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Sonoma, Healdsburg, etc.

Planning a romantic mid-week stay... Quick questions, if we stay in Healdsburg:

1) How far is drive to Napa/Sonoma wineries?
2) Is this a good place to stay, or should we try to stay in Yountville or Calistoga?

(only been to the area once before for 5 hours. went to Neibaum-Coppola and loved it)

3) Restaurant suggetions?
4) I went to a great deli/market near Coppola with picnic tables and great sandwiches, on the main road. Does anyone know the name of what I'm thinking?? (i can't remember the name)
5) We really enjoyed our fancy $50 Coppola tour (wine and cheese in the cellar, etc) Any great worth it expesive/exclusive tours? We're not huge wine buyers but we love experience type things and don't mind paying for them...

Thank you!!

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  1. I suggest you stay in the area of most of the wineries you'll be visiting. From Sonoma it may be a 45 minute drive to Napa. Healdsburg is a great location for Sonoma while Yountville is centrally located in Napa. You probably stopped at Oakville Grocery for your picnic lunch. Favorite restaurants in Napa are Martini House, Don Giovanni, Mustard's Grill, Bouchon, and of course French Laundry. The CIA at Greystone is fun for lunch, as is takeout from Dean & DeLuca. In Sonoma, I had some great meals at Cyrus and Dry Creek Kitchen. Girl and the Fig is also supposed to be delectable.

    7 Replies
    1. re: RevrendAndy

      RevrendAndy, Thanks for the info and good points. I've been to Napa a bit. But not Sonoma at all. So perhaps I should try it...? Are there good winieries in Sonoma near me? Or are all the good ones 45 minutes away?
      Thank you!
      Oh and any good bubbly/sparkling wine places to visit?

      1. re: HungryLA

        Healdsburg is really the center of multiple great vineyard/winery areas, particularly for reds. Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley. Do some searching here on Healdsburg and those wine areas and you'll find a lot of info.

        1. re: Mick Ruthven

          It's looking like Healdsburg it is! If anyone knows any cool, little tours in the area - I'm having trouble finding more than tasting recs.
          Thanks all!

          1. re: HungryLA

            Jim Town is a fun place to go for lunch. It's surrounded by vineyards so there are lots of good tasting opportunities around there.


            Also, check out Westside Rd. It's a nice drive through the hills that are parallel to the valley. There are some great Pinot Noirs being produced up there, among others. If you drive up from Healdsburg, you can make Gary Farrell your destination and then hit several Westside Rd. wineries along the way. Less touristy up there and wonderful wines. http://garyfarrellwines.com

            1. re: sgwood415

              I totally agree with checking out the Westside Road. Also, further up is Iron Horse with a beautiful outdoor tasting area.

              Willi's Raw Bar in Healdsburg is very good.

              1. re: Lori SF

                If you end up going to Yountville, you should visit Domaine Chandon. It's beautiful, and there is a restaurant on premises.

            2. re: HungryLA

              A couple of notes.... Healdsburg is reallly investing some money in making it a touristy competitor to Sonoma. But while its got a Plaza / Jardin like Sonoma and a few other things in common.... it has its own, more contemporary vibe. One of the things they do differently there is a lot more Tasting Rooms located within the town... plus every street has walking tour maps that lead you to the best they have. The Tasting Rooms in Healdsburg go way beyond the ones at the Vineyards... with posh leather couches, recliners better food / cheese pairings and some even have olive oil tastings etc.,

              I would recommend that you do any tasting of big wineries within these tasting rooms and reserve your road time for the small, obscure places suggested by other hounds.

              As for Chow.... Cyrus is the big shot in town.... California Cuisine with strong Asian influences.

              Zin is the more affordable place focusing on finer versions of American classics (one of the few non KFC places to get Fried Chicken in Sonoma County).

              Another idea is to get a picnic basket from one of the shops there... and stop at the Ledson winery on your way to Sonoma and picnic by the "castle" http://www.ledson.com/castle.html

      2. If you're coming to Healdsburg, plan to visit the several winery regions nearby, rather than drive to Napa or even Sonoma. Traffic here is tough, especially with current highway construction.

        Westside Road has half a dozen wineries and is a lovely ramble through redwoods SW along the Russian River toward the ocean...you can just keep driving to sunset at Jenner. -Tours at Korbel on River Road are popular (I've only been to the garden).

