Life in Healdsburg Sonoma County Wine tourism

Spend some time in Dry Creek Valley

A few nights ago, I went out for After Hours at the Ravenous Restaurant here in Healdsburg. That is, I went just to hang out and get a bit of conversation and meet some interesting people before I turned in myself. Ravenous is a local restaurant in an old house on Center Street. The entire backyard is the backyard patio and bar. It’s a pretty cool atmosphere. I like showing up later–you meet more locals (everybody who’s getting off of their shifts from somewhere else).

I ended up talking to two out-of-town gentlemen who’d met one another at law school in London, England. One was living in Hong Kong now, the other–still in London. They were both here on holiday getting a bit of the California sun.

You couldn’t ask for a better outdoor evening than that night. It was warm enough to sit outside in sleeveless tops. (And I know you’re thinking: “Well it is California after all!”), but we often get fog here late at night, and it cools everything off and adds some humidity to the air–so bare arms are often chilly late at night. But, that night was a perfectly warm summer evening.

I said hello to KC Mosso, the bartender, and talked to him about sending me the listings for his events he books over there. And once I’m seated at the bar, I turned around and started talking to these two gentlemen.

They’d made it to Healdsburg after a few days in San Francisco. They were a bit tired, but they did ask where I could recommend they should go visit the next day. I asked KC for a piece of paper and a pen. He handed me an extra menu from behind the bar and took a pen from his pocket. Thanks KC!

They were only planning half a day or so in the area before they headed over to Carneros. I gave them a full day itinerary–just in case. There really is a lot to see here and it’s better to enjoy an entire day than just rush in and out. Anyway, I thought I would write up the route I gave them and post it here. It’s pretty useful information if you don’t really have much time to spend in the area and it’s got a bit of variety.

BREAKFAST and MORNING

Start early. It’s important to have breakfast. There’s a number of places you can have breakfast in town, it all depends on what you’d like to eat. If you’re on a time line, like these guys were, you probably want to grab a breakfast sandwich (or something). I know that the Costeaux Bakery Cafe and the Palette-Art Cafe both offer breakfast sandwiches. You can usually just ask for a recommendation at the counter. The servers really do know best.

Take your breakfast to go and head on up to Lake Sonoma. Lake Sonoma’s about 20 minutes from the town of Healdsburg (at the top end of Dry Creek Road) and you don’t want your breakfast to get cold.

Find the lookout and enjoy your breakfast in the fresh air. Depending on how much time you have, you can hike around up there or just take goofy pictures of you and your friends.

BY THIS TIME, IT MIGHT BE 11AM OR SO

On the way back down, you can visit any winery that’s open along the way. Here’s a link to an interactive map. But, there are a few I like to note from my own preference and experiences. My friend Shana Ray, who helped promote the Day-in-the-Life event last month and also contributes articles to this magazine works at Kokomo on Fridays. You could always stop in and say hello to her. If you twitter, let her know you are coming: @ShaRayRay.

One day this winter, I had the fortune to try Papapietro Perry’s 2005 Pinot Noir and it made and impression on me. I don’t know much about wine, but I do know what I like. And I liked their 2005 Pinot enough for me to recommend trying their other tastings.

There are a few other wineries clustered in and about Kokomo and Papapietro Perry: Amphora, Collier Falls, Forth, and Peterson. I’ve never tried any of these wines (but I’m sure I will–eventually). You could always try them and comment below. That would be great.

A bit further south and across the road from this cluster is a vineyard and tasting room called UNTI. They weren’t even on my radar until one day I started talking to Mick Unti himself (at an After Hours at the Ravenous). He was full of opinions about life, the universe, and everything. And it’s just refreshing to meet somebody local who has a few interesting things to say.

Also, I like the back label on the 2006 UNTI rose. It’s not listed on their website, so I guess you can’t get it anymore, but it was a story–about rose. I like stories. I like to connect with people over stories. That’s just the way I am. Actually, I like the rose too. So there. I guess I tried the 2007 though. It’s refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. Mick is going to admonish me for publishing all this, if he ever finds out. But–whatever, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. You can just go in and try the wines yourself and see if you like them. That’s the best way.

BY THIS TIME, IT MIGHT BE 1:30 or 2:00PM

You’ll probably be hungry so stop for lunch out at the Dry Creek General Store (at the turn off for Lambert Bridge Road). Since Dry Creek Road and the Skaggs Springs Road are two of the most popular roads in the county for motorcycling, you’ll often see a gaggle of bikers stopped there too. Or–a gaggle of cyclists. And–most probably, a gaggle of other wine tasters. Stop and compare notes. It’s all about you experience. After lunch you can head across Lambert Bridge Road to West Dry Creek.

It’s probably best if you go on up to the north end of the road. You can wind your way back through any of the wineries. Everybody has an experience. Everybody has an opinion. You decide which ones you like.

Although, if you are out in Dry Creek, and it is a Friday afternoon, stop by Michel Schlumberger Winery or or Wilson Winery. They have a series of live music on Fridays. On Sunday afternoons, C. Donatiello Winery has music too. It’s nice just to hang out in the gardens and enjoy the afternoon. (Check the What’s Happening Healdsburg calendar for more details).

When you finally make your way back into Healdsburg and ask a local where they’d recommend you for dinner. AND don’t forget to ask what they like on the menu. There is a reason we live here. And we know what we like. And we’re definitely full of opinions!

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