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While winter may seem like a less than ideal time to visit Wine Country it actually is a wonderful time to visit. The crowds are gone, the sun shines more than it rains, the mustard flowers begin to bloom, and you will be able to experience all the winter in Wine Country has to offer. So come for a visit to Healdsburg and experience all the charms we have to offer!
Winter in Wine Country | A Cozy Winter Guide to Healdsburg, CA
Healdsburg is made for eating. There are so many restaurants in town that it would be tough to eat at them all in one visit. There are some restaurants though that are made for winter (aka the time for comfort food). Here are just some of our favorites to dig into during winter in Wine Country.
344 Center Street
Valette has become a staple of Healdsburg since it opened in 2015. Dustin Valette and his brother, Aaron Grazini, opened the restaurant to showcase honest high-quality food and they deliver. The menu has hearty dishes that are perfect for a cold cozy winter night. Think a house made charcuterie plate, homemade pasta with spicy broccoli flower and a roasted rapini pesto, and their famous day boat scallops en croute with shaved fennel, caviar, and champagne beurre blanc. All of these are just the appetizers.
For the main dishes, there are always several fish dishes to choose from (and all we have tried have been superb) like the crispy skin striped sea bass with celeriac puree and a purple cauliflower relish. If you are more of a carnivore why not try their cocoa nib crusted Liberty Farms duck leg or the charred Wagyu New York steak with mushroom fondue and caramelized parsnip.
Or if you are feeling like something unexpected, why not try Chef Valette’s “Trust Me” menu which consists of a minimum of four courses with the option to add on more. We promise you won’t regret putting your trust in Chef Valette!
128 Plaza Street
Every once in awhile (or quite often) we feel the need to satisfy a bone-deep desire for home cooked Mexican cuisine and when that feeling strikes we head straight to El Farolito. This quaint Mexican restaurant just off the plaza in Healdsburg offers a menu filled with homemade Mexican classics like their house made mole, Oaxacan enchiladas, and chile rellenos. They also have daily specials which showcase their family’s recipes like a Chilanga torta, Caseros tamales, and chihuahua colorado.
In addition to having fantastic food they also have an extensive tequila and mezcal collection. If you want to explore the world of Oaxacan alcohols then you have to sit at the bar and try a couple for yourself. You can also mix your mezcal or tequila into a house made margarita. Sip on one of these, eat some shrimp cocktail (the Mexican version with shrimp, tomatoes, avocado, onions and cilantro) and you won’t even realize it is winter in Wine Country!
29 North Street
Chalkboard, located next to the posh Le Mars Hotel, is a place that is both contemporary and comfortable with a menu that reflects that. Their seasonal menus reflect the best produce that they can get from Chalk Hill Farm, the restaurant’s garden out at Chalk Hill Winery, along with other seasonal produce from the area. The main menu is a mix of small plates and is organized into Snacks, Raw, Salad, Vegetables, Housemade Pasta, Seafood, and Meat. Perhaps one of the best dishes is their fried chicken thighs with a vinegar hot sauce and a carraway yogurt.
In addition to their regular menu, they also offer a rotating Happy Hour Abroad menu. The current menu is a Polynesian themed happy hour with snacks like poke, spam musubi, and pork belly buns on offer. These are then paired with their Polynesian themed cocktails. Sip on The Marlin, a delicious concoction of rum, maraschino, blue curacao, orgeat and citrus, and snack on some Polynesian bites to escape the winter to an island if only for happy hour!
Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria
21021 Geyserville Ave, Geyserville
We are skipping out of Healdsburg for this one to head to the charming town of Geyserville just north. In Geyserville along its main strip is some of the best pizza available in Sonoma County. Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria offers traditional wood-fired Italian pizzas along with house-cured salumi and sausages. In addition to wood-fired pizzas, they also offer a whole host of Italian inspired dishes like spaghettini with pork cheek ragu, polenta ravioli, a bone in ribeye for two, and chicken under a brick with local polenta.
Diavola Pizzeria combines the best of Sonoma County and Italy with its comfort food classics what else would expect from the chef and owner, Dino Bugica, who spent over ten years in Italy learning how to butcher and the ideas behind Cucina Povera, where you use simple but high quality ingredients to create intensely flavorful dishes.
237 Center Street
Studio Barndiva is the extension of a mainstay of Healdsburg culinary scene, Barndiva. The Studio Barndiva is housed in Barndiva’s gallery where they have been showcasing art and hosting private parties for years. Now they’ve added the Gallery Bar where you can sip on some spirits and enjoy a French bistro-inspired menu. In addition, every Sunday they are hosting prix fixe French Country Dinners featuring a mix of French classics and Sonoma County inspirations. Winter in Wine Country is the perfect time to indulge in a little French comfort food.
