Especially at this time of year—that is, harvest time—Sonoma County, California, is known predominantly for its wine. But especially in the northern part of the county, near the city of Healdsburg, there are plenty of other attractions. Our itinerary includes the best of the best: food, outdoor adventure, and, of course, wine. Follow our lead to satisfy all your senses. By Matt Villano and Erica Duecy
Stop 1: Breakfast at Costeaux
Our favorite Sonoma County breakfast spot is Costeaux, a French bakery and bistro that’s straight out of France. Artisanal breads such as sourdough are perennial winners at countywide contests; the sweets aren’t bad, either.
TIP: For a hearty breakfast, try the Croissant Breakfast Sandwich—fried eggs, bacon, avocado and cheese on one of the bakery’s house-made croissants.
Stop 2: Horseback riding and tasting at Chalk Hill
There's no better way to spend your morning than by riding horseback through the vineyards of this magical 1,300 acre estate. If horses aren't your thing, try Chalk Hill's culinary tour through the gardens or a guided wine tasting paired with cheeses.
TIP: Don't miss the estate's excellent Syrah, and its proprietary red blend. And make time to chat with the well-informed (and entertaining) tasting-room staff.
Stop 3: Tour and tasting at Lancaster Estate
Tucked in the hills near the confluence of the Knights Valley, Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley appellations, the family-owned Lancaster Estate specializes in estate-grown wine of the Bourdeaux varietals—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
TIP: Splurge for the tour and tasting, which ends inside the hand-carved wine cave.
Stop 4: Snacks at Jimtown Store
The quaint Jimtown Store has been an Alexander Valley landmark since 1895, and, after years of disrepair, was re-opened in 1991 as the countrified café-and-tchochke shop it is today.
TIP: Arrive early enough to snag a piece of homemade pumpkin-apple bread, which usually sells out by 1 p.m.
Stop 5: Vertical tasting from Boisset Family Estates
Crystal chandeliers and modern art adorn the downtown Healdsburg tasting room of Boisset Family Estates. The winery imports wines from Burgandy, but a standard tasting also includes pinot noirs grown in Sonoma County (many of which are grown organically and biodynamically).
TIP: Grab a seat in one of two bay windows for people-watching while you sip.
Stop 6: Lunch at Wurst
Transport yourself to the Midwest at The Wurst (707/395-0214), a chic sausage shop in downtown Healdsburg. Owner Charles Bell imports many of the Polish sausages and bratwurst from Wisconsin and Chicago; he makes the rest himself.
TIP: For a great value, order the lunch special, which includes one sausage, a small order of French fries and a beer for $13.
Stop 7: Cupcakes at Moustache Baked Goods
Cupcakes highlight the menu at Moustache Baked Goods, Healdsburg’s newest sweet-shop (though home-made Oreos and pumpkin whoopee pies are out-of-this-world, too). The owners incorporate local and organic ingredients whenever possible.
TIP: If you’re lucky enough to visit on a day when they have savory bacon cupcakes, don’t pass up the opportunity to try them.
Stop 8: Tasting at Dry Creek Vineyard
Owned by the same family since 1972, Dry Creek Vineyard was the first new winery in the Dry Creek Valley following prohibition. Today, in addition to a broad portfolio of wines, the place also boasts the best picnic garden in town.
TIP: Ask to try the special Cuvee, which Dry Creek makes exclusively to be served at the annual Screen Actors Guild awards show.
Stop 9: Dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen
Part of celebrity chef Charlie Palmer's restaurant group, Dry Creek Kitchen showcases the considerable bounty of the region. Expect dishes like smoked shrimp and mascarpone tortellini, and coriander-crusted Sonoma duck.
TIP: The 6-course tasting menu for $74 is a great value.
Stop 10: Nightcap at Mateo Granados
Mateo Granados Cocina Latina is Healdsburg’s newest restaurant, and the bar is a perfect spot for a cocktail to end the night. Partner and consulting mixologist Scott Beattie—of Cyrus fame—has concocted potions that spotlight tequila.
TIP: The Anticuado, a tequila-based drink with orange, bitters, sugar and a cherry, tastes like a Manhattan with Mexican flair.
Stop 11: Overnight at Hotel Les Mars
Sonoma's most luxurious lodging is the Hotel Les Mars, a chateau-style property that would be at home in the French countryside, serving nobility. Here, it offers a refined night's sleep with breakfast delivered to your room.
TIP: The hotel will book private tastings for you at its partner wineries.