Here’s my recommendation for a 1 or 2 day trip to Healdsburg’s fabulous wine country.
Healdsburg is a beautiful little town in Northern California wine country. I know I’m getting close when Hwy 101 is suddenly flanked by tall pine trees and open countryside as far as I can see. I pass the Central Healdsburg exit and around the next curve I see Dry Creek Rd exit. Dry Creek is a wine appellation like none other in Northern California. It’s a monoculture…just vineyards, no cows, no dairies, no industrial buildings, nothing but rows and rows of vineyards cascading over rolling hills, with occasional tasting rooms dotting the countryside. As I turn left onto Dry Creek Road, I’m heading west towards the hills. Every time I enter the Dry Creek appellation, all my cares in the world drop away; it feels magical.
Michel Schlumberger (link goes to my review)
Place (terroir) is at the heart of this winery which makes it a wonderful place for a tour. Learn about organic farming practices, how they “save the salmon” & meet the good insects “grown” in their garden. It’s a beautiful location & memorable experience. Plan to spend 1-2 hours here. Start with a 30 minute or more tour, then come back into their gorgeous tasting “salon” (fireplace in the winter). Your personal wine educator will pour great Burgundy, Bourdeaux and Rhone varietals. Pick one of their many wonderful tour options on their website.
2nd Stop (across the road)
Visiting Quivira, you’ll feel its aura of happiness, adventure & wholesome energy while sipping sophisticated wines in a beautiful setting. The wines are elegant, smooth, balanced & delicately blended. The folks there are always welcoming which may be why it is such a hot local’s favorite (lots of bicyclists stop there; Quivira even sells their own biking jersey). You’ll love their massive organic gardens (used by local chefs), the famous ancient Fig Tree and the precious farm animals (goats, hens, pigs). Quivira is a vineyard farm that looks like an artist’s painting.
Dry Creek General Store
Go back the way you came in and you’ll run right into the only place to eat in Dry Creek Valley. It’s a local’s place by night (a bar is attached) and a deli/store for visitors and winery workers during the day. (TIP: A regular deli sandwich is better then the hot sandwich “specials” that are consistently greasy and disappointing.) I recommend sitting on the porch and enjoying the people watching while you eat. You’re very likely to meet other wine enthusiasts from all over the country. They have wine and non-alcoholic beverages, depending on your mood!
Part of enjoying the Dry Creek area is seeing the stunning countryside. Leaving the General Store, continue on Dry Creek Road, a two-lane, mostly empty tree-lined road with wide openings of hillside vineyards appearing then disappearing as you make your way to Lake Sonoma. It’s only a 20 minute drive from the store to the Lake, but don’t stop there. Drive another 10 minutes and you’ve discovered Gustafson Winery, the only winery in the Dry Creek Appellation that sits 1,800′ above the valley. This is a true hidden gem. Unbelievable views (30 miles in 3 directions) and stunning wines.
Wineries are open from 10:00 – 5:00 generally. With three tours & tastings, lunch & enjoying the countryside, you’ve just had a fantastic day trip and you’re sober enough to drive home.
If you’re staying the night, here’s the place:
I’ve had lots of guests stay here and they are 1000% in love with the experience. It is gorgeous, welcoming & elegant. When you arrive, the temperature in the room will be perfect, soft music will be playing in your room, and if there is a chill in the air, a cozy fire will be lit in the fireplace. As you drive up, it looks like a pretty mansion, but a surprise awaits you when you step through the house out into the homey, yet resort-size grounds. You can swim, play croquet, bocce ball, tennis, or just relax and watch the Koi. Be sure to check out their online specials.
There are lots of great restaurants in Healdsburg, your concierge can give you recommendations for whatever you’re craving. My favs are Willie’s Seafood & Wine Bar & Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen.
Day 2 Shopping (& a bit more wine tasting)!
Healdsburg is a special place with cute dress shops, galleries, and antique stores enclosing a town square. You’ll regret it if you don’t spend at least the afternoon wandering around, enjoying the fresh air and friendly people. I recommend you have enjoy the Honor Mansion’s amenities in the a.m., have a fabulous breakfast, play a little Bocce Ball or get a massage. After you check out, go visit my friends at the Wine Shop. Located on the square, it’s a tasting room and wine shop. They often have vintners hanging out talking about their wines. Regardless, you can sit at the little bar and be introduced to fun and affordable wines. This is a great opportunity to learn how a wine shop works, so when you go home, you won’t feel unsure about hooking up with your local wine shop, or you can even have The Wine Shop in Healdsburg send you wine, like I do.
After tasting wine, you’re ready to shop! Spend the afternoon strolling, eating, window shopping and getting that perfect sculpture or other memory of your trip. PS: You’ll want to come back, everyone does. For more recommendations to plan your next trip to Healdsburg, just search my blog for Healdsburg.