Scenic route from OAK to Healdsburg

May 14th, 2010, 05:34 AM
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Scenic route from OAK to Healdsburg

Hi all -

In late July we'll be arriving in OAK on a Wednesday at 9:45 am for a 4 night stay in Healdsburg, and I'm trying to decide how to best spend the first day. I'm considering having lunch in San Francisco or Sausalito, or maybe we should just head north in case we hit a lot of traffic. I've heard many mention on this board that highway 101 is under construction and there are big delays, so could anyone suggest an alternative route where we could enjoy scenery, have a nice lunch, and maybe check out a winery or 2?

Thanks for your help!
beckytx is offline  
May 14th, 2010, 09:23 AM
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Four days is a lot of time to spend in the Healdsburg area - so I would not be in too much of a hurry to get up there. It is quite easy to avoid commute traffic on 101, unless you leave San Francisco after around 3:30.

Here are two options:

From OAK, head north & keep on the east side of the Bay and drive towards Vallejo. This section is not a scenic drive at all - I hate it. After Vallejo, take Route 29 through the Napa Valley. Stop somewhere along the way for a nice lunch - my choice would be Mustards just north of Yountville. Keep going north on 29/128 to Calistoga. Stop at wineries along the way. After Calistoga, take the very lovely 128 through the mountains and then the pretty Alexander Valley - where you can stop at some more wineries. Eventually, you will end up in Healdsburg.


From OAK, head to San Francisco over the Bay Bridge. Get off at the first exit in SF and head east on Folsom until you hit the Embarcadero (road along the Bay). Turn left, and follow the Embarcadero till you get to the Ferry Bldg. You will have a great amount of difficulty parking the car near the Ferry Bldg unless you are very familiar with Financial District parking - but the Ferry Bldg would be a good place for lunch. If you can't find parking, just keep going straight on the Embarcadero (actualy, it curves), until you find yourself at Fisherman's Wharf. Get on Jefferson St, but PLEASE - promise me that you wil not have lunch or stop at Fisherman's Wharf. Jefferson ends at Hyde - where the cable cars turn around. Turn left at Hyde & go 3 blocks to Bay St & turn right on Bay. Continue on Bay until Van Ness (big street) and turn left (south) & proceed a few blocks till you hit Union St. Turn right on Union St & drive through the cute shopping area. Have lunch here - at Rosa's Cafe at Union & Steiner or at the Marina sandwich shop across the street from Rosa's. After lunch, head north on Steiner to Lombard, turn left on Lombard & follow the traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge. Take the Alexander St exit once off the Bridge, to drive through Sausalito. Get on 101 heading north. Get off 101 at Cotati, heading northwest on 116. Keep going north on 116 to Forrestville and turn left (west) and go through Forrestville to Guerneville on 116. At Guerneville, turn right (east) on to River Road. Stay on River Road as it crosses over the Russian River just past Hacienda – which will still be River Road. About 4 miles past crossing over the river, turn left on Wohler Road. You will start to see some vineyards now & there are some cute B&Bs close by. Stay on Wohler Rd as it crosses the river (again) on a very narrow 1 way bridge. Just past the bridge, turn right on to Westside Rd towards Healdsburg. You will see lots of vineyards on the way to Healdsburg. At the Madrona Manor (drive in & look around) - turn right & go into Healdsburg.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
May 14th, 2010, 11:55 AM
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Thank you for the great suggestions! I really appreciate it and will report back what we end up doing. And I promise I will not eat at Fisherman's Wharf.

The reason I've opted for 4 nights is so we can get some relaxation in. I want to visit Armstrong Woods, lay by the pool at hotel (Duchamp), jog, maybe do a river activity, as well as indulge myself in lots of good food/wine.
beckytx is offline  
May 14th, 2010, 12:02 PM
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Alternative -- Take 80 until you connect with 37 and then west to 121. Take that north into Sonoma County past Gloria Ferrer Champagne Cellars then connect with 12 east into Napa, passing Domaine Carneros, Artesa, Nichelson Ranch winers and then join the 29 and follow Stu's route.
boom_boom is offline  
May 14th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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Here is maitaiTracy's list (below) she compiled for a friend that includes Napa, Sonoma, Alexander and Bennett valleys. It includes lodging, restaurants and wineries (it also includes whites and places to taste sparkling wines, too, but maybe you will expand your red horizons to taste at one of these places).

