Healdsburg Winery report
Day 1: Bella: Best winery during our 2 days. Very small, unpretentious, excellent wines; tasting in a cave; gentleman who gave us tastes was extremely knowledgeable and friendly.
Ferrari-Carano: Pretty gardens but commercial, pretentious and snooty. Quivera: very small winery, good wine, unpretentious. Dry Creek Olive Oil Co: very good olive oils and nice people. Rosenblum Tasting Room (downtown): pretentious, unfriendly and tastings were the size of an eye drop. Stayed at the Honor Mansion: gorgeous Inn, very hospitable hosts, excellent breakfast, between 4-6 pm cheese plates, artichoke dip, red and white wine. The people at the Honor Mansion go out of their way to make sure that whatever you want or need, they will see to it. Dinner at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar: pretty good.
Day 2: Went to 2 Tasting Rooms in Downtown, both excellent: Kendall Jackson where "Uncle Frank" was great and the wines were very good too. Uncle Frank sent us over to his friend, Jim at Toad Hollow and Jim was great too as well as the wines. Both tastings at Kendall Jackson and Toad Hollow were free. Mauritson Winery: very friendly staff, unpretentious, very good wine. Porter Creek: small, unpretentious but wines were not so good. Last stop was Gary Farrell, looked very commercial and we opted not to do the $15 tasting (most wineries were free or $5) as we were kind of "wined out". Lunch of Cheeseburger and Fries at Healdsburg Bar and Grill: very tasty burger and fries and very reasonanably priced.
Thank you for the report back. We rarely get them from people who do the whole wine tasting thing! We locals rely on people to help narrow the options, so your report is very helpful.
Gary Farrell is definitely more commercial these days as it has been bought out (though I think Gary still consults somewhat). The wines are quite good and the pours are generous so the $15 is not too bad a deal if you are really interested in trying their wines. But generally I try to avoid places with tasting fees in the Dry Creek and the Russian River Valley. In that general area, Swan is a nice cozy unpretentious place to taste some great wines.