        Or from Healdsburg go NW up Dry Creek Valley to another dozen wineries and Lake Sonoma.

        If you aren't drived out, Alexander Valley Road-Hwy 128-Chalk Hill Road- Old Redwood Highway is another favorite scenic loop with yet more wineries.

        When you're ready to settle down & walk a bit, the Plaza is nice for tourists (and locals). Be sure to visit Downtown Bakery for ice cream & breakfast pastry and Bovolo for picnic treats. Many more posts in CH for Healdsburg and Healdsburg.com has links to the wineries & restaurants.

        The grapes are just starting to leaf pinky green now and the mustard in the vineyards is still a stunning acid yellow. The sunsets have been spectacular too. Hope you enjoy your visit.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Stephanie Sugars

          I agree, keep your trip to the Healdsburg area and skip Napa on this trip unless you have three days. There are so many places to explore in the Healdsburg area, that frankly aren't as touristy as Napa Valley.

        2. If you should want to get down to Napa Valley from the Healdsburg area. a nice non-freeway way to do it is to drive south (actually southeast) through Alexander Valley on Hwy 128 which takes you to the north end of Napa Valley at Calistoga with plenty of wineries to try along the way if you want.

          1. You probably had lunch at Oakville Grocery.

            Healdsburg is very close to many Sonoma (Russian River) wineries. Could be 45 minutes plus to some Napa wineries. I really like Healdsburg. Wherever you stay it could be a drive to some wineries.

            Napa- Martini House, Bistro Jeanty, Market, Ad hoc, N.V., Bouchon. Personally, I'd go to Market for inexpensive, Martini House for more expensive. (Then, of course, there is French Laundry and La Toque...)

            Sonoma- Zazu, The Girl and the Fig, The Farmhouse Inn, Willi's Wine Bar. Personally, I like Zazu. Farmhouse Inn is excellent for a romantic dinner. Some love Cyrus (very expensive), others not quite as much.

            Sonoma- Martinelli (open), Rochioli (open), Hartford (open), Rosenblum (open), Siduri/Novy (by appt), Carlisle (by appt), August West / Freeman / Sandler (by appt, all at the Freeman property), Rivers-Marie (by appt), Merry Edwards (by appt), Peay (by appt), Kutch / Kosta Browne / Dearfield Ranch (by appt, all at Dearfield Ranch)

            Napa- Del Dotto cave tour, and http://winodepot.invisionzone.com/ind...

            2 Replies
            1. re: whiner

              To add to Whiner's restaurants, I'd second the vote on Zazu (just received a Michelin Recommended). We go there often as it's our neighborhood joint (which is funny when you see where it is...) but the food is ALWAYS interesting and the staff friendly.

              For Breakfast if you want to venture into Santa Rosa (which is south of Healdsburg by a bit), there's a place called Rubix that has started to serve breakfast and it's my new favorite. Interesting combinations and not usually too crowded.

              Wineries: I have to give "J" a thumbs up if only for their "bubble room", which is a separate room off of the main tasting room but you'll need to make reservations. Last time I was there the tasting (which includes little bites of wonderful thing to munch and a flight of either reds or whites) ran about $35.00 per person. Nice relaxing atmosphere ... could be worth a spin.

              1. re: Spiritsforme07

                Thanks for the heads-up about Rubix. I started a thread about it because I'm curious about it. Would you post what you would recommend and a little more about the interesting combinations

            2. I love Healdsburg for so many reasons and am a bit bummed by the fact that I am staying up in Sonoma with my fam for a few days. Besides, the point

              anyhow, the little grocery you stopped at I believe is called the Dry Creek Grocery, is on Dry Creek road smack in the middle of it all. I love it too.

              Definetly stop by Bella, their cave and wines are amazing!@

              1. Lots of good responses here. As to some of your specific questions: Sonoma wineries are all around Healdsburg, from just minutes to 30+. Napa is not far but takes 45 minutes or so to reach the nearest parts.

                The deli/market could have been Oakville Grocery or Dean & DeLuca, but the picnic table part is throwing me a bit. Some people really like the deli & picnic area at V. Sattui Winery. I've never been impressed by their wine, but they have one of the few picnic areas around and the deli is decent.


