TRAVEL: When in Healdsburg
Written by Alexandra Sharova
When planning a girls’ getaway the main criteria is that the place must be drivable, darling, and “drink-friendly,”—making a weekend in Healdsburg, California a no-brainer. Just north of infamous Napa, this quaint town is the ideal spot to escape crowds, while taking in all the wonder wine country has to offer. In an effort to avoid planes, and enjoy the California coast, my friend Kara and I opt for a scenic drive to our destination. Like clockwork, we pull up at peak golden hour to Harmon Guest House to catch a glow upon playful vines that adorn downtown. The contemporary building itself is a stark contrast from the neighboring historic plaza, yet the European look and layout seek to foster community through an array of public spaces and welcoming nooks—just like the town’s founder Harmon Heald intended.
On our walk up to the room I spot multiple “hang out” spots—scattered hideaways, both in and outdoors—that appear ideal for everything from a morning coffee with one of the property’s many book offerings, to a quick business Zoom call. Our room boasts a spacious layout marked by modern minimalism; light oak accents, hints of navy, and multi-colored pillows and throws are met with photographs of Healdsburg throughout the years. Given the long drive, Kara and I forgo exploring. Instead, we slip into plush matching robes and opt for a delicious complimentary bottle of red on the airy balcony; where we just as naturally slip into deep conversation that lasts into the night.
For breakfast, we take the short walk to Costeaux French Bakery, just a few blocks away. The café is overflowing with the intoxicating scent of freshly baked pastries. With traditional offerings like hearty omelets and a Croque Monsieur, it’s hard to choose...especially with the assortment of baked goods, tarts, and cakes taunting me with the sweetest allure. Since this is technically meant to be a break from reality, we agree to live the weekend fully. And live we do...meaning, we start the day by splitting three slices of cake, two pastries, a chocolate croissant, and various cookies. My favorite of the bunch is the coconut cake; its crunchy flakes perfectly complement the otherwise velvet-like texture. Post-gluttonous breakfast we make our way to the serene pool, for some reading and sunbathing. Being in the fresh air near the hotel’s tranquil creek is the break we were craving—it makes me forget about all the chaos, if only for a while.
Our afternoon plans naturally consist of wine tasting, and in an effort to soak up the absolute most of the valley’s beauty we opt for biking to a winery a few miles away. We grab two bikes—compliments of the hotel—and ride off. The first stop is the General Store, to fill our picnic basket with wine-pairing necessities. The artisanal delight is packed with local favorites, a collection of meats, cheeses, and antipasto snacks, as well as truffle chips, fresh bread, jams, and my personal favorite, deli pickles. We load up for our makeshift cheese board and continue to Dry Creek Winery. The warm air beats against me as I make my way up a winding road lined with golden fields. Fruitful vineyards periodically pop up along the way, adding to the surrealness of the experience—an open road for just you and your friend amidst a world turned upside down. Hot and thirsty, we pull up to the vineyard. Thankfully, the winery is shaded by lush trees. In fact, the entire grounds are covered with every shade of green imaginable, from climbing vines to feathery bushes and flowers. Our tasting begins with the Fumé Blanc. The signature wine, a Sauvignon Blanc made of several grapes of the variety, is cool and crisp—it’s the exact refreshment we needed after our journey. The second Sauv is citrusy, but lighter than the previous—the kind of wine you can drink all day. Our sommelier tells us useful tips about choosing wine and explains the winery’s history, in-between pours. As we swirl the “Petit Zin,” we learn that this region is one of the best in California for Zinfandel grapes, which makes sense as the Rosé may be the best I’ve ever had. We move onto full-bodied reds and find out that the winery was the first to open in Dry Creek after the prohibition, with founder David Stare planting the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the area.
Thoroughly satiated, and mildly tipsy, it’s time to head back...by bike of course. The ride back is slower, likely due to our overflowing laughter, but it’s simultaneously sobering thanks to the hilly path. We make it back to Harmon Guest House in time to clean ourselves up and catch the sunset from The Rooftop, the hotel’s bar—the perfect way to wrap up our visit. Overlooking Fitch Mountain, the Sonoma hills, and downtown Healdsburg while enjoying delectable oysters and fruity craft cocktails, we find the peaceful pause we'd been craving for months.