The way I finally got to Healdsburg is… Last April, the Boston Globe contacted me about licensing some of my images of the Sonoma Wine Country. The Design Director gave me a short list: some I already had, and some I did not. The ones I did not have were all from Healdsburg, and since it was about time I got myself up there, this was the perfect excuse. The request was for photos of downtown Healdsburg and a specific winery.
The deadline was pretty short (aren’t they always!), and the only day I could get to Healdsburg was a Sunday. So this is how you get to take a Sunday morning walk through the very pretty town of Healdsburg with me.
A quick look at google maps (what did we ever do before google maps and Mapquest?) told me that I would find a large public parking near the center of town, so that is where I headed. Healdsburg is small, and streets tend to go up and down, left to right, so it is pretty easy to get around. Once parked, I followed my nose to one of several walkways that lead out of the parking, to the other side of the garden area, and onto one of the streets. It did not matter which one, as I could start anywhere. Following my nose took on a literal meaning when I smelled the roses, which I did stop to admire and, yes, smell. The rose garden was right across from the striking, and unmissable, building in the image above.
SHED looked quite popular as it was very busy. Since I had been asked for images with people (preferably), I snapped one right away, and made a mental note to return later, and not just to find my way back to my car.
Next to that, along North Street, I saw this pretty building (above), which turned out to house the Hotel Les Mars and two restaurants: Chalkboard, and Library at Chalkboard. I was on a mission so I could not stop and explore inside this or any other building, really, but eventually I will, as both restaurants sound wonderful.
I was aiming for the Plaza, so when I reached the corner with Healdsburg Avenue I made a right turn. I was actually surprised that, other than at the Shed, I was not seeing a lot of people walking about. It was past ten am already, so where were all the good people and visitors of Healdsburg?
The Hotel Healdsburg (above) is right across from the Plaza (below), which is a square public garden in the middle of town. It was good to see some people here, mostly families with young children. I figured I would walk around the Plaza and see what it had to offer before meandering further.
Images below: businesses along Matheson Street, south side of the Plaza. Yes, I was tempted to explore inside, but I was good and kept going, as the light was getting stronger by the minute.
On the corner of Matheson and Center Sts I saw a few more people enjoying Sunday morning coffee and company outside the Oakville Grocery, and just a little further on along Center Street I spotted the headquarters of The Healdsburg Tribune. How fitting, I thought, and I took a photo that I knew I would submit to the Boston Globe with the rest.
Across from that I saw this very tempting spa (above), and nearby I photographed this oversize-barn style building, which turned out to be a restaurant called, quite aptly, Barndiva. Barndiva is a farm-to-fork American style restaurant, and everything I have seen and read about them is making me itch to eat there. When I walked past they were just getting ready to open for Sunday lunch/brunch.
Image above: a lovely and lush private courtyard garden.
Image below: Williamson Wines, back along Matheson. As you would expect, wonderful wine tasting rooms abound in Healdsburg.
Image above: St. Paul’s Church on the corner of Matheson and East Sts.
Image below: KIN Smoke – barbecue fare in swanky quarters – along Center Street by the Plaza. Yet another interesting eatery in Healdsburg. It was still closed when I walked by.
And that’s where more people were hiding! Where else, but at the bakery next door! One that I will explore first hand next time. Just as I intend to explore the café and soda fountain further down. Not having grown up in America, I have never been to a soda fountain. Have you? What would you recommend I try?
Towel Vineyards & Winery above left can be found on Matheson Street, while Flying Goat Coffee above right is on Center Street, just past the Plaza, in the Masonic Lodge building.
Just as I reached the very interesting Russian River Tea Company below, the lady dashed out the door with a tray of jars filled with something tempting looking. “We are not open yet. I am just rushing these over to… (I did not catch where) and I will be right back!” she hollered as she rushed off. Mental note: come back and explore this place, too. I mean, come on, they offer tea and chocolate tasting! I have to go back.
After the tea place I looked at the map again because I decided it was time to get to a place I had intended to find when googling images of Healdsburg during my research. I turned right onto North street and walked a couple of blocks, passing the lovely historic Victorian cottage above, until I found it. The exquisite Camellia Inn in the image below, and also at the top of the post. Isn’t it beautiful? Another place for me to explore in depth, as I am a sucker for pretty Victorian homes. When I do, I will of course share with you.