                1. I used to live in Napa and Healdsburg is so great. It is like Napa was 10-15 years ago. The town Square is wonderful. I agree about Willi's Seafood. Fun , innovative and very tasty. Also had a good time at BARNDIVA down the street from the Square. Do not reccommend driving between the valleys because this means up and over mountain areas and who wants that between tastings!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: wineandcheese

                    Thanks everyone! I really appreciate all the help. Wonerding if we'll be okay as we're not big wine BUYERS but we are more than happy to pay to taste and hang. Some of these smaller places I'm worried I'll feel more pressure/guilt... JimTown looks great, Barndiva looks great, all the drives. Gonna go with Healdsburg instead of Napa. i'm excited!

                    1. re: HungryLA

                      Half of the small places you can't buy from anyway and, trust me, there will be no pressure. The benefit to the small places is actually being shown around by the winemaker or owner and getting to taste out of the barrels. Plus, the wine is better. And there is often more to taste.

                      1. re: whiner

                        In fairness to those out there who don't have the personal experience, I think that saying you can't buy from "HALF" the small places is a huge exaggeration. I've never been to a winery that would let you taste but wouldn't sell you ANYTHING. I know there are wineries that are club or allocation list only, but every one of those that have let me make an appointment to taste as a non-member have had something they'd sell. I've never tried to get in to a Screaming Eagle, Kosta-Browne, Merry Edwards, Peter Michael or the like, however.

                        1. re: Midlife

                          I was sorta talking about Kosta Browne, Kutch, Merry Edwards, Peay, Rivers-Marie, August West, etc on the Sonoma side... Karl Lawrence, etc on the Napa side.

                  2. In Healdsburg my restaurant of choice would be Bistro Ralph. I love the chicken liver appetiser although it is a huge portion. As you mention you like the experinces versus buying wine I think the Korbel tour would be a nice one. I have taken many European visitors ther and they have all enjoyed it. Another obvious restaurant choice is Zazu. Not too far away in Santa Rosa both John Ash and Willies Wine bar are recommended

                    1. Going for four days now guys. So any tweaks? Should we try to go into/around Sonoma proper? 3 days seems a little short and 4 days a little long. But we're looking to take our time and soak it in. Thanks for all your help!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: HungryLA

                        Perhaps I speak heresy here. I love living in Napa Valley, and have for 15 years. Even so, if I were you, I'd camp in Healdsburg -- it's dripping with charm. You could spend a day each doing the Russian River Valley wineries, the Westside Road wineries (there are many and that road is so, so lovely in springtime), the Alexander Valley wineries (that's the day you dine at Jimtown), the Dry Creek wineries (stunning Zinfandels), etc. The restaurants there are amazing, and at all sorts of price points. A lot of good gourmet grocery stores are around also, so you have the option of purchasing a picnic lunch, and then picnicing at a winery. Now that's living. You can have a wonderful time simply driving the sweet back-country roads (get a good map while you're there) and checking out the dear one-lane bridges over the river, like the Wohler Road one, just off Westside Road. Regarding a trek to Napa Valley: Even the north end of Napa Valley (Calistoga)is 45 minutes away if you haul butt like I do. The drive is beautiful down 128 (through Alexander Valley) but it's twisty and winding, and heck, you're already in paradise, stay there. While encamped in Healdsburg and exploring the Russian River Valley, it's not too far to the ocean, either, and there's another opportunity for a gourmet picnic. Lots of small intimate beaches are around. Get some bread at Wild Flower Bakery in Freestone (microscopic-sized town) on the drive out. Maybe even check out the Osmosis spa across the street (love those enzyme baths for two). Enjoy yourselves. Right now, in springtime, it's green green green and breathtakingly beautiful.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          thanks for the tips. thats kinda exactly what we're looking for. though we did find a very affordable cottage right on a working winery so we're excited. only thing is its a little (1.5 miles) out of town proper. besides walking which we will do a bit, how's parking in healdsburg town? sorry this isn't a food question.

                          1. re: HungryLA

                            You'll be fine. The only trouble you'll have parking is if you try to park on the
                            Square proper. Side streets always have parking.

                            By the way, 1.5 miles out of town is nothing. You're going to be driving into
                            the nearby valleys anyway.

                            Oh, one more thing, don't try to cram too much into one day. Go at a leisurely pace. I'd suggest focusing on one of the nearby regions (Russian River, Dry Creek, Westside Road, Alex. Valley, ocean) each day.

