Along with a stylish and bustling tasting room, Chris Donatiello has created a one-acre aroma garden next to his vineyards. Planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in mind, Donatiello has filled his organic garden with herbs, flowers and fruits that mirror the flavors of these varietals. Bring a picnic and pick up a bottle in the tasting room, then wander through the gardens and lunch alongside the vines. The organic wines are all sustainably farmed. On weekends Chris himself conducts tastings of his Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
Tastings: 7 days a week, 11:00 A.M to 5:00 P.M; $5.00; .
Not to be missed, this father-and-son-owned winery uses biodynamic methods to fashion very special wines. The makers believe that their artisanal techniques result in wines with a sense of place, or terroir, the definitively European ideal. Almost all of the wines are unfiltered; no chemicals used here! The pair eschew quick-fix farming techniques as well, forsaking fertilizer or pesticides. Unti Vineyards specializes in full-bodied, fruity red varietals: Be sure to try the 2006 Zinfandel or Grenache.
Tastings: By appointment only, open daily; no charge; .
The Nalle family makes wine in a building that looks like an old-fashioned potato barn. The cool, cavelike environment keeps the wine at the perfect temperature. Check out the roof, which is thickly covered with 300 rosemary plants. On Saturdays, owners Doug and his wife, Lee, and their son Andrew roll up the industrial doors, set up a table and host casual tastings of their notably low-alcohol (13.2 percent Pinot Noir) wine. Tastings are free if you buy a bottle, otherwise a mere $5.00 covers it. There’s a picnic spot and a pétanque court, too.
Tastings: Saturdays, noon to 5:00 P.M.; Sunday through Friday by appointment; $5.00; .
The setting at Zichichi is right out of a movie; you’ll pinch yourself while sitting on the expansive veranda overlooking acres of vineyards with mountains in the distance. Owner Steve Zichichi pours the wine in his stunning, newly opened tasting room, where he offers some of his estate-grown Petite Sirah and old-vine Zinfandel. Zichichi produces 3,500 cases a year; all are sold through the tasting room and mailing list.
Tastings: 7 days a week, 10:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M; $5.00, refundable with a purchase; .
The small town of Geyserville is worth a visit, if only to stop at the utterly stylish Terroirs Artisan Wines. The striking tasting room is unexpectedly modern. The renovated space, once a printing house, sports reclaimed beams and original brickwork, while its newly polished concrete floors, stone fireplace and classic French leather chairs make for a very inviting shop and gallery. Renowned winemaker Kerry Damskey showcases his vineyard-driven philosophy in four limited-release wines. This is a well-known destination for collectors and those seeking an unrivaled tasting experience.
Tastings: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday: noon to 6:00 P.M.; Thursday to Saturday: noon to 7:00 P.M.; Tuesdays, by appointment; $5.00 (often refunded when purchasing a bottle); .
Oded Shakked grew up in Israel and has been surfing for as long as he can remember—thus, the name of his wine. He has a vineyard in the Russian River Valley, but his tasting room is conveniently located in Healdsburg. Stop by to sample his award-winning Syrah or his Sauvignon Blanc.
Tastings: Open daily; Tuesday, by appointment only. $5.00; .
The owner of this Healdsburg tasting room, Bion Rice was influenced by Monet’s gardens at Giverny, France, and he’s passionate about art; here, he has integrated these two loves along with his ardor for winemaking. Decorated with work by local artists, the aptly named Artiste features easels for visitors to draw on, books to thumb through and delicious food to snack on while they savor his limited-edition wines, all of which bear labels relating to artists.
Tastings: Thursday to Monday, 11:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 7:30 P.M.; $10.00 (refundable with wine purchase); .
When you stop by Thumbprint Cellars to sample the wines handcrafted by owners Scott and Erica Lindstrom-Dake, you feel as if you are dropping in on old friends. The hip space is incredibly inviting and the wines are absolutely delicious. The logo and name come from Scott’s early days, when he signed the labels of the wines he made as gifts with his ink-soaked thumb.
