Visit Healdsburg for Small Town Charm
By Rebecca Horrigan
For a city teeming with heavy hitters in the wine and food scene, Healdsburg manages to maintain an irresistible small town charm and relaxed vibe. Think - Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls but with Michelin starred restaurants and local wine thrown in. This makes it the perfect destination to enjoy a weekend of wining, dining, and natural beauty.
As soon as my sister and I giddily arrived at The Lodge at Healdsburg, a Tapestry Collection Hotel by Hilton, we were greeted with the same jubilant energy by the caring front desk professionals. The freshly opened hotel features 60 villa-style guest rooms which strike that perfect Healdsburg balance of high quality without being ostentatious. The large white columns and tall trees surrounding The Lodge are reminiscent of a Tuscan village and cue the palate for delectable vino to come.
The Lodge at Healdsburg (courtesy photo)
When we opened the door to our room, it instantly felt like home. A luxurious freestanding tub caught my sister’s eye, while I bolted toward the adorable little fireplace. The vibrant local artwork, Nespresso machine, sweet little balcony overlooking the heated pool, and the wildly-comfortable bed, all conspired to make The Lodge a place we never wanted to leave.
The Lodge at Healdsburg (courtesy photo)
But the magic of downtown Healdsburg was calling our names and we hopped in a quick Uber to our first tasting at Marine Layer Wines. Upon entering, I felt like I was in a Healdsburg catalog, in the best way. Immaculately clean and inviting, the gentle lighting, pops of color on each little table, romantic fireplace, and knowledgeable service made for a picture perfect start on our journey.
Being from Santa Barbara, I’ve had my share of Marine Layer’s headlining wines, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but these Northern Californian varieties sang of refreshingly new flavors. A favorite was their Lyra Pinot Noir, bright and light with layers of fruit and spice, the soft tannins and easy elegance of this wine beckoned me to lean back in my seat and soak up the terroir of the Sonoma Coast.
Marine Layer Wine and snacks from Little Saint
After a busy day of travel, their Mezze Plate, from nearby vegan hotspot Little Saint, full of farm-fresh dips, was an ideal partner for our flights. For a healthy breakfast or lunch, glass of thoughtfully-selected wine, or creative and casual dinner, Little Saint is a great visit on its own. Just be sure to order their bread from local bakery Quail & Condor paired with cultured cashew dip and their shockingly delicious vegan Caesar salad loaded with freshly-baked sourdough and olive oil croutons.
After our tasting at Marine Layer, we headed a minute down the street to the highlight meal of our trip – dinner at Roof 106, The Matheson’s dreamy rooftop eatery and cocktail lounge. This stunning spot, boasts stellar views of downtown Healdsburg and some of the best service I’ve experienced.
Roof 106 (courtesy photo)
We kicked off our meal with a bottle of Chef and owner, Dustin Valette’s Valette Rose of Pinot Noir and placed our orders for their enticing Restaurant Week tasting menu. Although this menu isn’t around forever, it’s indicative of the ever-changing nature of The Matheson. With a focus on seasonality, Valette showcases local artisans and the freshest produce of the moment.
Our meal started off with my new favorite form of fry - Delicata Squash Fries. From there, Roof 106 just played one hit after another, with a mouthwatering burrata salad, pork belly bites, and a fresh pepperoni pizza. Despite our full bellies, we could never turn down dessert and tucked into a comforting apple crisp topped with creme fraiche. Truly every aspect of this restaurant sings of quality, care, and warmth. I can’t wait to go back.
The next morning after a delightful latte and smoothie at The Lodge, we headed into town to try out local favorite Black Oak Coffee Roasters. Their perfectly foamy matcha latte and avocado toast served on freshly griddled bread and topped with zaatar and Easter radish is absolutely an avocado toast worth dining out for. Their Lox Bagel is also a must-try, or really anything from their menu created by their welcoming Chef Beryl Adler.
After browsing the bevy of art galleries and boutiques, we were ready for our next treat and popped into Costeaux Bakery for some baked goods. The legendary bakery opened its doors in 1923, and with one bite of their dazzling morning bun or chocolate chip cookie, you can see why this spot is not only featured at The Lodge, but also at the Santa Rosa Airport and tons of other spots around town. The warm service from Chuy, who eagerly recommended a French loaf and his favorite spritz cookies made a visit to their flagship location a bright spot in our day.
Avocado toast at Black Oak Coffee
With a solid base of various breads and beverages, we took a quick Uber to Unti Vineyards. Soaking up views of rolling hills, vineyard vines, and strangely enough – snow on the mountains, we felt grateful for the diverse natural beauty of California.
Unti’s 60-acre estate features organically grown Italian and Rhone varietals, from a zesty Sangiovese, to a bold Syrah. Owner and winemaker, Mick Unti greeted us, and we dove straight into a lingering, jovial, and educational experience. As we learned about Mick’s passion for Italian grapes, my sister and I shared about our Italian heritage as well and discovered that our ancestors come from the same region in Italy.
Rebecca with Mick Unti tasting wine from the barrel
When noting how I opened my heart to white wines while studying abroad in Italy and found my favorite in Bologna, Mick was all ears. Unti proudly produces some of the best Italian whites as well, and although he didn’t have the vermentino out for tasting, he eagerly took us into the barrel room to try some fresh from the concrete egg it was fermenting in. Floral and zippy with a delightful acidity, I had to take a bottle home.
I was excited to share this with my friends, of course, but also eager to have a keepsake to remember the wining and dining lesson that reveals itself over and over again: It’s not just the food or the drink - it’s the people, their stories, and the moments of connection you share that make the experience.
Wine tasting at Unti Vineyards
Our time in Healdsburg was rich in all of this. On Sunday morning, as we said goodbye to the gracious staff at The Lodge, who felt like newfound friends in the same way Mick Unti felt like a long-lost relative, I knew that this was only a temporary farewell to a city that so sweetly sauntered into my heart.
Rebecca is a teacher, writer, and lover of food & wine. She enjoys sharing her travel experiences with the Santa Barbara community.