                      2. One last ? Do I need to bring a bunch of cash for the tasting or do they take credit cards? Also seems like some places have food (bread, cheese) to aid in the picnic, not that I'll neccesarily need (i come prepaired!) For picnicing so far, Armida, Lambert Bridge, Passalacqua and Preston are in the lead, though clearly I'll need to pick one.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: HungryLA

                          I have been to Healdsburg 3 or 4 times (last time 2 years ago) and am headed back there in July. Truly my favorite wine area, and the place I daydream about moving to. I have mostly stayed walking distance from the town square, which is great b/c in the morning you can walk in the cool, crisp morning air and enjoy a wonderful coffee/cappuccino at Flying Goat. LOVE the coffee, and I'm obsessive about that. Also agree 100% re the Downtown Bakery/Creamery. Cinnamon rolls to die for, and ice cream is refreshing in the afternoon. Driving into town, however, is really easy if you are not too far out. We stayed in Geyserville on our first trip there, and I never had an issue parking.

                          In terms of eating, Cyrus was just opening the last time I visited (and Barndiva was not yet open) but I have eaten at Dry Creek Kitchen, Ravenous, Willi's in both Santa Rosa and H-burg, Zin, and Mirepoix. Of those, my favorite is actually Mirepoix, which is in Windsor--a very short drive--and full of charm. We found it very reasonable for the high quality of the food and wine. Dry Creek Kitchen was good, Zin was really fun--pulled pork, if still on the menu, is great--and Willi's had some tasty small plates and we enjoyed trying a bunch of things.

                          Finally, my favorite winery is by far Preston. So much so I just had to join the club so I could enjoy their wine all year long. If they have olive oil available, buy some! At least as of 2 yrs ago, lots of wineries didn't even charge tasting fees, which I of course was a fan of. I think they all took credit cards though. Others I liked:
                          Hanna - good sauv blanc
                          Christopher Creek
                          Porter Creek - liked it better when I went 4 yrs ago than the last time, but the first trip it was blockbuster. Had a great unfiltered chardonnay, and a wonderful pinot if I recall correctly.
                          Roshambo - cool to see architecture and I liked the rose.
                          J winery had food and wine pairings when I went - appreciated that - sparkling was good.
                          Hop Kiln - cool, relaxed vibe
                          Michel-Schlumberger - grounds were gorgeous and tour was nice. I pretty much avoid tours, but this one we enjoyed. (However, wine was fine to good -not amazing)

                          Just writing this has me daydreaming again...

                          1. re: meganinlosfeliz

                            Roshambo is gone. They sold that building and are now operating out of a tour bus.

                          2. re: HungryLA

                            Have both cash and credit cards but both work at wineries.

                            OK [ssshhhh, quiet now], here is a really secret thing that you must learn:

                            If you have any questions about where to buy nice groceries for a picnic, or a a pretty winery for picnic, you can ask one of us. I know, amazing.

                            You see we're really kinda sweet here and good natured. So, hmm, where is the nicest park, where can I rent kayaks, etc. A good time might to ask might be while you're getting your morning coffee and muffin or rockin pastry (I do not prevaricate) at Downtown Creamery on the Square.

                            Wineries: Do some basic reading and research about regions: I've kinda laid out the basics above.. When you're here, get the individual winery valley maps, like Russian River Wineries, and Alexander Valley Wineries, etc,They're free. Great stuff. Most important, get a good Sonoma Country back-country roads map so you find the drippingly sweet byways and one-lane bridges.

                            Hungry, this a little place and pretty easy to figure out. And if you're get lost, oh well, this is a place where that's safe and you just may start laughing and kiss. Now go.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              Sorry to harsh the mellow, but non-food advice (kayak rentals, lodging, etc) is not allowed anywhere on Chowhound.

                              Let's keep the love flowing for all things chowy and delicious, though.

                          3. My husband and I visited Healdsburg last summer and it was fabulous. Walking around the old-fashioned town square, eating a sweet treat from Downtown Bakery, and window shopping at the boutiques was delightful. We had one of our best meals at a great restaurant just up the road in Geyserville called Taverna Santi (I'm still dreaming about it). There is so much to do around the area that I’m sure your time will fly by.

