19th Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival

(5/26/17)

19th Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival

Chances are you already know Healdsburg is the heart of Sonoma Wine Country. Wine tasting, five-star restaurants, arty boutiques — this little bit of paradise brings delight to locals and visitors alike. What you may not know, though, is that for music aficionados, the annual jazz festival puts Healdsburg on the map. If you’ve never taken part in this local tradition, your opportunity is coming up soon!

For almost 20 years, this hyper cool hometown event has been rocking the San Francisco Bay Area music scene. Groove into some serious jazz, gypsy swing or bluesy funk. Whether you’re serious about your music or just out to enjoy a good time, this annual congregation of talent offers plenty to satisfy your taste.

The 2017 19th Healdsburg Jazz Festival runs from June 2 to June 11 and spreads across various local venues. The event presents fantastic talent, from internationally acclaimed musicians to breakout artists, but the nonprofit organization behind the music goes way beyond the annual event. Dedicated to promoting jazz music, the group sponsors music events all year long and brings music to our schools and youth. The festival offers you great music and a way to support the community — a win-win!

Visit a couple wineries, make a reservation at a favorite restaurant and make a weekend of it. We still have space at one of our luxury vacation rental homes. And if you miss your window this year, it’s not too soon to reserve for 2018! To check out the lineup and get tickets, go to http://www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org/


(5/16/17)

Create a Charcuterie Board — Perfect for the Healdsburg Wine Country
Charcuterie — so much more than cold cuts!

Appetizers, tapas, small plates, charcuterie — it’s the new main dish for a no-fuss evening — tasty bites to spark your palette and conversation. A charcuterie board is a wonderful way to wind down a day in the Healdsburg Wine Country. Gather with friends and uncork a few bottles of wine. This easy way to entertain offers something for everyone, but it’s not just about eating.

Whether at your place or relaxing in a luxury vacation home, a charcuterie platter is super easy to put together. And everyone can have exactly what they like. Make a day of wine tasting in Sonoma or Napa valleys and bring home your favorite finds. Pick up gourmet treats at nearby wineries, stop at the local market or deli, or shop the neighborhood farmer’s market. From Healdsburg to Napa to St. Helena, spring and summer markets* hum with fresh produce, organics, and gourmet products.

Putting together a Wine Country charcuterie board is easy, but remember: variety is key. Mix up flavors and textures, including both mild and bold, familiar favorites and first-time dates. Artful presentation is part of the fun. Serve on wood cutting boards, marble slabs, or earthenware platters. Use colorful cloth napkins and different sized bowls, include serving knives and spoons, and don’t forget toothpicks. Here are some tips for what to choose.

Meat
By its very name, meat is the top bill on your charcuterie board. (Charcuterie in France is where you buy deli-style meat.) If you’re making a night of it – eating and drinking for hours – figure on about 4oz per person. Pick out at the very least three different types of meat. Razor-thin slices of prosciutto are a must, but include another cured meat such as sopressata or coppa, or experiment with ones you may not be so familiar with. While loaded with flavor, cured meats are very salty, so mix it up with cooked meat, like ham or mortadella (bologna’s classy cousin). You may want to add a soft, spreadable pate and chunks of spicy sausage. The variety of textures and shapes make the platter look appealing.

Cheese
The cheeses are my favorite part of the charcuterie board. To keep it interesting, choose an assortment of cheeses, each with its unique texture — creamy, firm, crumbly. Mix up the flavors with something tangy like an aged sharp cheddar and something sweet such as St. Andre. For interest — taste as well as visual — slice up hard cheeses and have a spreading knife for each soft one. You may want to try a goat or sheep milk variety. And there are plenty of Sonoma Valley cheesemakers, so

have fun experimenting. But blue cheeses are a gamble. For most people it’s a love/hate thing. Same goes for some those smelly French cheeses. I’d avoid those because they tend to dominate everything else on the platter. Cheese is best served at room temperature, so I always remove cheeses from the fridge a half hour before serving, even sooner for soft cheeses.

Bread and Crackers
Bread is the vehicle for enjoying meats and cheeses — and everything else on your charcuterie plate. Keep it simple — baguette and mild crackers. There’s lots of flavor going on, so this time the bread is going to have to take a back seat. My favorite is crostini, thin slices of baguette brushed with olive oil and toasted. Cheese twists or bread sticks are fun because you can serve them upended in a cup, which adds height to the presentation. You can slice the bread in advance, or if you need extra room put out a baguette and bread knife on a wooden cutting board. I suggest including a gluten-free cracker, too.

Fresh Fruit
Mildly sweet and naturally juicy, fresh fruit can be a welcome foil to this flavor extravaganza. A mound of grapes is a good choice, plus it looks pretty on the platter (include a few purple and green for visual interest). Put out some pear (Bosc or D’Anjou) or crisp apple (Fuji or Honeycrisp) slices. This works well to transport cheese for those who want to avoid bread. (Drizzle the slices with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.) You may want to add a few dried figs or dates for an extra hit of sweetness and texture.

Briny Olives
Olives are essential for me — love them with cheese and cured meats. There are so many interesting types available today. Mild, juicy Cerignolas are my first choice. I prefer the green ones, but include both black and green olives, stuffed or not, or maybe an olive tapenade. Pickled vegetables and peppers, spicy or mild, are fun. (Remember to include a tiny bowl for olive pits!) A small bowl of seedy Dijon mustard complements the charcuterie.

