Top 10 North American Wine Destinations
#2 – Healdsburg, California
There are two reasons the northern Sonoma County town of Healdsburg earns such a lofty ranking on our list of the top 10 wine destinations in North America:
1. You can use the quaint town as a home base for exploring the wineries of no fewer than four acclaimed viticultural areas – Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Chalk Hill.
2. You can opt to stay downtown, park your car, and explore the neighborhood on foot – concentrating on the historic Healdsburg Plaza.
We like option No. 2 for a number of reasons…
* The plaza is the culinary hub of Healdsburg, so one can walk off (at least part of) a big meal.
* Numerous wineries have opened satellite tasting rooms around or just off the plaza.
* There’s no need for a designated driver.
For a Napa-like experience, stay at Les Mars Hotel, a three-story, 16-room inn that’s just one block off the plaza.
While the rooms are tastefully appointed with both antique and modern touches, the best reason to stay at Les Mars is the easy access it provides to Sonoma County’s best restaurant: Cyrus.
The food is amazing, the service is impeccable, and the wine list includes numerous local bottlings you’re not likely to find in any other restaurant.
A close second to Les Mars – and also highly recommended – is the Healdsburg Inn on the Plaza. It has just a dozen rooms, but it’s big on perks.
Each afternoon, guests may head to the upstairs lounge and enjoy complimentary wine, cheese and fruit. And for a mere $5 extra per person, guests may enjoy breakfast in bed.
An alternative morning treat would require a short walk to the Downtown Bakery & Creamery, where locals congregate for the sticky buns and the best coffee in town.
Once you’ve carbed up sufficiently, it’s time to start exploring the plaza’s numerous tasting rooms.
Among those worth seeking out:
* Murphy Goode – Home to some of the best bottlings of Zinfandel in the county… and with colorful names: “Liar’s Dice” and “Snake Eyes.”
* Rosenblum Cellars – Another Zin specialist, offering a wide array of bottlings and styles, with grapes sourced from some of the best Zinfandel vineyards in the state.
* Toad Hollow – Offering the widest selection of wines for sampling anywhere in the plaza neighborhood.
* Ferrari-Carano – Every project the Carano family tackles is first class, from Reno’s Eldorado Hotel and Casino to the Ferrari-Carano wine estate outside Healdsburg. Now, the family has opened the Seasons of the Vineyard Tasting Bar and Boutique right on the plaza, offering wine tasting, special events and eclectic gift items. About the only thing missing is the winery’s spectacular garden.
The Healdsburg Plaza also is home to the Sonoma County outpost of the Oakville Grocery. This gourmet “mini-mart” has been in business for 120 years in Napa Valley, and recently celebrated its 10th birthday on the Sonoma side.
Made-to-order sandwiches and a bounty of deli items are available for a quick lunch back at your hotel, or you may enjoy your grub in the grocery’s outdoor seating area.
From classy and comfy accommodations to world-class dining, and from eclectic boutiques to well-stocked tasting rooms, the Healdsburg Plaza has it all… and then some.
Tomorrow: It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. We’ll conclude our countdown with THE top wine destination in North America.