                            In planning our trip I found helpful information from the Chamber of Commerce (http://healdsburg.com/hbg_chamber/ind...), an organization dedicated to promoting the wineries (www.wineroad.com) and a site with everything you wanted to know about local artisan farmers (http://www.farmtrails.org/). They all had lots of information on where to find the best wine, food, produce, and other fun things in the area.

                            My personal favorites include:

                            Dry Creek General Store
3495 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
Phone: (707) 433-4171 Website: www.dcgstore.com
Homemade food, wine selection, gourmet food. Picnics to go. Monday-Thursday, 7am-7pm. Friday.- Sunday, 7am-9pm.

                            Downtown Bakery & Creamery
308A Center Street, Healdsburg
Phone: (707) 433-2719 Website: www.downtownbakery.net
Handmade, organic breads and sourdough starters. Open daily 7am - 5pm.

                            Oakville Grocery
124 Matheson Street, Healdsburg 
Phone: (707) 433-3200 Website: www.oakvillegrocery.com 
Marketplace featuring pizzas, sandwiches, salads, great picnic fare, wine bar & seating on shaded terrace. Open Sunday-Wednesday, 9am-7pm Thursday-Saturday, 9am-8:30pm.

                            Taverna Santi
21047 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville 
Phone: 707-857-1790 Website: www.tavernasanti.com 
Santi brings timeless honest Italian cuisine to the Sonoma County Wine Country. Familar and provocative dishes recall treks through the Italian Countryside-yet the setting is a historic 1902 landmark buliding in the Alexander Valley; Award winning, Zagat rated. Lunch Thursday-Monday, 11:30-2pm., Sunday Brunch & Lunch 10:30am - 2pm, Dinner Monday - Friday, 5:30pm - 9pm., Sat. & Sun, 5pm - 9pm.

                            And you may find a tour you'll like at one of these sites:

                            Healdsburg Area Winery Tours Phone: (707) 433-6090
 Website: www.healdsburgareawinerytours.com

                            Healdsburg Walking Tours, LLC Phone: (707) 484-6249
 Website: www.healdsburgwalkingtours.com (Guided Walking Tours


                            I hope you have a wonderful time. Let us know where you went and what you found. Enjoy our beautiful wine country!

                            1. Any sparkling places in the area (Dry Creek, Russian River, Alexander, healds)? See J but thats about it. Also any white? Worried it will be a LOT of reds, which is great, but ya know. Just checking. Esp for the sparkling.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: HungryLA

                                Korbel is in the Russian River area... I like their stuff but most snobs turn their noses at the $10 price tag. The tour (free) is decent with a free tasting. Some of their better stuff is only available on site.

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  The garden tour is really nice, if you like that sort of thing. There's also a small deli with coffee and pastry and light lunch stuff. (Can't remember what, sorry.) You can sit in the patio area surrounded by lovely plants and trees. The man in the tasting room was very generous with the tastings, too. Though considering that the 50 tipsy garden club members bought a lot of wine, maybe he was being smart.

                                  1. re: Glencora

                                    The lunch items aren't great but they are okay.

                                2. re: HungryLA

                                  There's Iron Horse already mentioned in this thread and in many others on this board.
                                  Do a search. I prefer Roederer Estate, just a hop north. Look both up here on CH
                                  and Google.

                                  1. re: HungryLA

                                    Nobody seems to have mentioned, and maybe you already know this, but do remember that Sonoma is a county as well as a town. Healdsburg is in the county of Sonoma, but it's about an hour's drive (what with traffic) to the town of Sonoma. Just FYI (and a pet peeve of mine...)

                                  2. Okay, so this is what I'm about to make resers for. We added a night:

                                    1st night: Willi's Raw Bar. On the road during the day. Check in, go to town.
                                    2nd night: Jimtown picnic in Alexander Valley, wineries. Dinner Cafe Le Haye in Sonoma. Friend insisting we go, want to get the long drive over with. Hopefully it will live up to expecation!
                                    3rd night: Walk into Healdsburg and do the tastings there, some shopping. No driving day! Maybe breakfast and lunch in town (Chartecuterie?) Dinner Taverna Santi or cook on our grill at our cottage overlooking vineyard.
                                    4th night: Dry Creek Valley with picnic from general store. Some bocce ball. Dinner at Mirepoix.
                                    5th night: Russian River Valley, but not too much. J Winery Bubble Room tasting at 1pm. Dinner Cyrus. Wasn't gonna do this but too many people insist. Trying to decide btwn 7 course or 4 course. Any thoughts? Think we're going to stick to the raved about cocktails rather than the wine pairings to try to save a few bucks. Thoughts?

