Located in North Sonoma County, Healdsburg is an incredibly underrated wine destination smack in the middle of California wine country. The area is an ideal location for growing grapes as it’s fed by the Russian River, Dry Creek, and located in the Alexander Valley. And while Healdsburg is becoming a well-known and talked about wine region, this hasn’t necessarily translated to all wine enthusiasts… yet. This wine-growing region still feels like a little hidden oasis far away from the crowds that come with visiting Napa. As you arrive in Healdsburg expect lush rolling hills, bright yellow mustard flowers that pop up throughout the valley at the end of winter, vines as far as the eye can see, sun, and blue skies. It’s why Healdsburg has quickly stolen my heart and why I believe that some of the best wine and tasting experiences come out of the region. Here’s how to spend a day in this region of Sonoma County and the best Healdsburg wineries to visit.
How to Spend a Day in Healdsburg
Where to stay in Healdsburg, restaurants to eat at, and more!
60+ miles north of San Francisco, Healdsburg is an ideal destination if you need to get away from the city, or if you’re using San Francisco as a starting point to explore wine country. It’s close enough that you can enjoy a quick day trip but it’s far enough to make you feel like you’re truly getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city and able to enjoy some rest. Whether you’re spending a day in Healdsburg or a long weekend, there are tons of wineries in the Healdsburg area that are worthy of exploring. And beyond wine, downtown Healdsburg is a historic area with great restaurants and boutique stores.
Having cracked the “wine tasting code”, after many mistakes I have finally learned the best way to taste wine throughout the day. The key is to not rush, take your time, enjoy the experience, and don’t drink so much at the beginning that you don’t remember the end of your day. For that reason, I highly suggest hitting up one winery at opening time (usually around 10 am), eating lunch, checking into your hotel, and then ending the day with two more wine tastings at different wineries before dinner. In my opinion, this means you should aim to visit three wineries per day per visit to wine country.
Upon arrival to Healdsburg, go straight to the first winery you choose (options for different wineries in Healdsburg are listed below); ideally, this tasting will be booked around 10-11 am). After you’ve finished wine tasting, head to the historic downtown Healdsburg for lunch. Oakville Grocery is located in the heart of town and is a fun “take-away” grocery store where you can buy a bottle of wine, sandwiches, pizza, and more and take it outside to eat at the outdoor tables.
After you’ve finished up with lunch head to your hotel for check-in. The ultra-chic and modern Harmon Guest House is a four-star hotel in the heart of Healdsburg. It’s a great place to base yourself, close enough to the vineyards and still walking distance from everything downtown. The hotel comes complete with a pool, a rooftop restaurant, and complimentary breakfast at Spoonbar located next door.
Once you’ve checked into your hotel, head back out for your final two tastings of the day. But don’t drink too much! When you get back to Healdsburg make sure to stop at the upscale lounge, Duke’s Spirited Cocktails, for drinks before dinner.
The Best Healdsburg Wineries to Visit
Aperture Cellars is an ultra-chic and modern tasting room that opened in July of 2020. Its name comes from photography; an aperture is what lets light in through the lens of a camera. The goal of Aperture is to shed light on what Bordeaux varieties can do in Sonoma. Not only was the wine impressive, but the overall aesthetic of the winery is what drew me in and made me crave more time on the property.
FLOWERS VINEYARDS & WINERY
By far one of the most popular and best wineries in Healdsburg is Flowers. Almost everyone who visits the area knows of the property and it comes strongly recommended. As you’re guided outside you’ll see beautiful cabanas throughout the vineyard. Uniquely enough, Flowers is known for more than just their wine, they are also well known for their food. I highly recommend visiting Flowers to try both the wine and the exquisite food.
How to Get Around Healdsburg
If you’re traveling to Healdsburg you’ll definitely want a car to get around. I prefer to rent from Enterprise for their great customer service, car availability, and competitive pricing. I also like to look on QEEQ to filter through different rental agencies to compare prices and ensure I’m getting the best deal.
If you have more time to spend in the area, before heading back to San Francisco add on to your trip by visiting some other areas nearby. Below you’ll find some of my favorite places!
Interested in other wine regions throughout California? Read: How to Plan an Epic Wine Trip Through 5 Different California Wine Regions
If you’re heading back to San Francisco and you have some extra time, I highly recommend taking the scenic route! Instead of jumping on the highway and going straight south, get on the highway, and once you get to Petaluma veer off west to Olema. Put in “Due West” as your ending point, this will bring you to a market and restaurant where you can stop for drinks and food before venturing along the coast. Once you’ve finished don’t put “San Francisco” as your destination or you’ll end up on the wrong highway. Instead, put “Stinson Beach” as your destination and follow the Shoreline Highway south back to the city.
You’ll also be near Mt Tamalpais if you’re in the mood for hiking. Read my Mt Tamalpais guide for everything you need to know about hiking!
If you want to see more of Sonoma County and you’re interested in more wine tasting, head 45-miles south to Sonoma. For a more complete guide to visiting Sonoma, read Sonoma Wine Tasting – Which Vineyards to Visit if You Only Have One Day.
If you want to see beyond Sonoma County, head east to the beautiful and extravagant Napa Valley. For more on Napa don’t miss The Best Vineyards to Visit in Napa Valley and The Ultimate Napa Valley Travel Guide.
Before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge back into the city, stop in the charming town of Sausalito. My favorite thing to do in town is to grab fish and chips from Fish and stroll along the harbor with the San Francisco city skyline in the background. For more on visiting Sausalito, check out A Day Trip to Sausalito.
If you’re visiting wine country as your next destination, I hope that you consider a trip north to Healdsburg. The Healdsburg wineries can stand up to some of the best wineries in Napa and around the world.
SHOP MY FAVORITE WINE TASTING LOOKS!