Tastings: Daily, 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.; $5.00; .
Located right off the town square, this is the chic place to stay for an in-town experience. The spacious guest rooms are simple yet well appointed. Tibetan carpets cover dark wood floors, and teak platform beds are dressed with luxurious goose-down duvets, feather beds and fine European linens. Oversize bathrooms feature smooth-poured concrete counters and glass tile from Italian maker Bisazza. Some luxe rooms have elegant six-foot soaking tubs. Request a room with French doors and a private balcony overlooking the hotel gardens or the surrounding countryside. The hotel has a full-service spa.
This charming inn, located in Forestville, is nestled amidst the verdant forests and vineyards of the Russian River Valley. There are a total of 18 cottages, rooms and suites. The deluxe rooms in the newly built barn-style structure display western sophistication. The huge bathrooms have saunas or steam showers, and every room has a fireplace. To top it off, the Michelin-starred restaurant serves regional and artisanal cuisine (the locally made Burrata cheese is a must).
Also in the middle of Healdsburg, a corrugated-metal, barnlike structure that looks as if it belongs in the countryside is actually one of the chicest spots in town. There are stone walls at the entry, lush plantings and an interior with soaring ceilings, dramatic black-and-white photographs and massive windows that let sunlight fill the space. While it may be tough to pass up a table in the hip dining room, the outside garden evokes the South of France, with fountains, tile tables and umbrellas. The food matches the surroundings: impeccable, delicious and a feast for the eyes. Sample the crispy Monterey Bay calamari with romesco sauce, or a beautiful-to-behold quiche with local lettuce and super-ripe tomatoes.
Diavola, a pizzeria and salumeria, offers casual dining; many of the homemade products, such as house-cured meats and salami, cheeses, salads and soups, are available for takeout. So, if a picnic figures in your game plan, shop here.
However, dining under the tin ceiling and alongside dangling hams offers the opportunity to savor the superb wood-oven-baked pizzas while soaking in the charm. The Sonja, with tomato, mascarpone, prosciutto and arugula, is amazing. And wood-oven-roasted hearts of romaine with shrimp and Caesar dressing is a salad you’ll never forget.
A few doors down the street is Taverna Santi. The artisanal, rustic Italian cuisine incorporates the best seasonal and locally grown ingredients. Santi has a heavenly back garden in which to sample dishes that will transport you to Italy. Try the Crespelle di Estate with sweet corn and zucchini crêpes, Parmesan, arugula and cherry tomatoes, or Gemelli con Salsiccia, a pasta with house-made sausage sauce, fresh tomato, basil and ricotta.
Right next door to the Barndiva restaurant is an outstanding emporium offering old and new objects for the home, all carefully chosen and displayed with incredible panache. High piles of vintage shoe forms sit beneath a shelf that holds boxes covered with Zebu leather from Madagascar, old teak architectural plinths from India and a handblown bubble lamp from Morocco. The owner makes tables by mixing old found pieces; rusted bases, window grates, and an entire glass door; all are juxtaposed with great flair.
This very cool shop in the center of Healdsburg showcases vintage furniture and a well-curated selection of design books. The standout store specializes in one-of-a-kind industrial and midcentury pieces. You can also putter among pottery, lighting, textiles and found objects, as well as quirky collections from emerging artists. Owners Mike Morisette and Marne Dupere, who used to run Orange, an L.A. design shop, recently came to the area seeking an off-the-grid lifestyle and their own garden. The pair has a great aesthetic, and their book collection spans esoteric design books to photography.
The Saturday morning farmers’ market is a great way to start the day. It features fresh, seasonal and sustainably grown produce that has been brought into town from farms within 10 miles of the Healdsburg Plaza. There’s a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as an abundance of locally made cheese, honey, olive oil and bread.
The market runs from the first Saturday in May to the end of November. The opening cowbell rings at 9:00 A.M. and the market ends at noon. Also on the plaza, starting on the first Tuesday night (4:00 P.M. to 6:30 P.M) in June, there’s a weekly market that runs through October.