"We much prefer Sonoma county to Napa. However, both valleys both offer lots to do and see.

Napa & Environs **********

We don't usually taste in Napa, very crowded, a little snootier (in our opinion) and they charge everywhere for tasting ... however, that being said, when we do taste up there we prefer the wineries along the Silverado Trail which runs parallel to the road from Napa to Calistoga and is always less crowded. Mumm's, Duckhorn, Chimney Rock, Rombauer, Silver Oak are on that side of the valley. If Silver Oak is too busy, they have a tasting room in the Alexander Valley too. Rombauer is well worth the stop. Definitely taste the Joan's Vineyard Zinfandel at Rombauer. Only sold at the winery. Fabulous, as are all their wines – check out the chardonnay, yummy (is that a wine tasting term?)

For sparkling wines try: --- owned by French champagne house, Tattinger - Mumm's has a gorgeous outdoor tasting area overlooking the vineyards -- they serve flights of champagne. It gets very crowded. - Schramsburg gives a really good tour & tasting ($25/person) but you need reservations as it is at the end of a dirt road through the forest, up the mountain, gorgeous -- - in Napa, I have not been here but friends have and said it has nice gardens and good art collection. Their cabernet is DELICIOUS, AMAZING, but a tad EXPENSIVE! They also have a sparkling wine.

If you need a limo contact Beau Wine Tours -- I think we paid $350 for 6 hrs. and lunch. Well worth it as there are cops everywhere in Napa.

Napa Restaurants - restaurant in Napa. Really good food but a tad noisy. - I like this place, noisy, crowded Italian but good food - I have heard good things about this place but have not been there -- it is in Napa

Napa Lodging -- lots of choices in all price ranges in Napa

Meadowood is outside Napa on the Silverado Trail – gorgeous and expensive
River Terrace Inn – new hotel on the river, not very exciting but it might be less expensive
Milliken Creek Inn – Some friends of ours stayed here and liked it
Napa River Inn – I have been in the lobby and restaurant (General Store), my Dad says this is a really nice place

La Residence Inn – B&B we stayed at our wedding night in Napa on the road to Yountville
Blackbird Inn – one of the Four Sisters Inn -


Yountville which is just north of Napa has tons of really good restaurants too.

Domain Chandon is always crowded but very modern facility, personally I would skip it -- you can get Chandon at BevMo. If you do go here, be sure to taste their pink Etoille sparking wine.

Of course, French Laundry is there but I understand you need reservations a year in advance and an entire paycheck to eat there. Ad Hoc (French Laundry guy) menu changes daily, really good but gets crowded. - I really like Brix but for some reasons the foodie people snub it. nestled in vineyards, nice views. Fabulous brunch on Sunday. - We have had several good meals at Hurleys; outdoor seating - this place was quite the buzz when it opened, supposed to be good
Mustard's Grill – We have not been here but I understand the food is great
Bistro Jeanty - French bistro food (check out the menu, Tom and I had a fabulous meal here but when I went with the girls they didn't see anything they wanted to try)

Bouchon - French seafood place --- good cocktails

Yountville Lodging

Napa Valley Lodge (expensive); Villagio Inn & Spa (expensive); Maison Fleurie – a Four Sisters Inn (when we stayed here last time needed some updating); Lavender – also a Four Sisters Inn

Follow Silverado Trail from Napa to Calistoga (do not take Hwy. 29 through Yountville/St. Helena – too crowded).

Cut across to Hwy. 128 at Calistoga – lots of cute restaurants and shopping. Chateau Montelena is worth a stop to taste if you have time (do the library tasting).