                                    Thanks guys!

                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: HungryLA

                                      Those all sound like great places. Good thing your friend insisted on Le Haye, it's wonderful The only thing is it looks like you have some back and forth driving on day 2 and 3. Jim Town is kind of near Healdsburg. Then you're going to Sonoma and then back to Healdsburg. It's a gorgeous drive and not terribly far. But you might consider going from Santa Rosa to Sonoma and then Healdsburg. Work your way north to spend less time behind the wheel. Anyway, nice itinerary. Please report back what you thought about those places.

                                      1. re: sgwood415

                                        So you're thinking, that since I'm going to Cafe La Haye anyway, I should not to Alexander Valley, but instead do Santa Rosa, Glen Ellen that day. End with dinner and then go back? Not a bad idea. Not sure if I will be able to get back to Alexander Valley later though, but itf you think that might be okay I'm all for it.

                                        Any places, wineries in Santa Rosa, Glen Ellen that are a must do?
                                        Thank you!

                                        1. re: HungryLA

                                          It depends on what your priorities are. For me, Alexander Valley (and Dry Creek Valley nearby and to the west) would be must-dos and the rest would follow from that. But if you're already set around Napa Valley and the town of Sonoma, then you'll have to take the distance into account and decide accordingly.

                                          1. re: HungryLA

                                            I would say Alexander Valley is must do also. Just look at the map and see how much back and forth driving you're planning. Maybe you can change up the order. Or maybe it's fine the way it is, depends on your preference I'd say.

                                            1. re: HungryLA

                                              If you have dinner at Taverna Santi, you'll be in the middle of Alexander Valley.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Alrighty, perhaps I'll stivck with Alexander Valley (tour at Jordan) and then shower, change and get in the car for Cafe La Haye. Knowing ahead of time what the deal is, I think we'll be okay. Thanks for the help!
                                                Any thoughts on whether we should for sure do the 7 course tasting at Cyrus or save the money and just do the 4??

                                                1. re: HungryLA

                                                  Do check with your friends about when they tried Cafe La Haye. The chef has changed in recent months . . . maybe not a concern since the new chef is getting good reviews too, but it will be different.

                                                  I'll echo that your winery and restaurant choices don't jive from a logistics standpoint, e.g., visiting wineries in one appellation, then dining in another only to go the next day to the second appellation and then back track to the first area for eats. There are many alternate scenic routes through each wine trail so you aren't necessarily covering the same ground four times or more, but you might be.

                                                  1. re: HungryLA

                                                    I would highly recommend doing the 7-course tasting menu; however, regardless, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Should you do individual courses, I would say that the sweet pea ragout with baby carrots and radish, saffron nage truly falls into the "must have" category - it's divine.

                                                    As I said, though, Keane's tasting menu is certainly worthy of a splurge... particularly on a first visit.

                                                    1. re: jrhsfcm

                                                      Hungry LA, these suggestions about driving are good. You will be zooming hither and yon, and it's best for you to take a look at a map and concentrate one area for the day, not going from one to the other. It's too much driving and racing around, the distances are deceptive. Perhaps do a slight re-think. Have a great time, and you are such a good planner! My advice would be to stay in the Healdsburg areas -- Russian River, Alex. Valley, Dry Creek Valley and perhaps have your friend meet you where you are.

                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                        I will have to disagree a little bit.... as a transplant from L.A... I can say driving around here is much different than driving in L.A... one of the reasons I fell for this place is how easy it is to get on a scenic road... this coming from someone who really, really hates traffic. Don't over do it... but the scenic drives are part of the attraction here.

                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                          Agree it's not like LA, by far. But if you're racing around to meet someone on unfamiliar roads, rather than leisurely driving to enjoy the view, then that defeats the purpose. I still think concentrating on one area a day is the best strategy, rather than racing from one area to another then back to another in a single day.

