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Healdsburg Plaza.

A Day As A Healdsburg Local

By Published On: June 26th, 2022

Tasting, Learning And Dining the Way We Do, Without Breaking the Bank

There is no question that Healdsburg, located in Northern Sonoma County, is a popular wine country destination and, for a tourist, there are dozens of wineries to visit, plenty of restaurants and a variety of stunning hotels. But, as a local, how do we do Healdsburg, enjoy it, learn about the wines and not break the bank….and maybe meet a few friends along the way?

I have lived in Healdsburg for more than twenty years and am still amazed every time I drive up route 101 between the rolling hills and exit to find an approachable, adorable small town that has evolved over the years to be a sophisticated destination without sacrificing charm.

Town Of Healdsburg

First, choose your winery visits wisely and plan ahead a bit. I like to experience those wineries that have added to the history of this area and the reputation of our wines. I know that Healdsburg is trending, but I really appreciate those families that contributed to these valleys. (Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley)

Although you must be strategic, there is a way to visit all three valleys that converge in this town centered by its charming Plaza.

Healdsburg Plaza Hotel, Shops and Restaurants
Healdsburg Plaza Hotel, Shops and Restaurants. Photo Courtesy: Hotel Healdsburg

Follow me and you will drink well, learn the history of wine in Sonoma County, eat local and possibly enjoy some live music if you hit the town on the right night.

Pedroncelli Winery

Start at Pedroncelli Winery, a true family operation that is the oldest continuing winery in Dry Creek Valley and try their highly rated (Wine Spectator 91 pts) Sauvignon Blanc, old vine Zinfandels and fantastic red blends – all at attractive prices since they own their land and have been perfecting winemaking for decades.. Say hi to Julie Pedroncelli, her dad, Jim, or husband Ed St. John.

Pedroncelli Winery tasting room interior.

Ridge Vineyards Is All About Sustainability

Working back toward Healdsburg, stop at Ridge VIneyards Lytton Springs. Although this facility is a bit newer, founder Paul Draper started in Montebello in the Santa Cruz Mountain and is a serious about sustainability and preserving our land and heritage for the future. Ridge Vineyards is housed in a building built of hay bales that preserve warmth in winter and cool in summer.

The wines consist of Zinfandels from a variety of vineyards, Rhone varietals like Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre and more obscure varieties like Carginane. Sit on their patio and see one of the oldest vineyards in the County, sparse but still producing. Kudos to Ridge for preserving it.

Ridge VIneyards Lytton Springs vineyard view.

Tuesday Nights Music in the Plaza

The historic Healdsburg Plaza is the heart of the city and where you will find hundreds of locals enjoying excellent live music every Tuesday in the summer beginning at 5 pm.

What’s For Lunch?

Head into Healdsburg and lunch at local favorite Mexican restaurant, El Farolito, where I always order the roasted veggie burrito but other friends swear by the tortilla soup. This filling and delicious meal won’t break the bank. Alternatively, try the Thai Mezzaluna at Oakville Grocery. It’s a salad in a pizza crust and can feed two!

Burrito at El Farolito restaurant in Healdsburg.
El Farolito Healdsburg

Can You Pronounce Bacigalupi? At Least You Can Drink It

From the Plaza head southwest to Westside Road and the Russian River Valley. Pass Orsi, Bacchus Landing, Walt, the newly renovated Madrona Hotel, Landmark, Rochioli, Macrostie and Flowers then look for a small sign indicating Bacigalupi Vineyards on the right. Impossible to pronounce but tasting here introduces you to one of the most renowned Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel vineyards in Sonoma County.

Some of the most prized wines come from fruit bearing the single vineyard designation of Bacigalupi and this is the chance to taste the family’s own wines, probably poured by one of the daughters who run the operation.

Bacigalupi Vineyards wine.

Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Alternatively, try Alexander Valley Vineyards, one of the founding wineries of the Cabernet Sauvignon haven called the Alexander Valley, pass Jordan Winery, Stonestreet Winery, Silver Oak Winery (also good choices) and end up at the family-owned AVV with a stunning view from the winery’s patio and a solid array of wines, including their proprietary Cyrus, a Bordeaux blend named for the Valley’s founding father.

Guests tasting wine at Alexander Valley Vineyards
Tasting at Alexander Valley Vineyards

Happy Hour Like A Local

For dinner, opt for happy hour (5:30-7 pm weekdays, 5-7 pm weekends) at Hotel Healdsburg and its Spirit Bar for bargain wines and cocktails as well as an array of food prepared at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen. Like a $14 burger and fries from a rock star chef. On Friday listen to local music and on Saturday, enjoy jazz as a tribute to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival taking place each year in June.

Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg.
Dry Creek Kitchen

Healdsburg and the surrounding valley have so much to offer – even after 20 years, I’m still finding new pleasures. But if you start with these, I believe you’ll have a wonderful and memorable day.

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