Jams, Dips, and Nuts
Include one or two jams or chutneys for some added flavor and to balance out the dry and salty meat and cheese. Fig spread plays nicely with many cheeses. You may way to include a bowl of hummus —a nice protein alternative for those who don’t want meat. A bowl of nuts is welcome. I especially love sweet, salty Marcona almonds.

By the way, if it’s just you and your partner, put together charcuterie for two. You could even pack a picnic basket — wineries welcome you to enjoy a bottle of their wine in the beautiful Sonoma Wine Country!

Get details on all Sonoma County farmer’s markets here: http://www.sonomacounty.com/articles/sonoma-county-farmers-markets-bloom-spring-and-summer

Find out about the Napa farmer’s market: https://napafarmersmarket.org/

And here’s the scoop on St. Helena’s farmer’s market: http://sthelenafarmersmkt.org/


(4/11/17)

Single Thread — New Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Healdsburg
Eleven-course tasting experience brims with hospitality and grace

Don't know whether you've been in Healdsburg Wine Country lately, but the buzz in town is all about Single Thread Restaurant— a whole new approach to fine dining. I haven't been there yet, but it is definitely on my 2017 must-do list.

It just opened at the end of 2016 after a lot of fanfare about how great it was going to be. It seems to be living up to expectations. Single Thread isn't just well-prepared food — it's a sensory experience. The eleven-course tasting menu extends over hours, immersing guests in each morsel, each moment. Andrew Dalton inEaterSan Franciscocalled the food "culinary bliss."

Owned and run by husband and wife team, Katina and Kyle Connaughton, the concept behind Single Thread has been building over time. Kyle's credentials run from SoCal to New York to Japan to England, where he was head chef of research and development at Fat Duck, a Michelin three-starred restaurant. During his time there,Restaurantmagazine named Fat Duck the "best restaurant in the world." He developed a signature multi-sensory cuisine for their menu. A culinary scientist and foodie extraordinaire, Kyle is also an award-winning author of several cookbooks — and now is building his reputation in Sonoma Wine Country.

Katina oversees Single Thread's farm, located only ten minutes from the restaurant. Many of the menu's fresh ingredients come from their five acres along the Russian River. The farm is not only fruit and veggies; Katina also tends olive trees, beehives and chickens. Sourcing Sonoma County ingredients, this is a true farm-to-table approach.

From raising crops to exquisite presentation, this place seems to get it right. The secret sauce of this dining extravaganza is in the details. With an emphasis on hospitality, the staff welcome each guest with a fully personalized experience. Each step of the meals brims with grace and style.

To get a seat, you buy a ticket in advance. Then you're contacted to arrange menu details specific to the preferences of you and your guests. Sounds like an awesome way to celebrate an anniversary, Mother's Day, or any occasion that you want to be unforgettable. I've heard that you don't even get a menu until the end of the meal, a sort of memento of your evening.

It costs about $300 per person, which includes gratuity and tax. Add on wine-pairing for more. Single Thread is right downtown, just a block off the central plaza. Open 5:30 – 11:00, closed Mondays singlethreadfarms.com. If you want help reserving your table during your stay at one of our luxury Wine Country vacation rentals, I’m happy to help. And if you go, let me know what you think!


(3/29/17)

St. Helena—It’s All About the Experience

As Healdsburg does for Sonoma, St. Helena lends Napa Valley a small-town atmosphere that welcomes you to stay awhile.

Charming, intimate, upscale—the village of St. Helena offers you everything you want for a Wine Country getaway. Situated in the heart of Napa Valley between Calistoga and Yountville, it's only about an hour's drive north of San Francisco.

This quaint community of about 6,000 residents has always been an agricultural hub. Over the years as Sonoma and Napa valleys became known for growing grapes and producing world-class wines, the town has made its place on the map. Within walking distance of each other are plenty of tasting rooms, but bucolic St. Helena offers much more to its visitors who hail from the Bay Area and far beyond.

As Healdsburg does for Sonoma, St. Helena lends Napa Valley a small-town atmosphere that welcomes you to stay awhile. Downtown brims with chic boutiques, art galleries and farm-to-table eateries (https://www.sthelena.com/).You can choose from a handful of local spas that will pamper you in style. This is the ideal vacation spot — the land of "feel-good," where it's all about the experience. Rolling, oak-studded hills, Mediterranean climate, vineyards, fresh air and blue sky add up to paradise. And you might as well enjoy the wine, too.

Napa Valley is a small wine-growing region, relative to how many acres across the globe are devoted to grapes. This preserves the artisan quality of the family-owned wineries and the craft of winemaking. St. Helena may be small, but its winemakers are world renown. It's home to some of the big names like Charles Krug and Beringer, but there are loads of smaller must-taste wines such as Sinegal, V. Sattui and Trinchero. A day in the valley wine tasting topped off by dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant? It doesn't get much better.

Those foodies among us know St. Helena for its gourmet fare, and the CIA (Culinary Institute of America: (https://www.ciachef.edu/cia-california/). You don't have to be an aspiring chef to enjoy its cooking and wine classes, tastings, and demos though.

If you prefer a homemade culinary experience, check out the St. Helena Farmer's Market downtown in Crane Park (http://sthelenafarmersmkt.org/). Every Friday, May through October, this is the place to find exotic mushrooms, fresh-caught fish, hand-crafted cheeses and baked goods — you name it! Select fresh ingredients, grab a couple bottles of wine and experience the fun of preparing food with friends at your vacation rental in the Wine Country.