Heading back towards the center of town, I passed more interesting shops, like Dovetail above, which offers custom hand made furniture and other fine woodwork. I saw the above shop on the way to discover the other place where more people were hiding: another bakery! A French style one this time, where you could also enjoy Sunday morning brunch. I sneaked inside and took a couple of quick photos, though taste exploration will have to wait for my next outing. This next outing is starting to sound intense if I am to try all the places I have mentioned, and that is without the ones I have not photographed for one reason or another (bad light, big objects in front blocking the view etc.). I may have to make several trips to Healdsburg, or maybe just go and spend a month there. Hmmm, that sounds like a good idea, maybe even rent a bike since it is all on flat ground. Thinking aloud here.
By the way, Gail, I think this is the bakery you had mentioned I should find. I did, I did!
Above left: the pretty outdoor area of Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar on Healdsburg Avenue, which I assumed would be crowded come evening.
Above right and below: the adorable pet store Fideaux on the corner of Healdsburg and North. I did have to take a peek in here just in case I found something irresistible for my Boyz.
Two and a half hours after I started my walk-about I found myself back where I started: by SHED. It was still very busy, so I thought I might as well have a look inside and see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, SHED is quite an experience. It is a coffee shop, café, larder, grocery store, cookware shop, and farm & craft shop all in one. And the quality is amazing! You are only getting one quick peek at this place for now, because the Shed warrants a whole article with lots of images all by itself, which is now posted and you can see it here. It has been months, and I am still in awe of this place, and can’t wait to go back.
After gawking at everything and taking photos of everything, I decided two things: I was ready for a rest and some food, and this was the place for it. I could not walk out of the Shed without trying some of their food. And a latte, which to me is a test of how things are done. At the Olympics SHED’s latte would get Nadia Comaneci’s perfect ten.
After my well deserved bit of R&R and refreshments, I resumed my walk-about, and what did I find? Looky-looky here! Another bakery! Moustache Baked Goods along Healdsburg Avenue had not yet been open when I walked past it earlier, but it was now. I decided to walk in and have a look. Then, once I had a look I decided I needed a taste. Lunch had not featured dessert after all, and on hindsight I wonder why…
Moustache’s offerings featured a selection of interesting cupcakes and macarons in unique flavor combinations, as well as a few, also interesting, desserts. I decided a cupcake to go would hold up best on the ride home. I picked a Meyer Lemon one, which I thoroughly enjoyed the next day – and I am not even a cupcake person. Then I thought a macaron would round out lunch nicely, and bought a passion fruit one which I ate right away. It was divine!
Further along Healdsburg Avenue, I passed another interesting restaurant, an Asian-fusion one called Persimmon. A good thing I have all these images, otherwise my head would overflow with “come back and explore” virtual post-its.
Then I turned a corner onto a wide, tree lined walkway and found the tasting room for Hartford Family Winery.
By the way, I did find out why there were so few people about town that Sunday morning. Two main reasons: one, I was there on the same weekend as the very popular Dry Creek Valley “passport” wine festival; and two, apparently on weekends people drive around the country wine tasting all day, and only converge (wobbling, I imagine) into town towards late afternoon, bringing Healdsburg to life in the evening.
At the other end of the walkway I found the building of the Bear Republic Brewing company, which also includes a cafe.
And this is where our virtual tour of Healdsburg ends. I may have missed a few things, but having walked the whole center of town, I thought it was time for me to get in the car and head to Davis Winery, which was the winery on my Boston Globe short list. As I discovered, it was on that list for a very good reason. Davis Winery is a small family winery that produces high quality wines, and they have the many, many awards to prove it. After taking all the photos I thought I might need, and a few more, I thought I would allow myself a wine tasting. This spoiled Italian of the high quality taste buds was truly impressed with each and every wine she tasted. Needless to say, and yet I am saying it anyway, I bought a few bottles to take home.
However, Davis Winery (see the tasting room below) deserves their own article, so I can rave about them properly. Here you can read it and see all the images I took that day.
I hope you have enjoyed this walking tour of Healdsburg. As you have seen, this pretty town along the Russian River in the Sonoma wine country is a treasure trove of good wineries, restaurants and shops. Had I not been on a mission and lugging around heavy camera equipment, I would have shopped, tasted and explored more. Which is why, now that I am back up north after my month in Carmel, I look forward to going back.
If you have enjoyed this article, you will enjoy discovering more about the California Wine Country: