Your Ultimate Guide to Wine Country's Hidden Gem

The gorgeous and welcoming interior at Spoonbar, located in downtown healdsburg, ca.

The gorgeous and welcoming interior at Spoonbar, located in downtown healdsburg, ca.

Located a mere hour and a half's drive north of San Francisco (that's about 65 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge), the charming town of Healdsburg, CA, is the perfect wine country weekend getaway.

For busy city dwellers and Bay Area visitors alike, the town is still fairly under-the-radar — which, if you ask me, is ideal for those accustomed to the chaos fueled by Napa and Sonoma during the summertime months. 

So why Healdsburg, you ask? Think cozy tasting rooms and wineries, plus local bistros brimming with delicious organic and farm-to-table eats to nosh on.

Every block has at least one winery — sometimes two. If that's not enough to draw you in, fellow winos, consider this: It's all about the experience while visiting this hidden wine country gem. 

And if you're looking for that truly well-rounded experience while visiting, sign up for one of SAVOR Healdsburg's walking food and wine tours! You won't regret it — I certainly didn't. Now let me walk you through the places that gave me a taste for this little northern Sonoma Valley town.

Photos are my own, unless stated otherwise.

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The Taste of Tea

The Taste of Tea is a lounge that offers a unique culinary experience combining, in their words, "art and science." The menu is replete with delicious tea and specialty drinks, along with tasting flights and more. They also offer spa services in their Relaxation Lounge.  

If you're like me and grew up drinking tea, you'll love this place — and leave with an incredible wealth of newfound knowledge on the subject.

You can also opt for a gemstone-infused water tasting flight — but only if you're into radiating overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing, of course.

Or, if you're a matcha lover (same!), you'll want to try one of their famous, nonalcoholic “marteanis." These are gemstone-infused mocktails served in martini glasses, and created from a mixture of cold drip teas, sweet syrups, fresh herbs, and a delicious sugar-coated rim. Utterly delectable.

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Portalupi Wines

Next I got the chance to stop by the Portalupi Wines tasting room, after the eponymous winery. Portalupi is an open, affable, and family-run tasting room with a focus on Italian varietals, locally produced wines, and the “Cal-Ital" lifestyle.

Perfectly enticing for food and wine pairings, this cozy tasting room is a definite must when making the rounds about town, though it's slightly hidden away. Portalupi also offers a special refillable "wine in a glass milk bottle" deal that can't be beat, especially for those visiting during the week! Take yours to go while settling in for a little picnic at Healdsburg's music in the park plaza events. They take place on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer.

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Bravas Bar de Tapas

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After a long afternoon of wine tasting, your next stop should definitely be award-winning, authentic Spanish tapas restaurant and bar, Bravas Bar de Tapas.

You'll want to settle into a spot on one of the prettiest patios in town, like I did, and dig in to as many delicious small plates and bites as you can possibly manage!

If you're a fan of goat cheese, try the goat cheese toast with caramelized golden onions and white truffle honey.

The Patatas Bravas — fried potatoes with a kickin' hot tomato sauce and garlic aioli drizzled over — are another delicious choice.

The specialty cocktails should not be glazed over, either — with a sparkling sangria option that is just as heavenly as it sounds, or mezcal- and habanero tequila-infused libations like “Feel the Bern," you just can't go wrong.

Young & Yonder Spirits

Newly opened artisan craft distillery Young & Yonder is another must while in Healdsburg. The distillery offers a selection of handcrafted vodka, gin, absinthe, and whiskey. Plus, it's located in an industrial park warehouse, which was recreated into a sumptuous — and spacious — tasting room. Here it's all about the vibe.

Young & Yonder spirits are produced in small batches by husband and wife team, Josh and Sarah Opatz. The two left their homes and careers in San Francisco to make the move up to Sonoma County and realize their dream of opening their own craft distillery. And recently realize it they did, to critical acclaim.

Dry Creek Peach Farm

Although July through August sees Dry Creek Peach Farm's glorious peach season in full swing, I lucked out in that the day of my visit — a breezy, mild day in late May — coincided with the family-run farm's first peach picking! 

When husband and wife duo, Brian Sullivan and Gayle Okumura Sullivan, informed me that their first batch of peaches had sold out in 20 minutes flat (!), I knew I had to try one for myself. And, even as a California girl, I'll never look at any other peach the same way again.

That's not even to mention the delicious peach bellinis Gayle whipped up for me, which we happily sipped on while discussing the ins and outs of the farm, upcoming stone fruit season, and all of the different varietals of peaches they offer, of which there are hundreds. 

She even shared with me that when the New York Times asked Alice Waters what she would order for her last supper, the famous chef and author's response was, “I would have a Last Chance peach. In late August or September."

If it's good enough for Alice Waters, it's certainly good enough for me! So if you're in the area, I would 10/10 recommend making the drive out to Dry Creek Valley to try one of their famous peaches for yourself. Inquiring minds might like to know that the famous Dry Creek peach bellini mix is available for purchase as well.

Spoonbar

Situated in the heart of Healdsburg, Spoonbar is a seafood restaurant and cocktail bar with an array of artisanal craft spirits, cocktails, and local California cuisine on the menu. This uber-swanky lounge has an open, airy interior and colorful decor that serves to place its mouthwatering fare on even more vibrant display.

When I say that Spoonbar's creamy, fluffy Parmesan and pecorino risotto, with little bursts of flavor from the truffle “caviar", is actually life-changing — I mean it. 

Offerings on the wine list and cocktail menu are not to be ignored either. With wines sourced from nearby Russian River and Dry Creek, along with positively divine tequila and whipped egg white-infused libations, like the one pictured here — there are endless options to choose from.

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DaVero Farms & Winery

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DaVero Farms & Winery is, first and foremost, a farm that operates under Biodynamic® principles. 

Nestled as it is within the Mediterranean microclimate of Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, it makes sense that owners Ridgely Evers and Colleen McGlynn made the decision to grow olive trees when they first found the land that became their home farm over 30 years ago. 

Nowadays, though, DaVero is home to far more than just olive groves. A stroll through the grounds surpasses burgeoning gardens and estate vineyards, citrus, lavender, a variety of produce, fruit trees and, yes, those famous olive trees. That's not even including animals like their chickens, sheep, and pigs! 

DaVero is unique in that it also offers a variety of tasting experiences. Because their approach is farming first, they also offer private “farm to bottle" tours of the farm in addition to wine and olive oil tastings, an experience I got the chance to undergo with Colleen. 

Colleen shared that at DaVero, they do not believe in flavor manipulation. Because they are not looking to make wines that are uniform or predictable, that means that they don't always know what they are going to get year in and year out. 

“But that's the beauty of working with what you have out there," Colleen told me. They strive to create wines that elicit “the truest expression of that grape, in that place and time."

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Duchamp Hotel

Lastly, let's just say that the Duchamp Hotel does not fall under your typical wine country digs. Named for legendary 20th-century French surrealist Marcel Duchamp, design aficionados and lovers of an intimate villa experience alike will go wild for the Duchamp.

Additionally, although it's slightly tucked away, the Duchamp is located about two blocks from Healdsburg's main plaza. This makes it a hop, skip and a jump away from the many tasting rooms in the area. 

When you get back from a long day of wining and dining, spacious private bungalows will lend a welcoming overnight experience to your stay there. Perfect for a romantic getaway! Or, if you go solo as I did, ensconcing yourself in one of the lovely bungalow cottages on the hotel property is ideal for some serious downtime.

A version of this article first appeared on Livingly.com. It was also featured on Healdsburg.com.