(2/25/17)

Shape and Size Matter — When It Comes to Wine Bottles

History Is in the bottle

Wine bottles come in many shapes and sizes. When you're at the wine shop looking for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, you scan the shelves to find the clear bottles of white wine. What you might not realize is that you are also looking for a certain type of bottle. Each wine varietal can be identified by the shape of its bottle.

There are at least 12 different wine bottle shapes, each particular to a varietal and its origin. These bottle types originated back in 18th century Europe. Each wine-making region was identified by its own distinctive type of bottle. Today these bottle shapes are used for wines from around the world — from Marlborough, New Zealand, to Healdsburg, California — and have nothing to do with the original European regions. But tradition reigns on.

When we talk about the shape of a bottle, we refer to its neck, shoulders, and body—slender or squat, sloped shoulders or square. The shape doesn't affect the quality or flavor of wine. Although the shape may have played a role in catching sediment of the unfiltered wines of the past.

Glass color varies too. The bottle may be dark or light, usually with dark green glass for reds and clear or light glass for whites. The punt is what you call the dimple in the bottom of the bottle. It is a vestige of old-world bottles whose glass was blown by hand. The history is unclear, but one thing is agreed upon, the punt is for decoration only today. Some think that a punt denotes quality and that flat-bottomed bottles are just for the cheap labels, but that's only a myth. Chances are that the punt was more practical than aesthetic, helping to keep imperfect bottles upright.

In California, we're most familiar with three main bottle shapes:

Bourdeaux(France)
The typical Bourdeaux bottle is straight and tall with squared-off shoulders. You'll find it used for Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Burgundy(France)
Similar to Bourdeaux but with sloping shoulders and a bit fatter bottom, this familiar shape is known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Mosel or Alsace(Germany and northern France)
Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers will be found is this distinctly tall, slender bottle with a very long neck and no shoulders.

And, of course, size matters. Bring a split to enjoy with your sandwich or break out a magnum for a special dinner at your home with friends. Large wine bottles are unexpected and announce celebration.

But bottle size also influences the flavor of wine. The neck is small, no matter how much wine the bottle holds. This means that the effect of the oxygen in the neck of the bottle will be less on a larger volume of wine. The bigger the bottle, the slower it ages—and the longer it keeps. That's one reason you typically find at least a few large-format bottles in a serious wine lover's collection.

Don't think by buying volume you're getting more for your buck. Just the opposite. Large bottles cost more. They're snazzy and fun, but you'll want to be sure you will be able to drink it all once it's opened.

While you’re out tasting the bounty of the Healdsburg vineyards, take note of how the bottles are different, yet consistent across grape varietal. Bring a few bottles home to enjoy together in your private Wine Country vacation rental, and if your group is large enough, splurge on a larger bottle — for fun and flavor!

Piccolo or split ¼ bottle 187.5 mL
Demi or half ½ bottle 375 mL
Standard 1 bottle 750 mL
Magnum 2 bottles 1.5 L
Jeroboam 4 bottles 3 L
Methuselah or Imperial 8 bottles 6 L
Salmanazar 12 bottles 9 L
Balthazar 16 bottles 12 L
Nabuchadnezzar 20 bottles 15 L

(2/14/17)

Vacation Home Rental or Hotel—Which Is Better for You?

Know your bottom line

Vacations used to be simpler. You decided where you wanted to go, saved up your money, and reserved a hotel room. There weren't vacation packages and bargain offers to sort through. You didn't have much choice about where to stay, so long as your bank account was flush. Your budget was set by your savings, not your credit card limit. Things are different today.

You have choices, with a vast range of prices for hotel rooms and the types of amenities you will get. You can reserve a room in a reliable chain or indulge in trendy boutique accommodations. Or, you could opt for a vacation rental.

More popular than ever, having a whole vacation home to yourself offers tremendous advantages. Coming and going through your own front door gives you a more intimate experience of your locale. You get to feel what it's like to live like a local. But what are the pluses of a vacation rental over a hotel room? Let's get down to specifics.

A hotel room is going to cost you, especially if you're looking at Healdsburg, Sonoma, or Napa hotels. A nice room for two in the Wine Country goes for a minimum of $400 per night over the weekend, with luxury locations climbing upward of $1,000 a night and more. For the same amount of money why not have a house to yourself? If it's just the two of you, the cost per night could make a hotel a better value. However, as soon as you count in more guests — two couples, a family, group of friends —the nightly cost goes down significantly for a rental home. Divide $800 a night among two or three couples, for example, and you get a luxury vacation home for the price of a budget hotel. The nightly rate of a vacation rental goes down the more people in your party. Conversely, more people means the price per night goes up, and steeply, in a hotel.

But the price of your lodging is only part of the cost-savings picture. Eating out adds on a significant chunk to your vacation budget. Sure, there may be a mini-fridge in your hotel room, but in a luxury vacation home you'll have the convenience and flexibility of a fully-equipped kitchen. Suddenly your meals are so much more affordable. Toast and jam, scones from the local bakery, and even unlimited lattes won't break the bank. Plus, you get to keep on your robe and slippers. And on a warm Wine Country evening what could be better than enjoying your favorite food straight off the grill? Again, the larger your group, the more you save per meal. And if you are travelling with kids, the price of a burger just went way down.

Consider a glass of wine with friends after dinner when you're staying in a hotel. You may find an intimate little nook, with a price tag to match. But where are you going to lay out the Scrabble board? A vacation rental provides these simple pleasures — space to make yourselves at home. Just the extra square footage enhances your comfort. Compare that to a couple days in a hotel room, plus at your vacation rental there's room for everyone. You can hang out with friends over a glass of wine outdoors by the fire while the kids play ping pong. The personal atmosphere simply can't be matched in a hotel. It's much easier to relax, be yourself, and have it your way.

One obvious reason you can relax is that having your own space affords more privacy indoors and outdoors. You don't have to worry about how you look lounging by the pool. You can chill out and watch the sunset, enjoying your own space. Plus, when you leave the house for the day, your personal belongings are kept private. No need to use safety vaults for valuables. Things will be just where you left them, and where you want them.

You are in charge of your stuff and your space. You have the convenience of a washer and dryer at your disposal. It's not a big deal to throw your dishes in the dishwasher — you're used to the drill. And it won't cost you anything to get last night's salad dressing off your shirt — a big savings compared to the price of having clothes laundered by the hotel's staff. And with luxury vacation rentals in Sonoma, Napa, Healdsburg, and Calistoga you can expect extra amenities, from spa-quality shampoos and lotions to Nespresso coffeemakers. And if you want, you can always add on amenities to your vacation rental stay. Housekeeping, wine-tasting tours, on-site massages, and even your own personal chef make a Wine Country vacation rental the better choice.

If you're travelling with kids, a vacation home is definitely the way to go. They can spread out a game on the floor of their room, watch Sesame Street in the early hours, leave their wet swimsuits at the foot of the bed—no problem. They have space to be themselves. And if you stay up late, they can snuggle down in the next room undisturbed. Most kids appreciate an easygoing schedule with enough downtime. Vacation homes makes that possible.

One last advantage comes to mind when considering vacation homes versus hotel rooms: parking. If you're in a city, valet parking adds up quickly and it takes time to get to your car. Not a big deal if it's just the two of you, but if you're with a group of friends, each with a car, the prices get high quickly. Most vacation homes can easily accommodate a few cars in safe, off-street parking.

With these myriad benefits of a vacation home, why ever stay in a hotel? Well, it has its advantages. There's a certain glamour attached to hotels. If you can afford a five-star landing, it makes you look — and feel — good. And today there are many boutique hotels, too. These trendy, stylish spots can set a fun ambience. If you enjoy being around people and being seen, the public environment of a hotel makes sense.

Fresh towels, signature bath products, having your bed turned down each night — these luxuries are a delight. When you need an extra bed pillow, just pick up the phone and dial maid service. Even better, call room service for breakfast in bed. The convenience of services is at your disposal — of course, at a price. But with a quality vacation rental you also get luxury linens and spa-type pampering at no extra charge.

The biggest plus in favor of hotels is that it lets you be spontaneous. Rentals require planning ahead. If you're a one-day-at-a-time sort of traveler, you'll appreciate the flexibility of staying at a hotel. Vacation rentals require you to sign a contract, often with cancellation penalties. Hotels make sense for couples, last-minute planners, and for those who are only staying one night. And, it's easier to cancel reservations if you change your mind.

With a hotel, at least one with a well-known name, you have better assurance of what you'll get. Still, it's easy to verify rentals these days. Use google street view, work with a reputable rental company, and check the vacation home's online presence and reviews.

The bottom line: hotels offer flexibility and service, at a price. If you plan ahead, have a larger group, and want an easygoing getaway, a luxury vacation home rental is the way to go. Cost-savings, convenience, space, privacy — these are a few of the good reasons so many people today are choosing to enjoy their vacations in a Wine Country vacation home.


(2/8/17)

A Bright Idea for a Winter Day

Wine Country museums

You've spent a couple days tasting fabulous food and wine, feeding on the beautiful winter landscape, and experiencing the relaxed pace of the Sonoma Wine Country. Life is good.

Believe it or not, there is even more pleasure waiting for you nearby. If you want to see another side ofHealdsburg, Calistoga, and in between, visit one of our local museums. It's a different way to enjoy a cloudy winter day. Sonoma and Napa counties are home to some one-of-a-kind exhibits that will stimulate your mind and invite you to stroll memory lane. Here are a few suggestions for you, your friends, and kids. Explore something new!

Charles M. Schultz Museum, Santa Rosa Loved around the world, thePeanutscomic characters—Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and the wholePeanutsgang—come to life here. The museum houses the largest collection of original Peanuts artifacts in the world—thousands of original illustrations, as well as letters, photographs, unique Peanuts products, and tribute artwork.
Open Wednesday—Monday, 11:00–5:00 http://schulzmuseum.org

Sharpsteen Museum, Calistoga This small-town museum presents the story of the upper Napa Valley from its pre-history to post World War I. Period details are portrayed through extensive dioramas. These low-tech exhibits may seem corny on first glance, but they're intriguing when you take time to explore the scenes. The little-known gems of the museum are original artwork by Ben Sharpsteen, an animator for old-time Disney Studios.
Open every day, 11:00–4:00 http://www.sharpsteenmuseum.org/

The Hand Fan Museum, Healdsburg Now here's a quirky museum: a collection of 2,500 hand fans—the only museum of hand fans in the country! You can see fans spanning the centuries in all sorts of styles. Beautiful hand-painted beauties will tickle your whimsy and likely be more intriguing than you'd think. Each fan opens a door to history, culture, and fashion.
Open Wednesday—Sunday, 11:00–4:00 http://www.handfanmuseum.com/

The Healdsburg Museum, Healdsburg Step into the Healdsburg Museum to find out more about local history. It has one of the finest regional collections of Pomo and Wappo Indian artifacts, tools, clothing, paintings, and historical newspapers, maps and photographs.
Wednesday—Sunday, 11:00–4:00 http://www.healdsburgmuseum.org/home/healdsburg-history.asp


(2/1/17)

Dinner for Two in Healdsburg — Mike’s Top 3 Romantic Restaurants

Enjoy!

Scopa Hands down, this is my favorite spot in town for atmosphere and knockout Italian food. It’s very small and intimate, yet the bistro atmosphere is lively and electric. It’s right downtown on the plaza and always packed, but the food and ambience transport you into your own private world. Try the Tomasso's Suga Calebrese for an amazing taste experience. Truth is I've never had a bad dish here; it’s impossible to go wrong. The food is simple but perfectly prepared every time. The staff is fantastic as well! Be sure to make reservations at least a couple weeks in advance. And if you can, check out Winemaker Wednesdays where local winemakers not only bring their best bottles, they actually serve you. It’s great fun!

http://www.scopahealdsburg.com Check out the Zagat review: https://www.zagat.com/r/scopa-healdsburg

Chalkboard This downtown eatery specializes in small plates inspired by what’s fresh on its three-acre organic garden located at Chalk Hill Winery. The stylish atmosphere is warm and welcoming. Everything on the menu comes a la carte. I ordered the steak on special that night, and when my plate arrived I was stunned to see a mere six bites of meat. But when I took the first bite, it melted in my mouth. It was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. Imagine smoky velvet — pure sensual delight! In a way, the small portion invited me to thoroughly enjoy each morsel. They have a terrific wine list and original cocktails too.

http://chalkboardhealdsburg.com/ Check out the Zagat review :https://www.zagat.com/r/chalkboard-bistro-wine-bar-healdsburg

Barndiva Just off the square in downtown Healdsburg, Barndiva’s rustic décor and good vibe make for a perfect dinner for two. It’s a wine bar, cocktail lounge, art gallery and bistro all in one. If you can, get a table in the garden where the fountains and twinkling overhead lights create a charming atmosphere as evening settles. The food is out of this world. I strongly recommend the wine-pairing menu. The wines may have stood fine on their own, but it was the way they complemented the food that was so exquisite. The staff really knows their wine and food, so take their suggestions! The pours were generous, service excellent and the food fantastic.

http://www.barndiva.com Check out the Zagat review: https://www.zagat.com/r/barndiva-healdsburg


(1/16/17)

Warm Up to Hard Cider This Winter

The other side of the Wine Country

We're used to recognizing local wines and beers on the menu at our favorite Healdsburg Wine Country restaurant. A few years ago another option began appearing — hard cider. A revival had begun.

Nearby Sebastopol has a long history as an apple-farming community. The area is known for the Gravenstein, a tart apple widely used for cooking and sauce. Over time, trees were replaced with grapevines. We have less than half the acreage in apple orchards that we did just fifty years ago. Yet, Sonoma County agriculture has pockets of orchards that have persisted, and today aficionados have taken apples to a new level.

We're not just talking fermented apples; we're talking craft. Apples are pressed and fermented, similarly to wine. They may sit for weeks to many months. Hard cider typically has less alcohol than wine, or even beer, often around 4 to 6 percent. Refreshing and easy to drink, each hard cider is as distinct as the maker.

The original SoCo cider came from Ace Cider, which in 1993 became the first cider pub in Sonoma County. You can taste their award-winning cider on Fridays, from 1:00 to 5:00, in their tasting room in Sebastopol (http://www.acecider.com/)

Today as hard cider makes a comeback (it was the drink of choice back in the New World of the 1770s), you can find most of California's apple cider makers located in Sonoma County. The climate is right, as is our micro-culture of artisanal food and drink and a slow-food approach to dining. Like wine and beer, hard cider depends on terroir, aging, sugar levels, and craftsmanship.

Next time you're at your nearby vacation rental home, make time to visit some of the local cideries that pride themselves on their small-batch, hand-crafted, and award-winning elevation of the apple. Or visit their websites to learn where you can try and buy these remarkable labels. Also look for other local hard cider winners—Devoto Orchards Cider and Troy Cider.

Horse & PlowFirst known as a winery, Horse & Plow is making a big dent in the hard cider market. Their approach is all natural and their fruit organic. Visit them in Sebastopol.
Tasting Barn open Thursday — Monday, 11–5pm https://www.horseandplow.com/

Tilted Shed CiderworksTheir cider is made with only local, organic fruit and is dry-farmed, which means no irrigation. The result: distinctive ciders that vary with the climate and growing conditions of a given year.
Visit their cidery in Windsor: Saturdays, 11–4pm (closed for renovation until Jan. 28) https://www.tiltedshed.com/our-ciders/

Sonoma CiderSince 2013, Healdsburg claims its own cider makers, a father and son team with a taste for excellence. Their 7,000-plus square feet fermentation facility and tap room is located just a block south of the downtown plaza.
Tasting Room is open Wednesday — Sunday, 11–9pm http://sonomacider.com/


(12/13/17)

A Brief History of Healdsburg

Small-town charm for tourists and locals alike

Centrally situated among the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander valleys, Healdsburg has made a name for itself as the heart of Northern California's world-class wine region. Our charming town hasn't always been about wine though.

Healdsburg's namesake, Harmon Heald, made his way to the area for the same reason so many people did — gold. During the California Gold Rush of 1849, people from across the country came to make their fortune, but many found farming a more profitable venture than gambling on finding a vein of gold.

In the 1850s Heald, originally from Ohio, built a small general store and opened a post office in what is now downtown Healdsburg. He hired a surveyor, laid out a town grid around a central plaza, and sold off lots. With a population of 300, the town was incorporated in 1867.

The fertile valleys encouraged farming, and the railroad established Healdsburg as a prosperous agricultural district. Grape, hops, and lumber became central to the local economy. The wine industry continued to grow until 1919 when Prohibition put an end to that, and prunes took over as the main crop of the Healdsburg-area valleys through the first half of the twentieth century. In 1900 there were 4,000 acres of prunes; by 1920 that number had increased to 21,500 acres.

Over the decades, prunes became less popular — and profitable. In the 1970s, orchards began being replaced with vines. Winemaking has steadily grown in volume and reputation and has become the pulse of local agriculture and economy, marking the Sonoma Wine Country on the map.

Healdsburg today attracts tourists yet retains locals who also appreciate our small-town charm. The plaza, with its music, markets, and community events, is still the hub of downtown. Step into the Healdsburg Museum next time you're staying at your vacation rental nearby to find out more about our rich history. It has one of the finest regional collections of Pomo and Wappo Indian artifacts, tools, clothing, paintings, and historical newspapers, maps and photographs.

The Healdsburg Museum
Wednesday — Sunday
11:00 am — 4:00 pm
FREE Admission http://www.healdsburgmuseum.org/home/healdsburg-history.asp

Learn more from these sources: http://www.ourhealdsburg.com/history/heald.htmhttp://www.healdsburgmuseum.org/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healdsburg,_Californiahttp://www.healdsburg.com/living/


(12/6/17)

Walking Trails Around Healdsburg

A refreshing way to visit the Wine Country

Healdsburg is the place to taste world-class wines, enjoy locally sourced gourmet food, browse antique and art galleries, and sample the good life! The good news is that you can indulge and feel fit at the same time. Take a look at these opportunities for nearby walking and hiking – your Healdsburg getaway just got even better!

You only need to go just beyond downtown to immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of Sonoma County. Just off the Dry Creek freeway exit, discover the Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Reserve.

Recently opened to the public, this preserve offers a few miles of easy to moderate hiking trails. Beautiful views abound as you walk through oak-studded grasslands and chaparral. This is the perfect refresher before or after an afternoon of wine tasting.

Find out more about Healdsburg Ridge and download the trail map here: http://sonomahikingtrails.com/parks/healdsburg-ridge/

The best way to explore Healdsburg is on foot. The Foss Creek Pathway is a lovely footpath that's fully paved, making it wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly. It's landscaped, has benches and is dotted with public art. This town knows how to get it right!

About 1.25 miles long, the trail follows the old railroad tracks through downtown, from Grove St. on the north end to Mill St. on the south end. Park at the skate park on Grove Street and ramp up your daily step count. Check out this PDF to get a better idea of how the path runs. http://www.sonoma-county.org/scta_search/bike_main_files/pdf/healdsburg.pdf

If you want to get in your walk, see downtown Healdsburg and go wine tasting too — you can have it all! About three dozen tasting rooms are situated in and around the center of town — each within walking distance of the other.

Sample a wide assortment of stellar wines from the area's appellations. Visit Wine Walk Healdsburg and download their map to plan out your route.

http://www.winewalkhbg.com/

Stop in a local eatery for lunch, browse boutiques and galleries and taste some of Healdsburg's best wines, all while logging a couple miles of healthy walking!


(11/19/16)

Plan Now for Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting 2017

Tasting wine from Healdsburg-area vineyards makes for an enjoyable adventure any time of year, but in spring things really liven up. If you’ve never experienced wine straight from the barrel, Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. This hugely popular event extends for two weekends in March and includes over 100 wineries throughout the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys.

To sample these young wines, you get to go behind the scenes into chilly, musty-smelling cellars where wine is siphoned into a glass for you to taste. Be warned: these young wines won’t be what you expect. They’re still going to be aged for more than a year. But tasting wines before they’re barreled is a fun way to get an insider’s view of the wine industry. Plus it allows you to preview the season’s vintage.

Bet on your favorites by buying cases of “futures,” often at a discount. It is a gamble. Once the wines are bottled 12 or 18 months later, the balance may have shifted. Still, there’s no question that you can snag some extraordinary wines and limited releases. Tasting straight from the barrel is often the only way to sample wines that are in such limited production that you’ll never see them on the shelf anywhere—they’ll be sold out by the end of the second weekend.

Barrel Tasting in March can get pretty intense at times, with so many people seeking out sips of some of the best. Go on Friday for a calmer experience. Take your time to savor the flavor and learn from the tasting room staff. Tickets will go on sale January 17, so mark your calendar. People in the know are reserving their lodging now. Rooms fill up fast, so it’s wise to lock in your Healdsburg digs so you won’t miss out on the fun.

Wine Road Barrel Tasting
Friday, Saturday & Sunday, March 3—5 and March 10—12
11—4 pm
Tickets on sale January 17 
https://www.wineroad.com/events/barrel-tasting/


(11/5/16)

How to Choose the Right Vacation Rental

It’s in the details

You want your vacation to be great, and you know the place you stay can make all the difference. But how do you know whether the vacation rental home you’re considering is the right one for you?

Clarify your priorities Do you and the others in your group agree thata pool or spais a must? Is cooking a pleasure you want to enjoy at the vacation rental home? Will you lounge around outdoors? Is a TV in a separate room for the kids on your must-have list? Spend time visualizing your dream vacation home. Imagine what you want to do, how you’ll spend your time at the house and what the ambience is like.