Follow the signs on Hwy. 128 through the Alexander Valley to Healdsburg. Lots of wineries along this route. Also in the Alexander Valley we love Stryker Winery – fabulous, modern tasting room, excellent Petite Verdot, Zinfandel, Cab Franc, everything here is great. The Alexander Valley is not only scenic, but chalk full of excellent wineries.

Check out for a list of winegrowers and events in the Dry Creek Valley and for Russian River wineries.

Healdsburg is a small town around a quaint square with lots of shopping, antiques and restaurants, including:

Restaurant Charcuterie -- is on the west side of the square. A small, cozy French cafe painted pink with pig décor (charcuterie is French for pig), the menu is posted on a large black board and changes with the seasons. This restaurant is extremely popular with the locals and reservations are recommended. At the suggestion of our innkeeper, both of us had the rib eye steak with gorgonzola sauce which was delicious, but huge. I definitely recommend that you share this particular entrée and try some of the other side dishes or salads.

Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar, one block north of the square is another of our favorites. A wide variety of zinfandels (surprise!) are available on the menu. The spicy, Mexican beer battered green beans are our favorite. Be sure to share these -- the order it quite large.

The Ravenous is another tremendous restaurant located a few blocks off the square. Housed in a small bungalow, the interior of which was gutted and painted pumpkin to make one large dining area. There is also outdoor dining on either the deck or in the garden. We shared cabbage rolls stuffed with hamburger, pancetta and spinach as appetizer. We both had the skirt steak with lime chipotle cumin sauce served with roasted potatoes, peppers and onions ($23) for dinner and still managed to squeeze in apple crunch with wild honey gelato for dessert ($7.75). Once again, portions large enough to share.

Two other spots with great outdoor patios and people watching are Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen located in the Hotel Healdsburg and Willy's Seafood.

The Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant located just 13 miles from Healdsburg in nearby Forestville, was listed in the San Francisco Chronicle's 2003 Top 100 restaurants. For dessert, I highly recommend the chocolate soufflé -- rich, warm and served with a side of melted chocolate poured over the top.

Wine tasting in Healdsburg includes the very fun Seghesio Winery – great zins. We are former wine club members here until we acquired too much zin (is that possible?).

Healdsburg lodging – lots of B&B in this area
Hotel Healdsburg – new, hip and trendy, on the square in Healdsburg
Raford House – B&B in a vineyard

About ten minutes north of Healdsburg is the small berg of Geyserville. Santi Restaurant is housed in an historic building (look for the rustic "taverna" sign), delicious Italian food and has a romantic patio for warm-weather dining. The wine shop next door is called Locals – they feature over 62 wines from 10 unique award-winning smaller vineyards in the area (we are wine club members here). I believe we have tasted them all, and I am sure we have purchased them all!

Geyserville Inn -; nothing exciting except it is reasonably priced, adjacent to a vineyard and next door to good place for breakfast, there is also a pool.

Crossing under the freeway from Healdsburg (at the end of the road is Madrona Manor - recently received a Michelin star rating) – turn left where the road curves and you are on the Dry Creek Road --- beautiful drive through the oak trees. If you turn right, you go on narrow, 2-lane road, curves past some off the beaten path wineries – Lambert Bridge Winery is good stop.

Ferrari-Carano is at the north end near Lake Sonoma. Beautiful winery and gardens. Sometimes too crowded. Do the library tasting downstairs if you have time.

Pick up a wine map – Korbel is definitely worth the drive – technically it is in the Russian River Valley. Turn right at the end of Dry Creek Road to get there. Good place to go for lunch and sit outside in the redwoods. They have beautiful gardens and garden tours here during the summer. If you turn left at the end of Dry Creek Road, follow signs for J (they have food pairing with their wines) and Jordan. Foppiano Winery has great Sangiovese. Loads of wineries. The roads criss-cross all over in this area. Just follow the big white sign posts.

If you continue on the road past Korbel you will end up at the beach near Bodega Bay, home of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

Going the other direction – north from Healdsburg towards Geyserville. You can cut across at Cloverdale and go to Mendocino. Winding scenic drive through the forest. Takes about an hour and half to two hours to get to Mendocino. Scharffenberger and Roederer sparkling wineries are along the way. Don't drive this at night – too dark and curvy.

