So, my lovely lady, Kim, ran a half marathon in Healdsburg, CA. Some of you know that that is what we call Wine Country! Or as the I, the Maverick Adventurer call it, “My Playground!” I love this part of the world. I have been to wine areas all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, Paris, Canada, etc, but I have always enjoyed the Napa/Sonoma area the best. It’s just my taste. So when my gal runs a marathon there, what on Earth is a growing boy to do, but go and support his sweetie. Oh, and taste some wine……
So a little about Healdsburg. Walking around the tiny town is a joy. Just like so many of the little towns in this region, there is a warm feeling of a common love of all things wine, food, and quality. Everything is clean and well kept, the people are friendly, and the vibe is laid back. Though there is a bit of a rivalry between Sonoma and Napa, I believe the overall sense of the region to be open and inviting. Even though Napa’s wineries charge a lot more than Somoma. Just sayin.
While in Healdsburg we dined at Willies (www.willisseafood.net), an unassuming local place that simply blew me away with dishes like the Caramelized Butterfish w/ Miso Vinaigrette & Exotic Mushrooms (below) and the Hamachi Ceviche w/ Rocoto Chili, lime juice, and Pepitas. Both dishes were exquisitely prepared and perfectly presented. I’ll have more on all the foods in this post on my companion Foodie blog (Gourmandster.tumblr.com). The service was excellent and our server, Gabriell, was knowledgeable and friendly with great hints about other wineries to visit later in the day. I highly recommend Willie’s!
Then we popped next door to the Toad Hollow Vineyards tasting room (ToadHollow.com). Another unassuming storefront that did not belie a truly great wine tasting experience. Fun, inviting, whimsical, and friendly yet again. And, did I mention, free? Our host, Travis, was not just a tasting helper, but also a marathoner, swimmer, and fitness coach. Kim and he got along swimmingly. Nyuck nyuck nyuck. The wines were lovely. Though nothing jumped out at us, I will most definitely go back for the fun vibe. And, of course, the tasty wines!
Then there was Santa Rosa. Nice place, but definitely a bit of a different vibe. As far as “Adventuring” goes, there definitely was some of that. One of the things I do when I travel is I tend to stay at budget motels and such. Big fan of Motel 6, and I will have a great one to tell you about later. I figure, you are not there for the sleep, you are there for the ADVENTURE! But the Santa Rosa stay was at a bunghole of a rat trap called the Vagabond Inn. Wheeere to start?!? Crappy bed, crappy pillows, crappy water, crappy coffee, crappy area, crappy vibe, crappy lady running the place, crappy guy passed out at the bottom of the stairs, crappy crappy crappy! Let’s just say, I won’t be staying there again. Run from this place!
But there were a couple of nice eateries that I discovered in Santa Rosa. One was called Piner Cafe (pinercafe.com) where I had a really great blue cheese burger (pictured below). Nice family friendly feel here. Don’t let my sad alliteration or the tatted up waitresses scare you; they were really very sweet and attentive. There was plenty of food at a good price. And that burger was damn good!
And there was another tasty burger to be had the same day at Brody’s (www.brodysburgers.com). Yeah, I know, I need a frickin salad or two. The burgers here were varied and happily grass fed, hormone free and such. And they were executed well. Another draw are $1.50 pint brews on tap. Good on ya! Oh, and quite tasty onion rings, crunchy and substantially thick cut. If ya know me, ya know I’m always looking for the best onion rings. The building used to be a fast food joint or something similar and still has that feel, but they have made it a little more interesting with a TV and some local “color” aka drunken, sport junky, revelers. But not completely trailer park, ya’ll.
The wine find in Santa Rosa was the Siduri (www.siduri.com) and Novy (www.novyfamilywines.com). This is a winery located in a business block warehouse area, not what I expected. And, again, the tastings here are complimentary. The wines were very nice with grapes sourced from all over. Pinot Noir and Syrahs were the predominant varietals here. On both of which I have mixed feelings, but I find Sonoma and Napa to have the best in the world. The discovery for me here was a Blanc Pinot Noir from the Novy side. Yep, I said Blanc. I was unaware there was such a thing! I’m a red wine guy almost exclusively, but this smoky, slightly fruity toned and refreshing wine was a nice surprise and now holds a place on my shelf.
The final stop in Sonoma for us was at the Paradise Ridge Winery (prwinery.com). This place has a really interesting art sculpture garden that greets you on the drive up. This place has a $10 tasting fee that is waived upon purchase. We received a 2 for 1 complimentary tasting, and I’m quite sure that was due to my sparkly lady. They have a gourmet chef on site and they provide food pairing suggestions with each wine that made the Foodie in me quiver and really want to cook! The wines were robust and the scenery was lovely as well. The art was modern and interesting to downright weird and macabre. But overall, an enjoyable experience that I can recommend.
So that was the Sonoma quickie trip! I am sure I will be back to explore the area even more. So go visit the area, taste some wine, take a lovely stroll in downtown Healdsburg, and whatever you do, steer clear of the Vagabond Inn in Santa Rosa!