Study the description Read the description of the property and its amenities very carefully to be sure all the things that matter to you are included. Does it mention a microwave, dishwasher, cookware? If you imagine a family dinner outside, be sure the listing says there’s an outdoor BBQ. Are there extra linens, pool towels, toilet paper? If the vacation rental description is detailed and thorough, that’s a pretty good indication that the property owner or manager will be attentive as well.

Scrutinize the photos Don’t be swayed by first impressions. Zoom in on the details in the photos. Look for clues about cleanliness. Crisp linens, sparkling shower, well-kept landscaping? Also look for the view through the windows in the photos? Do they look onto greenery and rolling hills or the neighbor’s backyard? Create the layout of the property in your mind, following the photos from room to room. If there’s no pic of the second bathroom, you should wonder why. You can always ask the owner/manager for more photos.

Listen to the reviews Read ALL the reviews, and check for consistent comments. See whether the items on your priority list are mentioned. Take heed of criticisms, too. A disgruntled guest may just be venting, but watch for the same issue mentioned by multiple reviewers. You can always inquire of the vacation rental manager to clarify whether that particular complaint has been resolved, and that’ll give you a clue about the quality of the vacation experience. Writing a review takes time, and it’s a good sign when guests go out of their way to praise the property, atmosphere, location, its amenities or the owner/manager.

Get a feel for the owner/manager If it’s green lights so far, then contact the vacation rental owner or manager. Notice whether they respond promptly to your inquiry. Are they helpful, friendly and happy to answer all of your questions? With a welcoming and professional connection, your chances aregood that you’ll have a quality vacation experience.


(10/24/16)

Check Out Fall Events in Healdsburg

Color, flavor and fun

Don’t miss the beautiful colors, tastes and atmosphere of the Healdsburg Wine Country this fall. Plan a carefree, cut-loose weekend. Start by choosing your luxury vacation home, bring your friends, check out wine events, and jumpstart your holiday shopping!

Wine and Food AffairSaturday & Sunday, November 5 & 6, 11:00 – 4:00

Participating wineries in Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys welcome you to sample some of their best vintages paired with favorite recipes for an out-of-this-world wine-tasting experience. Get your tickets early; this event does sell out! Find out more https://www.wineroad.com/events/wine-food-affair/

November Craft FairSaturday, November 5, 12, 19 & 26, 9:00 – noon

The open-airHealdsburg Farmers’ Marketattracts locals and visitors alike. With loads of fresh produce and delectables, it’s always the place to pick up the right ingredients for a delicious meal. But for the month of November, the market expands to include artisans and crafters. There’s live music, food vendors and casual camaraderie, making it a fun, low-key way to get a jump on your holiday shopping. http://www.healdsburgfarmersmarket.org/

Alexander Valley Holiday Open HouseFriday, November 25, 11:00 – 4:00

What sounds better than a day in the Healdsburg Wine Country enjoying yummy nibbles paired with award-winning wines? For this special event, eight wineries open their doors to guests and kick off the holiday season. Browse gifts and find something unique for your friends and family. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/alexander-valley-holiday-open-house-black-friday-tickets-28240776924?aff=es2

Tree Lighting in the PlazaSaturday, December 3, 5:00 – 6:00

If you’ve never been to a small-town tree lighting, now’s the time to check it out. Bring the kids and share their wonder as the plaza lights up. Join in the holiday spirit! Music, refreshments and fun, plus it’s FREE! Check out the holiday calendar for more ideas for the whole family. http://www.healdsburg.com/content/VisitorsBureau/PDFS/holiday_calendar_2016_final_20161017.pdf


(10/6/17)

Art Trails — A Local Adventure

Beyond wine tasting

Saturday and Sunday
October 8 & 9 and October 15 & 16
10am – 5pm

Heading out on Sonoma County Art Trails is a great way to soak up the beauty of Sonoma County Wine Country. Sponsored by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Art Trails takes you into the studios of local artists for a “private” viewing of their work. Painting, ceramics, jewelry, mosaic, art glass, fiber arts — you will find art of every discipline.

It’s fascinating to chat with the different artists, who are always happy to answer your questions and explain their technique. Being in the midst of art in the making may inspire and enliven your own creativity, and it certainly promises to be a fun adventure.

There are pockets of studios in Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Petaluma, Sonoma, and beyond. Pick up the 2016 Guide and plan a day around a visit to four or five studios. Take the back roads, enjoy the fall colors and fresh air. Maybe pack a basket and picnic at a nearby winery or check out a local restaurant for lunch. Art Trails Open Studios allows you to explore the local landscape in an unhurried, easygoing way.

Download the 2016 catalog and map: sonomacountyarttrails.org/catalog-maps


(9/15/16)

5 Reasons to Visit Healdsburg in Spring

Springtime in the Healdsburg Wine Country brims with color, sunshine and plenty to of low-key entertainment. Wine, food, cycling, art — there’s something for everyone. Plan your 2017 Healdsburg vacation early — and lock in your vacation rental — so you don’t miss out on the fun!

Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, March 3—5 and March 10—12

11—4 pm

Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. This hugely popular event includes over 100 wineries throughout the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys. You get to go behind the scenes and be among the first to taste wines that will be bottled 12 to 18 months later. Take a chance on “futures” to snag some knockout vintages that will sell out before the event is over.

