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Walnut Creek Magazine


Nov 13, 2019 11:45AM ● By Cale Finta

Unparalleled indulgences lie ahead in Sonoma’s hippest small town 

By Pam Kessler

Located in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, a little over an hour from Walnut Creek, Healdsburg has long been a draw for oenophiles who prefer a slightly less commercial experience than Napa. At the center of three world-class wine growing regions—the Russian River, Alexander and Dry Creek Valley—new tasting rooms are popping up downtown at a record pace including Selby, La Crema, Banshee, Kendall Jackson, Seghesio, and Ferrari-Carano.  Even as Healdsburg has evolved over the past decade into a chic hamlet drawing star chefs, vintners, hoteliers, and restauranteurs from around the globe, it manages to retain an authentic and down-to-earth welcoming vibe.

If anything solidified the small town’s shift toward the stylish, it was the opening of Relais & Chateaux’s sophisticated Hotel Les Mars in 2005. Sixteen elegantly appointed rooms envelope discriminating guests in ultimate luxury. The only Forbes-rated property in Sonoma County, the hotel is an oasis of old school European charm. After a day of wine tasting, sink into a deep hydrotherapy tub and plush Egyptian cotton sheets with colossal down pillows on the four-poster antique bed. A French breakfast is served in-room and afternoon wine and cheese are paired in the lobby,

Complimentary Chardonnay and Bordeaux style red wine tastings, at proprietor Bill Foley’s wineries, such as Chalk Hill, Roth, Lancaster, and Foley Sonoma, add to the extraordinary experience.

Wine lounges, restaurants, and shops are outside your door. It’s easy to spend several hours browsing the blocks around Healdsburg’s redwood-lined square, sampling local charcuterie at Journeyman Meat Co., tasting focaccia at Downtown Bakery, and sipping the complex roasts at Flying Goat Coffee. For art lovers, there are dozens of galleries and eclectic places like Studio Bardiva to explore. The patio at Bear Republic is a good spot for burgers and Racer 5 IPA’s. At Mateo’s Cocina Latina, Yucatán flavors shine in tortilla cones filled carne asada and sea-salt tortillas layered with shredded rock cod.

Destination restaurants have proliferated in Healdsburg, namely 3-Michelin Star Single Thread, and nationally acclaimed Valette. Chefs Kyle Connaughton, along with farmer/wife Katina Connaughton, treat guests to an exclusive 11-course tasting menu experience ($330/pp) at Single Thread showcasing the seasonal bounty from the couple’s farm. Other than the open finishing kitchen that greets guests entering the relegated 55-seat custom dining room, the culinary experience is shrouded in mystique,


Chef Dustin Vallet and his brother Aaron Garzini opened Valette in 2015 rocking the food world with elegant, locally sourced dishes served in a historic building once owned by his great grandfather. The interior features reclaimed wood tables, a spectacular redwood bar, and a custom-made charcuterie locker. The “Trust Me” portion of the menu allows Chef Valette to surprise with a seasonal five-course tasting menu, The sidewalks in Healdsburg roll up early, so if you want a nightcap, slide onto a stool at Spoonbar, the h2’s snazzy watering hole for an old-fashioned made with chai-infused bourbon.


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