If you happen near Santa Rosa, be sure to arrange a tour at Mantazas Creek, home of wine and lavender nestled in the Bennett Valley area.

SONOMA ************
The town of Sonoma is also very cute with lots of shopping and restaurants. Historical stuff like the Mission, courthouse, Jack London State Park. The General's Daughter restaurant is just off the square in an old farm house, dining in the garden if it is warm enough. Good food. I understand The Girl and the Fig is a very popular restaurant too ( The Swiss Hotel is on the square in Sonoma with good, casual good food, seems like the locals eat here. Gundlach Bundschu is a fun winery on the outskirts of Sonoma – one of the oldest in California, established in 1858 -- their wine club has lots of events ( ). I don't know why, but we have never stayed long in Sonoma, usually just pass through but I believe there are lots of places to stay and things to do here.

maitaitom is offline  
May 14th, 2010, 12:52 PM
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Oh, that part about red wine at the beginning of the previous missive was for another poster once who did not like whites. Have fun.

maitaitom is offline  
May 15th, 2010, 08:40 AM
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A few days ago in Healsburg, we enjoyed beautifully prepared escolar at Ralph's Bistro and a drive at dusk on bucolic Westside Road.

happytrailstoyou is offline  
May 16th, 2010, 11:09 AM
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All great recommendation, You will love Duchamp Hotel, we have stayed there several times in the past and loving it.
We also hired Sid with and had the best day in the with country he is also the manager of the Duchamp Hotel.
shirazwine is offline  
May 16th, 2010, 03:18 PM
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We were in Armstrong Woods three weeks ago and enjoyed the walk through the redwoods. We paid the entry fee, drove to the picnic area, and walked the trails from there.

You can also park in the parking lot in front of the visitor's center without a fee and take the trails into the park from there. Do not park along the road leading to the entry gate. You will be ticketed if you do.
ronkala is offline  
May 18th, 2010, 12:18 PM
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We are actually doing a tour with:

The prices were a lot more reasonable, so I hope its a good choice!

Thanks for so many great ideas/tips. In a couple days we'll need to make our Cyrus reservation if we choose to go there (60 days in advance). Any feedback whether its worth the splurge?
beckytx is offline  
May 18th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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>>Any feedback whether its worth the splurge?<<

I thought it was the best restaurant we've dined at in about 15 years in the Bay Area (we've lived here 35 years). Have not been to French Laundry recently - so I can't compare.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
May 18th, 2010, 02:10 PM
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The General's Daughter restaurant is no longer - it's now Estate, owned by the same people as The Girl and The Fig, and it is excellent - we had the most fabulous lunch there last fall. It's Italian/Californian cuisine and everything we ordered was delicious, the service was top-notch and the setting, indoors and oustide on the deck, is beautiful. Highly recommend for lunch or dinner.
hazel1 is offline  
May 18th, 2010, 10:30 PM
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I always seem to hit terrible traffic when heading North on Highway 101 toward Healdsburg, so I would suggest heading toward Napa Valley (Highway 80 to 37 to 29). Highway 29 through the Napa Valley is a really beautiful drive and you have fabulous options for lunch in Napa, Yountville, St. Helena. And there are a couple of wineries we could recommend along Hwy 29, too. Take Highway 29 to Calistoga and then take Hwy 128 through the Alexander Valley (toward Geyserville) but when you get to 'Jimtown' you will see the signs for Healdsburg.
I think you will really enjoy the scenic drive from Napa to Healdsburg. It sounds like you will have a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday.
elnap29 is offline  
May 27th, 2010, 09:57 AM
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I am booked for a Saturday night dinner at Cyrus and very excited about it. For day 1 when I arrive early, would lunch at Ubuntu be a good idea?
beckytx is offline  
May 27th, 2010, 10:00 AM
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Darnit, i just noticed they are only open for lunch on Sat-Sun. I have many other good ideas thanks to your help, though.
beckytx is offline  
May 28th, 2010, 05:36 AM
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Thanks so much!
beckytx is offline  
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