Northern California wine country can be overwhelming, in the best possible way of course. One tip that I like to follow wherever I am traveling and especially in a place with so many unique areas, is to find a great home base from which to start your adventures. For me, in Sonoma, my home base is Healdsburg. It’s enchanting town common charms the New Englander in me, and the little town sprawls out toward the Dry Creek Valley, one of my favorite wine regions in all of wine country.
I’ve put together a list of favorites and helpful hints for the area. It is a great jumping off point for exploring both the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
Bella Villa Messina You will feel at home in this gorgeously appointed bed and breakfast, and any need or question you have will be responded to with warmth and great attention to detail. While eating a fresh, gourmet breakfast you will get winery and restaurant recommendations from the B & B’s owners. It is truly a haven for relaxation.
Scopa This intimate little Italian restaurant on Healdsburg Square is the perfect place to cozy up to your significant other for a romantic meal or to gather with friends for a night filled with laughs and chatter. The food is top notch, the wine list includes many local wines in addition to wine from several regions of Italy, and the atmosphere is a sit back and relax kind of vibe.
Dry Creek Kitchen Definitely a special occasion restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen serves upscale “neighborhood” food that is artfully prepared and made from fresh, local ingredients. The service is impeccable, and the people watching from their wide open windows is unbeatable. Dry Creek Kitchen allows you to BYOB and does not charge a corkage fee for Sonoma wine, so stop by Big John’s on your way for a bottle to have with dinner.
There are so many wineries in the Dry Creek Valley, and I have only had a chance to visit some of them. That said, I highly recommend the following:
Michel-Schlumberger Call ahead to make an appointment for a tour and tasting and learn about Michel-Schlumberger’s organic winemaking efforts and the unique, balanced ecosystem that they maintain at the winery. Then sit back and sip on a chilled Pinot Blanc while taking in the mission-style architecture.
Amista Come for the warm hospitality and airy, artsy tasting room, and stay for the killer Syrah. Amista sells tiny tasting kits that you can even take in your carry-on to enjoy the Sonoma experience in your own home.
Zichichi A picturesque view and some of the best Zinfandel I have ever had, Zichichi is a small, must-visit winery in the Dry Creek Valley.
Breathe Healdsburg is minutes from the beautiful Lake Sonoma, a great place to hike, boat, swim, and picnic. It is a breathtaking site and a nice break from wine tasting if you have the time on your visit.
Wherever you decide to stay in wine country, make sure to at least make a visit to Healdsburg. I promise that with its variety of wineries, downtown tasting rooms, restaurants, and shops, you too will fall in love with this little gem.