A more relaxed and affordable wine country escape than Napa, Sonoma County sits just west of its more famous sister, though it is equidistant from San Francisco. Sonoma wineries make great cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay along with world-class pinot noir and zinfandel, making it an oenophile destination in its own right. The town of Healdsburg is centrally located for winery visits, and is the most lively and luxe home base for a well-rounded Sonoma adventure. Here’s how to do it just right.
Stay the night
Piazza Hospitality operates three charming boutique hotels in downtown Healdsburg: the Hotel Healdsburg, h2hotel, and the newest Harmon Guest House. Hotel Healdsburg is the polished grand dame, with a full resort experience including spa and fine dining, while h2hotel is pared down and appeals to an active traveller. Harmon Guest House has lovely connecting rooms and suites, and it’s the only one with a rooftop, which doubles as a bar and event space.
All three hotels offer complimentary valet and bike rentals, plus complimentary minibar snacks and breakfast. Commissioned local artwork and locally-made custom organic toiletries are another thread tying the three properties together, along with an eye for clean, eco-friendly design. Harmon Guest House leans more Japanese, while h2hotel has a distinct Scandinavian influence and has Gold LEED Certification.
Sweat it out
Hike all the way to the top of Sonoma Mountain beginning at Jack London State Historic Park to gain an appreciation for wine country’s unique terroir. There are several different trails for hikers of all abilities to reach the top.
And Jordan Winery hosts vineyard hikes, which begin with a continental breakfast followed by a four-mile trek through the meadows and olive orchards to the chef’s garden and apiary. Conclude with a charcuterie picnic and wine tasting of Jordan’s chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.
Sip, sip, sip
Champagne connoisseurs will adore the Traditional Method sparkling wines that Kathleen Inman is making at Inman Family Wines (her elegant pinot noirs are worth a taste, too). Make an appointment to visit the Santa Rosa tasting room and learn about the establishment’s sustainable farming and no-intervention winemaking practices, which include using compost for organic fertilizer, natural pest control, and planting cover crops to promote a healthy ecosystem. The winery’s solar array powers 100 per cent of the winery and vineyard, and the winery is made almost entirely from recycled materials.
Benovia in the Russian River Valley is another beautiful winery to visit, known for its pinot noir and chardonnay. You’ll need to make an appointment here to taste the estate-grown and vineyard-designate wines, which are paired with small bites. Sit out on the deck of the old American farmhouse for sweeping vineyard views.
Savour every bite
Foodies know that Healdsburg is home to SingleThread: the most elegant and memorable fine dining experience in Sonoma County, serving a tasting menu of the best California ingredients with Japanese precision and technique. But if you haven’t made a reservation months in advance, it will be next to impossible to find a table.
Valette is another Healdsburg favourite with signature dishes like decadent day-boat scallops en croûte with Champagne beurre blanc, and local duck from Liberty Farms crusted with Szechuan peppercorns. And Barndiva is a great spot to dine al fresco; try the prosciutto-wrapped heirloom figs if they’re in season.
Further south in Santa Rosa, Willi’s Wine Bar is a fun group hangout. Try flights of wine from Sonoma and around the world paired with small plates like truffle fries, Tunisian roasted carrots, and “mu shu” bacon crêpes.
Sweeten the deal
Volo Chocolate is the only bean-to-bar chocolate-maker in Sonoma County, and although it doesn’t have a storefront, you can find its treats in many retailers around town—as well as at the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market. For pie à la mode, Noble Folk hits the spot.
Spa to the nines
The farm-to-spa treatments at the Spa Hotel Healdsburg use fresh ingredients from Sonoma County farms to nourish, hydrate, and heal. Choose a Meyer lemon and sage herbal wrap, or perhaps a wine and honey wrap that incorporates organically-farmed sauvignon blanc from Quivira Vineyards. If you’d prefer a massage, the wellness treatment is strong enough to work out knots while still helping you relax with warm herbal poultices, hot stones, and heated booties for your feet.
Wellness is about living well, whatever that means to you—be it sips of wine, an incredible meal, or a long hike. Sonoma has it all, and then some.