Why Healdsburg is an ideal Wine Country destination

Here is where to stay, eat and play in the popular tourist town.|

Healdsburg offers the kind of travel experience many imagine when thinking of Wine Country.

More than 100 wineries can be found in and around this northern Sonoma County town and just a short drive from its picturesque plaza are three premier winegrowing regions — Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley — producing some of the finest wines in the world.

But there’s more than wine to enjoy in Healdsburg.

There are Michelin restaurants and celebrity chefs on nearly every block, boutiques and art galleries to peruse, chic hotels to check into and a long list of activities to explore.

Here are some quintessential spots to visit, whether you are a longtime Sonoma County resident, a frequent visitor or new to the area.

Staying at Hotel Les Mars

Inspired by French châteaux, Hotel Les Mars is where Old World luxury meets New World luxury. Just a block from the historic plaza, it’s filled with 18th century antiques, art, a gorgeous walnut-paneled library and other refinements.

Opened in 2005, this intimate Relais & Châteaux hotel features only 16 rooms and is focused on service. Stays include complimentary continental breakfasts and wine and cheese happy hours.

“Whether our guests choose to spend time relaxing at the hotel, exploring Healdsburg, or driving through Wine Country, they can count on a customized personal experience, said Demetri Smith, the hotel’s general manager.

Hotel Le Mars, 27 North St., Healdsburg. 707-433-4211, www.hotellesmars.com

Chalkboard Restaurant

The hotel has an excellent restaurant, Chalkboard, which features small plates and farm-to-table ingredients. The always-evolving menu offers grilled meats, seafood and housemade pastas.

In addition, guests can enjoy complimentary wine tastings from area favorites such as Chalk Hill and Ferrari-Carano.

“From local dining suggestions and reservations to arranging transportation and complimentary tastings at any of our dozen partner wineries, our intention is that you always have your perfect getaway, whatever that may be,” said Smith.

Chalkboard Restaurant, 29 North St., Healdsburg. 707-473-8030, www.chalkboardhealdsburg.com

Dining on the plaza

There are a wide variety of wonderful restaurants in and around Healdsburg’s historic plaza. Bravas Bar De Tapas offers traditional Spanish tapas, as well as paella and other large plates. Thirsting for a rioja or albariño? Bravas has a fine selection of Spanish wines, as well as sangria and cocktails.

“When it comes to popular pairings, guests love the 2012 Alberto Orte “La Antigua Clásico” Reserva Tempranillo Rioja and our Skirt Steak with Valdeon Cheese Butter, and a Red Onion Marmalade,” said Will Escher, general manager of Bravas Bar De Tapas. “They also enjoy the 2021 Burgans Albariño and our Monterey Calamari with salsa verde, and lemon or Sea scallops with romesco & leeks from our fire pit.”

For breakfast, check out well-known Costeaux French Bakery. Founded in 1923, Costeaux bakes its artisan breads in an oven imported from Italy. The cafe serves breakfast, brunch and lunch, but save room for dessert. Costeaux gets rave reviews for its:

  • Costeaux Princess Cake (white chiffon, Bavarian crème, raspberry conserve, whipped cream, enrobed in marzipan)
  • Mocha Florentine (rolled almond cookie filled with mocha buttercream, dipped in dark chocolate) is an explosion of sweetness in each bite.
  • Lemon Curd Tart (buttery pate sucrée shell filled with house made lemon curd) is clean and refreshing.

Harmon Guest House

Right next to the plaza, Harmon Guest House offers more modern lodgings.

Named after Healdsburg’s founder Harmon Heald, the property honors its namesake’s pioneering spirit of creative urban planning.

The boutique, 39-room hotel prides itself on being eco-friendly. Green elements include a sun-shading slat system to reduce solar heat gain, electric car charging stations and all LED lighting.

Check out works by regional artists throughout the building.

“It's long been a family practice and passion and now very much part of our projects,” said Circe Sher, co-founder of Pizza Hospitality, which developed and manages Harmon Guest House. “From my aunt adding the Santa Monica Museum of Art into her mixed-use Frank Gehry designed project in Southern California to my father adding galleries or art to animate retail real estate spaces, we've always collaborated with artists to add depth to the experiences we create.”

Harmon Guest House has a good-sized collection of permanent art and features the work of local guests arts on a rotating basis. “

Harmon Guest House, 227 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. 707-431-8220, harmonguesthouse.com.

Views from the rooftop

When you’re done perusing the art, head up to The Rooftop bar and enjoy a craft cocktail with a view of the surrounding Sonoma hills.

Dine at Spoonbar

Just a few steps away, Harmon’s sister hotel, whimsically called h2Hotel, features Spoonbar, where you can start your day with fruit, pastries, eggs and great coffee. You can also circle back for dinner.

Spoonbar, 219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. 707-433-7222, spoonbar.com.

Healdsburg is truly a one-of-a-kind destination thanks to the many activities, attractions and amenities it offers as well as the beauty and spirit of the location.

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