Posted by: vlibrizzi | April 23, 2010

NoCal/Oregon Roadtrip: Biking and Wine Tasting in Sonoma (Healdsburg), CA

On Sunday evening, the four of us roadtrippers drove about an hour North of San Francisco to the small Sonoma County town of Healdsburg, CA, a town full of beautiful barns (see photo to the left), fields, farms, and, of course, wonderful wine!!!

We stayed at an apartment in town that is owned by the Camellia Inn. With two bedrooms, a large kitchen, and a really comfortable living room, it was a perfect spot for the four of us to spend time together as we began our vacation together.  If you’re traveling with a group of four to six people, I highly recommend staying at this Camilla Inn apartment.

Once we woke up on Monday morning, we re-grouped and had a fantastic breakfast of French toast, omelettes, lattes, and a bread basket at Costeaux bakery (which was conveniently located right below our apartment in Healdsburg), we headed out on our winery tours. You can see a photo of Costeaux bakery to the left. The staff was so friendly, and the food was wonderful!

Instead of driving around the Sonoma wineries, we decided to rent bikes for the day from a company called Wine Country Bikes. Doing this provided two basic benefits: 1) it allowed us to truly experience the winding hills of Sonoma (not always a great thing!) and, 2) it allowed us the opportunity to taste as much wine as we would like (drunken bike riding is a lot more safe than drunk driving!  🙂

So we spent the day biking from winery to winery in the bright sunshine…it was pretty idyllic. Here’s a quick run-down of the wineries we visited (and our thoughts on each of them):

Biking around Healdsburg into the Dry Creek Valley (about a 10-12 mile loop):

Stop 1: Oakville Grocery (on Matheson Street, one block off of the main plaza, in Healdsburg)

This grocery store/deli is a great place to stop to buy sandwiches, cheese, bread, olives, and other yummy snacks to take on a picnic with you. Luckily, the bikes that we rented from Wine Country Bikes came with bags attached to them (for storing bottles of wine or picnicking sundries).

Stop 2: Ridge Winery (on Lytton Springs Road)

Bike straight up (and when I say up, I mean “UP!”) Chiquita Road out of the center of Healdsburg through the surrounding hills and vineyards, and when you feel as if your legs are going to, literally, detach from your body, stop, and you will probably be at Ridge Winery. After catching your breath, and enjoying the beautiful view from their terrace (as you can see us doing in the photo to the left), stop in the tasting room to try their fabulous zinfandels.



Stop 3: Mazzocco Winery (on Lytton Springs Road)

Turn left out of Ridge’s parking lot, bike straight down Lytton Spring Road, and enjoy the breeze as you pick up speed down the hill (the ride down the hill always makes the ride up worth it, doesn’t it?). Then, make sure to stop at Mazzocco and say “hello” to Charlotte for us. The wine at Mazzocco was wonderful (we’ve grown to LOVE zinfandels), but the company was even better. While we were tasting wine with Charlotte, we met a lovely couple from Louisiana who own a restaurant in the town of Monroe called Warehouse Number One (we’re now fishing for a way to get to Monroe to try out this joint!). The couple and their dog – Sonoma veterans from years of building up their restaurant’s wine list – were so friendly and gave us some great suggestions for places to eat and other wineries to visit in and around Healdsburg.

After all that wine tasting and chatting with our friends from Monroe, we needed a bit of a break before we got back on our bikes, so we sat at the picnic tables at Mazzocco and had our lunch from the Oakville Grocery. I had a veggie sandwich on fresh baked focaccia that I literally inhaled—it was so good!

Stop 4: Dry Creek Winery (on Lambert Bridge Road)

From Mazzocco, head down the hill and turn right onto Dry Creek Road, and then left onto Lambert Bridge Road.

Visiting this tasting room was our one (very minor) disappointment of the day (but, really, it was still pretty great). The wines (especially the white Chardonnay we tried) were so yummy, but the tasting room seemed too commercial for our tastes. We preferred the small, homey tasting rooms instead.

Stop 5: Amista Winery (on Dry Creek Road)

Ride back the way you came on Lambert Bridge and Dry Creek Road, and then bike down a long row of vines to a cute (no, adorable!) barn where Ross will be there to greet you with some of the loveliest wines we tasted on the trip. We loved getting to know Ross (who stayed well past the closing time to chat with us and pour more and more glasses). He gave us great recipe and wine pairing suggestions as he told us about the wines Amista makes, and the philosophy behind them.

You can see us biking away from Amista’s barn in the photo to the left. The long dirt driveway through the vineyards up to the barn provided for great, scenic entrance to the tasting room.

Stop 6: Apartment in Healdsburg

We dropped off our bikes at Wine Country Bikes, drove back to our apartment, and crashed for awhile before pulling ourselves together for dinner. Once I got back to Wine Country Bikes, I realized that I had been riding my bike on a flat tire for most of the day, so I was particularly pooped!

Stop 7: Zin Restaurant (downtown Healdsburg)

Later that evening, based on suggestions from the Camilla Inn, Ross, and our friend from Monroe, we ate dinner at a restaurant in Healdsburg called Zin. You can add us now to the list of people who recommend this place because it was fabulous!

I recommend ordering the hush puppies with spicy shrimp, the Caesar salad (which is very garlic-y, but very good!), and the house specialty, beer-battered green beans with a yummy, spicy dip. Wow!


Stop 8: Bed

Our legs were tired, our tummies were full, and our heads were still a bit dizzy from the wine–we needed to sleep!  🙂

Day 2 in Healdsburg
On our second day in Healdsburg, we had breakfast again at Costeaux bakery (we couldn’t get enough!), and then checked out of our apartment (while getting to see the Camilla Inn). I took this photo of the Camilla Inn to the left to convince you Polly readers to stay there the next time you’re in Sonoma. The Inn itself is adorable (as you can see in the photo), but the apartment is really great too!

Then we hopped in the car to make it to our appointment at De la Montanya winery. This new-er vineyard is so beautifully landscaped that we spent about 10 minutes before our visit just walking around the garden and vines (you can see a photo of C. and me in the De la Montanya gardens and in front of their tasting room to the left). We then met with the owner (Dennis) who talked baseball with the guys while sharing his wine with us. He was so friendly and his wine was so good that we’re considering buying a share in his wine club (a worthwhile thing to do if you’re a wine lover!)

Later, we stopped at another winery, Armida, to try their famous “Poizin” wine. While we didn’t love that particular wine, we did really like their other zinfandels and would definitely recommend visiting there to try their Maple Zinfandel, chat with Kristina, and enjoy the spectacular view over the valley from their hilltop winery.

After two vineyard visits, we needed to have something in our stomachs to soak in the wine, and stopped at the Dry Creek General store for sandwiches and snacks (see us munching on our sandwiches to the left). The sandwiches were just as yummy as the Oakville Grocery (although not on focaccia bread). 😦

Then, before we started our drive up north to Mendocino, we had one more winery to visit that our friend from Louisiana had recommended to us—Dutcher’s Crossing.

This winery, which is owned by a lovely and spunky woman, is on a beautiful ridge overlooking the mountains which are specked with trellised vines. We took in the view for awhile, and then entered the tasting room where we saw….none other than our friend from Monroe! We chatted with him for a bit, got some more great recommendations, and then tasted the wine, which was fabulous! We lingered in the tasting room, reluctant to end the Sonoma wine tasting leg of our vacation, but , like Robert Frost, we had “miles to go before we sle[pt]” and were due in Mendocino, CA by 6 pm (on strict orders from our bossy, but kind, innkeeper at the Joshua Grindle Inn).


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