Baci Café and Wine Bar
336 Healdsburg Avenue
Baci has always been our favorite Italian restaurant outside of Italy and while the dishes may not be traditionally Italian they evoke the spirit of Italy through their use of fresh high quality ingredients. My favorite has always been the Gnocchi alla Bolognese made with Kobe beef, veal and pork ribs. The dish is hearty, meaty and while not traditional (Listen to our podcast all about traditional Bolognese) it hits all the points of a delicious Bolognese.
Their menu is wide-ranging and has favorites like Penne alla Puttanesca, an absolutely amazing Burrata appetizer, Gamberetti Marinati, Tagliatelle alla Carbonara, Osso Bucco, pizzas and the list goes on and on. Even though the menu is large all the dishes are loving created by owners Lisbeth Holmefjord and Shari Sarabi. In addition, they always have a few specials.
For January they serve up a Roman classic: chicory salad with chicory, puntarelle, endive and roasted garlic, a seasonal favorite of cannelloni filled with Dungeness crab hailing from Bodega Bay, sauteed leeks, pancetta and ricotta cheese which is then covered in a lobster cream sauce and mozzarella and baked in the oven and then a pappardelle with a lamb ragú. Did we mention that they also have a fish of the day?
Journeyman Meat Co.
404 Center Street
Journeyman Meat Co. opened up this summer and if you are looking for a place to not only buy salami, sausages, and estate beef but also drink some wine and eat pizza then you have to head to Journeyman Meat Co. Journeyman is a great spot to visit if you are feeling a little peckish and also thirsty between your wine tastings and dinner. They are opened until 7 pm so it is a perfect early evening stop. Take advantage of the Seghesio’s hospitality, grab a seat at the counter, taste some wine, some salami, and even a wood-fired pizza!
(Also, you may get a chance to try some salami made by Alex as he is now working for them as a butcher!)
Winter in Wine Country is all about comforting drinks: think hearty red wines, cozy local bars and maybe a little bit of celebration and romance (hello Valentine’s Day)! It is also for long chats and cozy spaces especially on those days the weather turns for the worse. Here are our favorite places to cozy up and have a drink.
328 Healdsburg Avenue
Bergamot has long been a staple of our Healdsburg life. This eclectic wine bar focuses on filling a gap in the wine market in Wine Country as they focus entirely on unique international wines. That is right there is not a California wine to be seen. And because of their amazing wine selection and great local beers, they have quickly become every wine geek’s favorite watering hole.
Winter is a great time to come experience Bergamot because not only do they have some amazing international wines like orange wine from Georgia (the country – not the state), southern Italian wines you’ve never heard of, and tap takeovers from small local breweries but they also offer a host of events. One of our favorite event series is starting on February 6th: 8 Weeks of Italy: Soup to Nuts.
This tasting series is perfect if you want to learn about Italian wine as each week, Bergamot’s esteemed leader Kevin will be educating us on a different region from Piedmonte to Veneto to Toscana to Campania and Calabria. If you have ever wanted to drink a lot of insanely delicious Italian wine while learning all about it, then you have to take part in this tasting series! You know we will definitely be at a few (or all…)!
325 Center Street
Located just off the plaza, Banshee is a hip and cozy tasting room offering up some insanely delicious Sonoma County Pinot Noirs among other wines as well. The tasting room is set up to look like your coolest friend’s living room and is an inviting space to sip and enjoy some good company. Sample your way through different variations of Sonoma County Pinot Noir from the Morning Light Pinot Noir which is bright and playful with juicy red fruit flavor to the Rice-Spivak Pinot Noir that tastes like berries and herbaceous forest floor and don’t forget the Sonoma County Pinot Noir with macerated wild berries, plums, dark cherry and earthy notes. Also, they will be releasing their Rosé in just 15 days!
499 Moore Lane
Breathless Winery is one of Healdsburg’s newest tasting rooms and is dedicating to one of our favorite things in the world, BUBBLY! Yes, this is an all sparkling house and is a perfect stop if you are planning a romantic winter in Wine Country getaway (Valentine’s Day is right around the corner after all). These refreshing and playful sparkling wines are created the traditional Champagne method and really embrace the combination of the traditional French method of champagne making and high quality Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
Stop by their charming tasting room in downtown Healdsburg and sample their variety of sparkling wines from the Blanc de Blancs, the North Coast Brut, Blanc de Noirs and more all the while relaxing at this unique tasting room made from shipping containers. Relax in their Art Deco inspired tasting room and let the sparkling wine take you back in time to the 1920s.
The Elephant in The Room
177 Healdsburg Avenue
The Elephant in the Room is Healdsburg newest neighborhood bar. This bar opened by locals is located just behind Alex’s favorite lunch spot, The Parish Cafe, and while it hasn’t been opened very long you can already tell its working its way into the locals’ hearts. This cozy pub has great craft beers on tap, a fantastic selection of local wines and offers a wide variety of live music.
