to fine dining and more than 400 wineries.
“Healdsburg reminds me of a wild strawberry, fraise de bois. A typical strawberry has great flavor and is wonderful – but a fraise de bois is smaller and has more flavor packed into that smaller package. Healdsburg is brimming with fantastic restaurants, wineries, art and shopping. It’s small but packed with culture and things to do,” shares executive chef David Lawrence, who joined the team at Goodnight’s Prime Steak + Spirits in Healdsburg last year.
The restaurant is just one of many dining experiences waiting for you during your Sonoma County Wine Country getaway.
Relax, Relate and Release
If there is one state worth road tripping through, it’s California and all the cities within. Highway 101 is your gateway into Healdsburg, whether you are coming from the north or south. As you enter downtown, you’ll instantly notice a restful pace that allows for living in the moment.
People strolling down the street as they shop, eat and sip around Healdsburg Plaza is your sign to relax as you reset during the coming days. Even if you are local to the area, a few hours will do the mind and body some good.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as you spend your day noshing around on small bites, breads and cured meats, beignets and po’boys, Italian and Japanese, which is just a sampling. And on Saturdays, act like a local at the weekly seasonal farmers market where you can curate your own agriculture favorites such as honey, cheeses and olive oils.
Tasting rooms offer an opportunity to taste some of the best wines in Sonoma County Wine Country. Red, white and sparkling wine enthusiasts will be thoroughly satisfied as tasting rooms give a glimpse of wines produced thanks to Sonoma County’s diverse microclimates within its appellations.
Evenings should always be reserved for a good meal. That is where Chef Lawrence and his team at Goodnight’s Prime Steak + Spirits come in. A veteran of California’s culinary landscape, prior to taking the helm at Goodnight’s, Lawrence built a strong Bay Area following and reputation at his San Francisco restaurants 1300 on Fillmore and Black Bark BBQ.
The British native is no stranger to a good steak, sharing, “Growing up in London as a child, the local steakhouse restaurant was the best restaurant in town. It was a treat and reward for a hard work week for the family to have dinner there.” He continues, “I wanted to replicate those childhood memories and excitement but also show what I have learned from all my 40 years of experience being in the restaurant business and make Goodnight’s a unique steakhouse scene.”
Chef Lawrence is serious about the steak experience he wants diners to have, from the sides down to the sauces. “The opportunity to choose one sauce or four different sauces was a must for me on Goodnight’s menu, as well as the four different salt options. This gives guests the ability to create 16 different combinations with one steak. All the sauces come from my experiences at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, Le Gavroche in London, and the teachings of my mentor Albert Roux.”
Goodnight’s is currently open five nights a week with plans to extend service to seven days later this year.
World-Class Sonoma County Wine Country Stay
After a busy day and night out and about, a good reset should continue with a stay that allows you to unwind even more.
There are plenty of options for where to stay in Sonoma County Wine Country, but here are two that I recently experienced that certainly top the list for world-class hospitality.
Hotel Les Mars is a French-style boutique hotel in the heart of Healdsburg. This Relais & Chateaux-accredited property offers European luxury in a small town setting. With a recently completed remodel, its timeless luxury permeates the lobby, library and every room.
Pet-friendly rooms include a handcarved four-poster bed with Italian linens, a mini fridge, a Nespresso machine, an electric kettle and fireplace. The en-suite bathroom is a dream with its deep soaking tub and European-inspired toiletries.
Wake up and enjoy a complimentary breakfast at Hotel Les Mars’ resident restaurant, Chalkboard. The casual, farm-to-table dining concept is also open for brunch and dinner as well as your own personal happy hour, where locally-sourced ingredients are the stars of the food and drink menus.
A 20-minute drive from Healdsburg will introduce you to Hotel Les Mars’ sister property, Farmhouse Inn. This “inspired escape” was founded 21 years ago by siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei. Calling Sonoma County’s Russian Valley home amongst the rolling hills, Farmhouse Inn could very well be another hidden gem if you are unfamiliar with this area.
Allow me to put it all the way on your radar.
Entrance doors with perfectly manicured greenery open to a tranquil oasis offering 25 guest rooms intentionally designed to help you focus on the present. Accommodations include barn suites, cottages, and farmhouse rooms providing the same thing: a luxurious wine country retreat with unmatched attention to detail, style and experiences.
After settling in, grab a bite at the Farmhouse Restaurant, which serves the elegance of Sonoma County wine country on a plate. Farmstand, a more casual option, offers wood-fired menu selections throughout the day, which is also very popular with guests.
The Farmhouse Inn pool caters to your desire to relax and read a book during the day, with nearby firepits that help create the coziness of a farm at night.
Did someone say spa? Yes, they did. The Wellness Barn is where it all stops, at least for the time you are there. Self-care reigns with treatments that include herbal baths, massages and facials. Another key highlight: as you wait, be sure to sip on the spa water created daily by Wendy Wright, a soothing blend of herbs and fruits.
Lastly, let the sound of nature lead you to the Armstrong Redwoods for a morning hike or yoga practice nearby before enjoying a coastal ride in the afternoon. Wine tasting is also an option with the assistance of the Farmhouse Inn staff, who can create an itinerary full of unforgettable moments.
5 Bonus Experiences Worth Adding to Your Getaway
With 19 appellations in Sonoma County Wine Country producing award-winning wines, countless restaurants and eateries, beaches, outdoor adventures, luxury hideaways and more, I simply can’t include all or even a quarter of what awaits you when it comes to Healdsburg and surrounding cities in Sonoma County.
However, I can make the following recommendations that add tasty sips, delicious bites, good times and to your getaway.
- New Banshee Tasting Room in Alexander Valley – Banshee recently moved from downtown Healdsburg to its new location in Geyserville, a drive less than 25 minutes down the road. Those visiting for the expanded tasting room experience can still expect its fruit-forward pinot noirs, bold cabernets, and an aromatic sparkling brut (also a favorite) they call Ten of Cups. All can be paired with cheese, chocolate and caviar.
- Unbelievable Views at Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery – Chardonnay is the darling grape on this estate vineyard, which has been committed to producing some of the best wines in Sonoma County for over 50 years. Chalk Hill is also the name of the AVA in which this 1300-acre estate, surrounded by hills and incredible views, is located. The 2-hour Estate & Garden Hummer Tour and Tasting is an experience worth booking.
- A Taste of Bordeaux at Roth Estate Winery – Down the hill and across the street is Roth Estate Winery, which crafts bold Bordeaux varietals that can be paired with hearty, savory dishes. The Foley Food and Wine Society Cave is where you want to be to enjoy premier pairings of luxury wines and small plates.
- Stunning Gardens and Vineyards at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery – Get ready to be blown away as you walk through the gardens to the main house where the magic of Ferrari-Carano happens. The picturesque estate in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley will take your breath away as you sit on the patio sipping award-winning wines or enjoy Sunday brunch looking out into the vineyards. Before you leave, browse the wine shop for the perfect accessories to go with the bottles most likely going home with you.
- Healdsburg Food & Wine Festival – Festivals are a great introduction to a new area and food and wine experiences. Taking place May 16 – 19, the event is a weekend celebration of Sonoma County’s world-class, sustainable culinary practices that are rooted in Healdsburg’s undeniable connection to farmers, winemakers and chefs.
Without a doubt, Sonoma County Wine Country understands the assignment when it comes to relaxation and unwinding. Now, all you have to do is get here.