                                                          I don't think the jaunt into the city of Sonoma for dinner at Cafe Le Haye is justified, given that Hungry & Co. are in the Alexander Valley for the day.Hungry should have the day in Alex Valley to enjoy the wineries and Jimtown and scenery, and then head for dinner at one of the many fine restaurants a stone's throw away in Healdsburg. I recognize you may have a different viewpoint, Nopal. My sense is that the friends, if they are able, should drive up to Healdsburg to meet Hungry.

                                            2. re: HungryLA

                                              "3rd night:... Dinner Taverna Santi or cook on our grill at our cottage overlooking vineyard."

                                              i'll echo irish foodie above, and encourage you to have dinner at santi. truly outstanding food. my favorite dish there is the spaghettini....if you like rustic pasta dishes, this will send you to heaven.

                                              healdsburg is a gem of a town. enjoy!

                                              1. re: HungryLA

                                                On your third day, when you're walking Healdsburg, try lunch at Bovolo, which is in the back of Plaza farms on the plaza, right next door to Toyon Books. John Stewart, the co-owner, is famous for his salumi, which he learned from Armandino Batali (Mario's dad), and the restaurant was graded favorably by Zagat. The pork cheek sandwich is now infamous.

                                                House-made gelato flavors change with the staff's whims, and the wine selection is pretty decent.

                                                And out on Dry Creek Road, try to stop by David Coffaro's winery. His wines are very good, especially the zins, and he loves to blend. And David and his staff are great fun.


                                              2. There are a ton of posts on the area, just search on Napa 2007 and you will get recent threads...
                                                Mid week in wine country can be trying if you want a higher end dinner. Many places are closed Tues/wed for dinner.

                                                1. Just spent three nights at a Healdsburg B&B. It was a truly wonderful experience, the like of which I have not yet seen. I need to move there. But, I first need to hit the lottery.

                                                  The wineries range from in-town tasting storefronts to drives as far as you can stand to the wineries themselves. Restaurants are to die for. I never saw such an assemblage of dining establishments in such a small venue, and I have every intention of going back there until I have sampled most of them.

                                                  The first day there, prior to checking in at the B&B, we stopped at Willi's Seafood and raw bar around 2 PM, and we both had the Lobster Roll with Fennel and garlic butter, with a glass of Piper Heidseick or two - fantastic pairing! Then we went there for dinner that same night. The small plates/tapas concept is something that needs to be much more widespread in this country. Needless to say, I love this place, and will be back many more times. My wife and I probably sampled about 8 or 9 plates, and were never bored or disappointed. Their by-the-glass selections are decent for both still wine and champagne, but their beer selections need some expansion.

                                                  The second night we dined at Cyrus, and it was one of the most transcendent dining experiences of my life (no, I have not yet been to TFL, despite trying). We had dined the previous Sunday night at Michael Mina in SF, and at that time, we thought that it couldn't get much better than that. We were so wrong - as far as I'm concerned, the sheer imagination, presentation, execution, and overall dining pleasure at Cyrus was noticeably better than Michael Mina, and we had the Chef's Tasting Menu at both places, with the paired wines in both cases. For my money, Cyrus is one of the best bets in the whole SF/Wine Country area. I would dine there weekly if I could afford it.

                                                  We dined at Madrona Manor our last night, and after Cyrus, to call it anti-climax would be much too charitable. It was very good, mind you, but totally lacked the excitement and totally-involved experience at Cyrus. As much as I enjoyed it, it did not excite at all.

                                                  As far as winery stops go, I found the one at J Winery to be the most interesting and elaborate, in that they served four different canape-size items, one with each of the four wines in the flight. I had never had their wines before, but had seen them on the shelves of various liquor stores I patronize, and now feel compelled to explore them further. I would visit them again. We also visited Gary Farrell on Westside Road, which has a wondrous view from their tasting room, as well as a peacock that resisted yielding my parking space until it was good and ready. There were several other wineries in our self-directed tour, and they were all interesting to varying degrees, but with the diversity and range of choices out there, I would always vote for new venues.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: ExerciseMoreToEatMore

                                                    Fantastic review Exercise. I am very excited, thank you!!!
                                                    I agree, the drive to Sonoma is proably a bit retarded of an idea. But, we'll see how the day goes and make the decision then (reser is in place). Can't wait to post my trip!!

                                                    1. re: HungryLA

                                                      Had a great time and thanks everyone for your help!

