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by Erika Lenkert

What's Hopping in Healdsburg

I'll admit it. I have Healdsburg envy. It's not that my longtime hometown of Napa isn't one of the most desirable spots on earth. It is. It's just that the heart of Northern Sonoma wine country is so darned charming with its walkable historic center square, chic shops, sleek restaurants, new upscale hotels, rows of Victorian homes, and quaint winding roads leading to family owned wineries serving exceptional wine.
Over the past few years Healdsburg has managed to subtly add big-city luxury to its small-town charm and wide-open vineyard expanses, making it into an even more glorious destination. Visit any of the following favorites and see if you don't have the hots for Healdsburg.

Healdsburg's historic downtown square is the perfect place to get your bearings, grab a cup of coffee or picnic provisions, browse some of the region's favorite restaurants, and shop until you or your credit cards drop.

Next, jump in the car and hit the region's myriad vineyards, which specialize in everything from Sauvignon Blanc to Zinfandel and everything in between. For me, the best wine tastings come with outstanding atmosphere, which is why I always stop at Preston Vineyards. At this family owned stop you'll find just as much vintage country charm swirling around as you will Rhone varietals, estate-grown produce, and freshly baked bread—as well as plenty of picnic benches in case you simply must sit down and devour the bounty immediately. (6192 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, 800-305-9707, Nearby is Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves, perhaps the most lifestyle-oriented winery I've ever visited. Truth be told, I'm so enamored of the century-plus-year-old olive trees and oh-so-chic tasting cave, which is fancifully decorated with hanging lamps and café tables, that I'd pay a visit even if their various Zinfandels weren't flat-out fabulous. Fortunately, however, they are just that. (9711 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 866-572-3552,

Not all that long ago Healdburg hotel options were limited to exceedingly charming B&Bs, small inns, and basic motels. But in 2001, Hotel Healdsburg changed all that by opening a genuinely country-chic hotel on the square. With a spa and a Charlie Palmer-run restaurant attached, it was the foundation for downtown's evolution and continues to be a choice spot for shacking up. (25 Matheson St., Healdsburg, 800-889-7199, But without question Les Mars Hotel, with its new old-world elegance oozing from every handcrafted corner, is the entire region's most luxurious place to rest your head. (72 North St., Healdsburg, 877-431-1700,

Neighboring chic Les Mars Hotel is the region's finest dining room Cyrus. Styled after the opulent destination restaurants of the Burgundian countryside and manned by culinary supertalent Douglas Keane and legendary maitre d' Nick Peyton, it's a dream dining experience rich with caviar, champagne, and seasonal local delights that are equal parts beautiful and delicious. (24 North St., Healdsburg, 707-433-3311, At the other end of the chic spectrum is Barndiva, downtown's sexiest spot, which merges sweet country charm and city smarts through décor such as nests, pitchforks, concrete floors, and a dramatic centerpiece bar. Mingling on their "modern country food" at the bar or in the garden has become popular pastime—especially among the younger hipper wine country reveler. See you there? (231 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-431-0100,