Returning to Healdsburg for a quick one-day getaway, we stayed down on the Plaza at the Hotel Healdsburg.
The 56-room hotel is an ideal location for wine tasting at the more than 20 tasting rooms within an easy stroll or for picking dining spots that range from the fine dining at the Dry Creek Kitchen by Charlie Palmer in the Healdsburg Hotel or the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant or our choice, the Healdsburg Bar & Grill. For a city of less than 12,000 people, Healdsburg provides many, many options for visitors who enjoy wine and fine dining to stay nothing of boutique or antique shopping.
The hotel building is modern with steel, wood and concrete the dominant themes. Rooms feature king-sized beds, small tables and chairs, a mini-fridge with complimentary snacks (nuts, cookies, chips and a bottle of wine). The bathroom centered on an immense soaking tub—it might be useful now that drought restrictions have been lifted in Sonoma County. Toiletries were custom-made Lavender, Rosemary and Blood Orange hair conditioner, Meyer Lemon and Sage shampoo and bath gel and Lavender, Rosemary and Orange Blossom lotion (all are available for purchase and offered in 8-ounce bottles for $15).
Rooms include a wonderful breakfast buffet with made-to-order eggs as well as a full range of fruits, juices, coffees and Prosecco. It served downstairs in the bar and lobby area and available to hotel guests as well as business folks looking for a quiet spot for a morning meeting.
There’s a spa onsite as well as swimming pool on the backside of the property that is ideal for lounging. The staff makes it easy to get around the area by offering a variety of bicycles as well as encouraging guests to stay hydrated with both sparkling and still water refillable glass bottles in the in-room fridge.
The bar & grill is right across Matheson Street from the hotel and the sports bar there was perfect for opening night of the Sharks-Blues series and easy to track with eight screens in the bar and dining room. The HBG (taken right off the logo) features its signature hamburgers that can be tailored to your tastes as well as other sandwiches and salads.
The beer list is expansive and there’s a full bar as well as a fairly priced and a representative wine list. We waited a couple of minutes for a table inside, but there was a longer wait for the expansive patio seating that was an ideal spot for a warm May afternoon, complete with play space for children.
The one food spot you should not miss—if you like ice cream or heritage pies—is Noble Folk, located a few storefronts east of the bar and grill. Custom-made ice cream with unique ingredients is offered along with a few pies of the day.
Ice cream flavors when we stopped by included Single Origin Stumptown Coffee and Matcha Almond Green Tea that I enjoyed in a bowl. You are welcome to sample up to three ice creams when it is busy to help make your choice. Do take advantage of the samples before deciding.
At the recommendation of the hotel general manager, we started tasting next door at Hartford Family Winery. The estate winery is located southwest in Forestville, but the tasting room in town provides a full range of its offerings that focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Only two wines are distributed to upscale restaurants so the only way to buy the wines are the tasting rooms and wine club. A large map posted on the wall allowed our pourer, Jim, to show where the grapes were grown for the various wines.
The winery, founded in 1994, makes about 10 Pinot Noirs and an equal number of Chardonnays, most from single vineyards which allows Jeff Stewart (who personally oversees the harvests and has been making wine in Sonoma County for more than 25 years) to maximize the terroir. The wines have been served at many White House events since 1996 and are very much worth a taste. The fee is $15 for tasting up to six wines (they also make a wonderful Old Vine Zinfandel), while a wine and cheese pairing is $45 with reservations required.
Jim recommended we try another family-owned winery, Williamson Wines located on Matheson Street just beyond the Oakville Grocery, an ideal spot to pick up a sandwich for lunch or a bottle of wine.
Like Hartford, Williamson does not distribute its wines, selling them from the tasting room and to wine club members. They offer complimentary tasting with wines paired with cheeses and chocolates.
It’s a place that invites you to linger, particularly on a weekday afternoon when it was not busy. Bill Williamson, a native Australian who moved to Sonoma County after building a successful business Down Under, favors the French approach to wine making so his various offerings fall under categories such as: Bordeaux (Noble Ones and Meritage blends) as well as Burgundy, Rhone and Esoteric where the fun-loving Australian comes out. These include two sparkling wines as well as a rose.
Each wine also has a playful name: these range from Perky, Tango and Seduce to Allure, Ravish and Clarissa.
The winery is committed to pairing food and wine so the team offers eight different tastings, ranging from the complimentary Fridge Foods and Fine Wines to three $75 pairings. In addition to their wine club, they also sell gourmet foods in the shop as well as quarterly shipping of cheese to pair with wines. Unexpectedly, we spent the better part of an hour there and enjoyed every minute.
We will return and certainly recommend visitors include Williamson in their tasting plans.
Incidentally, staying downtown is very convenient to the Healdsburg Golf Club at Tayman Park, which is just a mile away on Matheson Street. We played nine holes in around two hours (we were held up by a slow twosome in front of us)—it would have been easy to play in 90 minutes with a cart.