Tickets go on sale January 17

https://www.wineroad.com/events/barrel-tasting/

Sonoma County Restaurant Week

Monday, March 6—Sunday, March 12

For the 8th annual Sonoma County Restaurant Week participating restaurants offer prix fixe menus at varying prices — delicious food and an unbelievable value. Explore local delicacies, from eateries to fine dining, and experience the deeply rooted foodie culture of Healdsburg. No tickets or passes are required but reservations are strongly recommended.

Check for updates

http://www.sonomacounty.com/restaurant-week

Passport to Dry Creek Valley

Saturday & Sunday, April 29 & 30

Since 1990, this wine lovers’ weekend features some of the best wines around. Over 45 wineries offer exquisite food and wine pairings, exclusive wine tastings, winery tours and entertainment. Plus, each winery creates a unique theme for the weekend to add to the fun.

Tickets go on sale February 5 (Buy early — this event always sells out)

http://www.drycreekvalley.org/events/passport-dry-creek-valley/

31st Annual Healdsburg Bicycle Tour

Saturday, April 29

For the perfect complement to Passport Weekend, join the fun and pedal through the heart of Healdsburg Wine Country. Pick your course, each with varying distances and elevations and mapped out with clear signage. All levels of bikers, with all types of bikes, participate in this well-loved cycling event

http://www.healdsburg.com/biketour/

Second Saturdays Artwalk

Saturday, May 13—Mother’s Day Weekend

Artwalk makes for a Mother’s Day to remember. Stroll through more than 20 downtown galleries, with works by local and internationally acclaimed artists, photographers, jewelry makers, and artisans. Second Saturdays Artwalk runs May to December — an evening of art, wine, food and music from 5:00 to 8:00.

http://www.sonomacounty.com/articles/stroll-art-gallery-art-gallery-healdsburg


(8/15/16)
Check Out These Wine Apps

A day of wine tasting in the Healdsburg Wine Country always promises a good time. To make your experience even more fun, pull out your smart phone. It’s not just for directions from your luxury vacation rental to your favorite wineries. Download a wine app to enhance your knowledge, track your top picks, and much more. Here are a couple of apps worth looking at.

Delectable

Just take a photo of a label and the wine encyclopedia and shopping guide are at your fingertips. The app gives you user ratings, tells you where the wine was made and info about the varietal. It has separate reviews from professionals in the wine arena, so you can see what those in the know say about a particular bottle. You can also log your own tasting notes. It will organize them for you so you can easily look back to remember what you thought of a particular bottle. You can also tag friends and locations along with your wine label — a scrapbook of your wine-tasting experience.

It’s easy to use. You can even buy the wine right from the app. The app has been around for a while, so it’s got a good track record. Use the app at your local wine store, restaurant or your own wine cellar. Free: delectable.com

Vivino

This super popular app works very similarly to Delectable. It has a photo label recognition system that identifies the wine and provides details about it, including average price, ratings and reviews. In addition to checking out labels, you can get recommendations of wine that meet your criteria and find out where to buy. If the app can’t immediately find your wine, your request will be delivered to a team of experts who’ll research it for you. You can subscribe to their service to view ratings from subscription wine publications too.

One cool feature is the app lets you take several photos in a row and compare overviews of multiple wines at the same time. No flipping back and forth in the app between different wines, so it’s easy to compare them — all on the same screen. Vivino isn’t always as easy to use as you’d like it to be, but it’s got a lot of great features. Free: vivino.com


(7/30/16)

Wine Country Harvest

Sonoma County’s grape harvest is right around the corner and should be in full swing in the next 45 days. Harvest usually begins in August, with light-skinned grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc ripening first, and often continues into October, with grapes like Cabernet and Syrah ripening up last. This is a busy and bustling time in Healdsburg Wine Country.

Knowing when exactly to pick the grapes is both an art and science. Harvest depends on the weather, as well as the sugar content of the grapes. So far, we have had an excellent year: warm days, cool evenings and no rain.

Tucked in between three valleys, Healdsburg is the perfect location for growing—and enjoying—many wine varietals. During the harvest season, the wineries get incredibly busy with locals and visitors alike who want in on the action. Grapes are unloaded early in the morning and continue to arrive during the day, and the best wineries buzz with activity.

During this busy season, it is helpful to have tasting reservations at the wineries. This not only helps the tasting room staff, but also allows you to maximize your experience by getting front row seats to all the action.

At HB Experience, we recommend our vacation home guests take advantage of our concierge services to ensure a fabulous wine tasting adventure. Whether it’s horseback riding through the vines or stomping grapes just like Lucy and Ethel, our Concierge service designs your adventure and takes your harvest experience from good to exceptional!

This is a busy and bustling time in wine country. Be aware of crowds and be sure to reserve lodging, wine tours, restaurants, and other activities early as they book up quickly.


(7/21/16)

Healdsburg — Not Just Wine Tasting

If you haven't traveled in the Sonoma Wine Country in the last 10 years, it's possible that your experience of Healdsburg is of a growing farm town, quiet, with some great Dry Creek Zins and Rockpile Chardonnays — maybe Napa County's less elegant little sister. The truth is that in recent years, Sonoma County, and Healdsburg specifically, has become one of the most popular wedding and tourist destinations north of the Golden Gate.

Healdsburg is within a short driving distance of amazing wine tasting experiences, eco food and farm tours, beaches, the Russian River, and Lake Sonoma. We have so much to offer that we encourage people to plan not just a wine tasting trip but an adventure that includes a tapestry of activities that will create lasting memories and make you want to come back again and again!