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The Perfect Crowd-Free Wine Country Weekend in Healdsburg

Harvest season is just wrapping up in California wine country, which means it’s a busy time for farmers and vintners. For travelers looking for earthy wine and food, fall is my favorite season for a weekend trip to northern Sonoma (Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley). Last weekend, my family and I headed up to Healdsburg (where my husband and I got married) and spent a few days checking out new places and revisiting older favorites.

STAY

h2 Hotel

There are a number of terrific places to stay in and around Healdsburg. My favorite is the h2 Hotel, which has a prime location on the main town square, operates a lively restaurant, Spoonbar, and features truly eco-friendly design. The fleet of rental bikes is a nice perk, too.

DRINK

You can’t come to this part of California without visiting at least a few tasting rooms. In and around Healdsburg, I love Nalle, Ridge, and Rochioli, all of which have been operating in this part of the county for some time. Banshee is a relative newcomer (founded in 2009) and the winery opened a cool tasting room just off the town square in Healdsburg a couple of years ago. Prices are reasonable and the tasting flights ($15 and up) are fun for groups. At our wedding, we served a pinot noir from Copain, which has a glorious tasting room perched at the top of a mountain on Eastside Road. The setting is laid-back, picturesque California at its most beautiful.

View from Copain

MacRostie, a winery that’s been making bright chardonnays and pinot noirs since 1987 (it’s all about the ribbons of fog that drift over the coastal and inland vineyards they source from) recently opened a new estate house. The design is modern and rustic, and it is a pretty special place to wile away an afternoon tasting wines. If you go, request the infinity table, which offers unobstructed views of the valley.

MacRostie's new estate house.

EAT

To counterbalance all the wine, head to Flying Goat Coffee in central Healdsburg for single-origin pour-overs. Then walk to The Shed, the cafe-restaurant-shop that looks ripped from the pages of a gorgeous shelter magazine. Order baked eggs and a shrub, a tart vinegar drink made with fruit and flowers.

Baked eggs and a lavender shrub at The Shed

There are plenty of amazing places to eat in Healdsburg: Campo Fina and Scopa (dinner-only) are Italian restaurants adored by locals. We didn’t make it to Valette this time, but it’s only a matter of time before I get there to try their house-made charcuterie. On the way back to the Bay Area, we stopped in Sebastopol to explore the Barlow, a new development of restaurants, art galleries and studios, and tasting rooms that have deep connections to the local community. As developments go, I was totally taken by the design and thoughtfulness of the Barlow, and we loved our meal at Woodfour Brewing Company, which specializes in craft beers (especially sours). We shared a few dishes on the menu, including spicy gazpacho, deviled eggs, grilled bratwurst, and heirloom bean cassoulet. Definitely not your typical pub food.

Luckily for us, Healdsburg is lovely all times of year, since we’re already planning our return trip.

>>Next: Why You Should Go to Napa During the Harvest Season