This is the spot to hang out at if you are visiting and want to experience local life in Healdsburg. Seriously, just look at the reviews. Plus when the weather is nice, they have a fantastic little outdoor patio too!
422 Healdsburg Avenue
Sanglier Cellars, located on Healdsburg Avenue, calls you in with its love of wild boars and wines ranging from a traditional whole-cluster pressed Rosé, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blend. For Sanglier Cellars their wines showcase their philosophy. They want the wines to represent the farming, the food they pair with, time spent with family and friends, and joy. Come visit their tasting room and see how they truly let their wines shine by letting the grapes speak for themselves.
(Plus they share their tasting room with G&C Lurton Vineyard so two for one!)
There is also something going on in Healdsburg even during winter in Wine Country. Seriously, let one of these events be your excuse for coming up to visit our little town!
Winemaker Waiter Wednesday’s
Have you ever wanted your favorite winemaker to also be your waiter? To be able to answer your wine questions while your eating dinner? Then you have to visit Campo Fina this January and February for Winemaker Waiter Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, a different winemaker will be the waiter du jour and offer up their wines by the glass, half bottle or full bottle. This is a great way to sample some fantastic wines, get to know the winemaker behind the label and of course indulge in some of Campo Fina’s fantastic food!
The Lake Sonoma Steelhead Festival
Milt Brandt Visitors Center, Lake Sonoma
The Lake Sonoma Steelhead Festival is a free event to celebrate the return of the Steelhead Trout to Lake Sonoma for their spawning season. The event will feature food trucks from around Sonoma County, beer and wine, plus archery, fishing, and wild animal exhibits. This will be an afternoon for the whole family!
Mr. Healdsburg King of Kings Pageant
Raven Performing Arts Theater
The final Mr. Healdsburg Pageant is here. This annual satirical men’s beauty pageant and fundraiser for the Raven Performing Arts Theater is ending after this year so you can be sure that everyone will be going all out! Past winners will be competing to find out who is the king of kings and it will be the end of an era. See them compete in four categories including beachwear and formal-wear plus the talent competition. Maybe this video will convince you more than I can:
If that doesn’t completely do it also know that this fundraiser raises about 20k for the Raven Performing Arts Theater!
Champagne and Caviar Reception
Paul Mahder Gallery
Who doesn’t like the opportunity to dress up sip champagne and eat caviar? Indulge in grower champagne and caviar at this reception hosted by Hawkes Winery at the stunning Paul Mahder Gallery. Not only will you get to sip champagne but you can also take in the stunning artwork as one of the best galleries in town!
Give Me Shelter Fundraiser for the Humane Society of Sonoma County
Love cuddly animals? Love wine? Love raising money? Then you have to attend the Give Me Shelter Fundraiser to support the Healdsburg Center for Animals. Mingle with shelter animals while you sip on local wine, enjoy a seated dinner and a lively auction. If you want to help support the Humane Society this is your chance!
Sonoma County Restaurant Week
Oh, Restaurant Week, how I love you. I think Restaurant Week is the highlight of winter in Wine Country. This year Restaurant Week is from March 5 to the 11th and several local restaurants are taking part and offering prix fixe menus for both lunch and dinner. This is a fantastic chance to try some of our local restaurants that have been on your list like Valette, Cafe Lucia (the best Portuguese cuisine!), Barndiva, Spoonbar and more. With both lunch and dinner options, you should probably come up and visit for at least a week to hit all the restaurants!
Pigs and Pinot
Pigs and Pinot, hosted by famed Chef Charlie Palmer and Hotel Healdsburg, is a favorite yearly event (which sells out quickly!). This is a full weekend that is all about…. Pigs and Pinot! There is a mix of educational events, intimate dinners, international chefs, Master Somms and of course world class Pinot Noir! And of course, there is the Gala Dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen (Charlie Palmer’s restaurant) featuring five courses, each one a collaboration between Charlie Palmer and a celebrity Chef, paired with two Pinot Noirs each from some stunning wineries including one of our favorites, Rochioli. If you love pork and Pinot then you can’t miss this weekend!
Healdsburg Bike Share
Also, brand new as of this week is Healdsburg Bike Share Program! I tried it out yesterday and it is a great service. The City of Healdsburg has partnered with Zagster and there are six stations around town. The whole system is done through the Zagster App so it is super user-friendly. You can stop and lock the bike around town if you decide to pause and maybe take in some wine tasting. It is also fairly reasonable as well. To join you do need to pay a one-time membership fee and then all trips under an hour are free. Every half hour after that is $8. Get on your bikes and ride!
Winter in Wine Country has so much to offer and you really shouldn’t miss it, especially now that Travel Channel has decided that Healdsburg makes a great off season destination. Get here before the crowds and experience all that Healdsburg has to offer!
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