                                                      TRIP REPORT:
                                                      Drove in thru Napa and stopped at Market in St Helena for our first meal. Great food and great lunch options, loved the atmosphere. Had a steak and cheese sandwich and a glass of Rose. Hubby had 1/2 dozen raw oysters and the mac n' cheese which he could not stop raving about. Good eats! Drove on beautiful 128 to Sonoma (what a cool road) and stopped at Meeker for a taste. Great mellow place, good for conversation w owners. Not like any other tasting rooms - a must do! Bought a fabulous red. Next was Taverna Santi for dinner which we didn't like at all. The atmosphere or the food. Oh well.

                                                      Next day was Jordan Winery private tour which we really enjoyed. What a beautiful place. Bought some of their delicious Chardonay. Then picnic lunch (warm avocado, chicken and melted cheese sandwich - so good!) in Alexander Valley from Jimtown which was very tastey. For dinner, we drove an hour and a half to Caffe La Haye. Really good food, but not worth the long, boring drive and the fight it induced. Had the lavender beef, it was really good, but I would not drive that far again.

                                                      Next day we tried to get breakfast at Downtown Bakery but they don't serve hot food on Tues or Wed (why not?!). Went next door to a dinery place which was simple and fine. Wandered around town, bought some Flying Goat Coffee for my mom as a gift, browsed the shops and tasted at La Crema and Toad's Hollow. Both good. Had a fantastic lunch at Willi's Raw Bar and LOVED it! Lobster rolls were out of this world, atmosphere was great. Had a great, delicous and long lunch. Went to Safeway and got ribs to grill back at our place for dinner.

                                                      Next day was Dry Creek Valley which was our absolute favorite area. Went to Dry Creek General Store (which we loved - liked better than Jimtown) for picnic supplies and drove out the beautiful West Dry Creek road (the prettiest road in the area in my opinion!) to Preston. Would def drive all the way to the end and then work way back like we did. Had a fabulous picnic at what was one of our favorite wineries (that and Jordan - though very different) and enjoyed our delicous food (i got the salami sandwich which was outstanding, and some cheese) and some wine and the cats! Drove to Bella which was nice and friendly, and then to Michel-Schumberger for our tour. Nice tour and tasting, pretty grounds and great wine. Then back home to rest before... Cyrus! Got there early to try a cocktail at the famous bar and talked with the famous bartender. Very nice guy and very professional. The drinks were pretty good though a little disappointing. Then was our 7 course tasting with 3 half bottles of wine through out (a champagne to start, a white and then a red). Thought this was a fine compromise to the wine pairing and were glad to save a few bucks. The food was great and the experience really fun, but I was a little exhausted by the end. Next time I would do the 7 course tasting for lunch instead. Think that would be more fun and energetic. Cost us $410 for 2, plus $70 at the bar (we gave a big tip.)

                                                      Last day we had to cancel our lunch at J Winery because the thought of caviar or really any food (OR wine) was a little much after Cyrus, and 4 days in the area. Instead we drove out to Bodega Bay and ate at Inn of the Tides. It was okay. The drive was beauitful (we drove out on the 12, and then up the 1 and then into Russian River Valley). Liked the drive on the 12 a lot. Wish we had waited and past Inn at the Tides and eaten just north at this little shack type place for fisherman I can't remember the name of. Looked really, really cool though and more of what we had in mind. Definetly eat there if you can. Drove up to Jenner and enjoyed the beautiful beaches. Then into the Russian River Valley and home. That area seemed a little dingy to me but perhaps we missed it (we only drove through). Last night dinner was Mirepoix in Windsor which was FABULOUS! A must do! Great size, great food, great atmosphere and great service. Had the fantastic french onion soup, the sweet breads and the delicious saddened chocolate cake. Was very full by the end. Would eat here once a week if I lived in the area! Loved it.

                                                      Drove out through Napa again which we really enjoyed - direct comparison of the two was neat. Grabbed a sandwich at the Original Oakville Grocery which was very cool and crowded, and delicious.

                                                      All in all, a great trip with great food! Loved the place we stayed in - Healdsburg Country Gardens (private, beautiful and only $140/night!) and loved lunch at Willi's Raw Bar, sandwiches from Dry Creek General Store and dinner at Mirepoix best. Preston, Meeker and Jordan for wineries. Thank you all so much for all your help!