53 Best Sights in Healdsburg, Napa and Sonoma

Aperture Cellars

Fodor's choice

As a youth, Jesse Katz tagged along with his photographer father, Andy Katz, to wineries worldwide, stimulating curiosity about wine that led to stints at august operations like the Napa Valley's Screaming Eagle and Bordeaux's Château Petrús. In 2009, Katz started Aperture, a success from the get-go for his single-vineyard Cabernets and Bordeaux blends. Among the whites are Sauvignon Blancs and an old-vine Chenin Blanc that's among California's best. Katz's wines, which benefit from rigorous farming and cellar techniques, are presented by appointment only in an ultra-contemporary hospitality center about 2½ miles south of Healdsburg Plaza. The center's shutter-like windows and other architectural elements evoke Andy Katz's photography career; his images of the Russian River Valley and beyond hang on the walls.

Arista Winery

Fodor's choice

Brothers Mark and Ben McWilliams own this winery specializing in small-lot Pinot Noirs that was founded in 2002 by their parents. The sons have raised the winery's profile in several ways, most notably by hiring winemaker Matt Courtney, who has earned high praise from Wine Spectator and other publications for his balanced, richly textured Pinot Noirs. Courtney shows the same deft touch with Arista's Chardonnays. Appointment-only introductory tastings focus on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and the family's sustainable farming practices; another session examines the single-vineyard wines. The property's Japanese garden predates the winery.

Bacchus Landing

Fodor's choice

The small wineries of this energetic collective pour mostly Sonoma County wines inside and on patios of Spanish Mediterranean–style buildings bordering a large piazza. Music, art, and culinary events lend the dog- and kid-friendly space a village-square feel. Smith Story, Convene by Dan Kosta, Dot Wine, and Montagne-Russe make Pinot Noir; visiting more than one reveals the roles of clones, locations, farming, and cellar strategies in the finished product. The Lopez family of Aldina Vineyards, which developed Bacchus Landing, specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, as does The Setting, whose partners include Jesse Katz of nearby Aperture Cellars. Aldina and Dot collaborate on California sparkling wines. There's a food market on-site; on Friday and weekend afternoons, you can order a wood-fired pizza to accompany your tasting.

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Cāpo Creek Ranch

Fodor's choice

Halfway through a wine-and-food pairing at this serenely rustic Dry Creek Valley winery you may find yourself asking not only "How does she do it?"—"she" being Dr. Mary Roy, Cāpo Creek Ranch's proprietor, winemaker, chef, and hostess with the mostest—but also "How does she make it look so easy?" The answer might simply be that running a winery isn't likely to faze someone who raised six kids while operating a bustling radiological imaging center. Whatever the reason, in "retirement" Roy has created a magical showcase for her mostly Rhône-style whites and reds (the stars) along with Cabernet Sauvignon, estate old-vine Zinfandel, and numerous blends. Most tastings occur outdoors facing east toward the heritage-Zin vineyard, with the cave and the tasting room alternative possibilities. All tastings involve Roy's food, but a worthwhile splurge is the six-course Ultimate Food & Wine Pairing, which lives up to its name.

Cartograph Wines

Fodor's choice

The husband-wife team behind Cartograph believes in Pinot Noirs emphasizing "balance, nuance, and complexity, rather than power and intensity." To that end they select vineyard sites based on climate and clone compatibility, harvest their grapes on the early side, and intervene as little as possible during the wine-making process. The resulting wines please on their own and pair well with food. Unlike many Sonoma County Pinot producers, Cartograph eschews Chardonnay for its still whites, opting instead for the Alsatian grape Riesling, done in a refreshingly crisp and dry style. Chardonnay does, however, appear in the winery's sparkling wine. Visits to the storefront space a block northeast of Healdsburg Plaza are by appointment (call for same-day).

Dry Creek Peach & Produce

Fodor's choice

If you happen by this farm stand in the summer, don't pass up the chance to sample the tree-ripened white and yellow peaches, some of which may have been harvested moments before you arrived. You can buy peaches in small quantities, as well as organic peach jam. How good are these peaches? Customers include the famed Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley.  The stand is typically open from July to mid-September between noon and 5 on Wednesday, Friday, and the weekend. Call ahead to confirm, though.

Flambeaux Wine

Fodor's choice

A family with deep ties to New Orleans founded this winery named for the dancing torchbearers at Mardi Gras. Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon that go into separate bottlings and jointly into a crisp summery rosé flourish in the iron-rich estate Flambeaux Vineyard, up a winding road on the Dry Creek Valley AVA's western slope. Ryan Prichard, also of Sonoma's Three Sticks Wines, has been making these wines plus a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon from sourced grapes, and a few others since the first (2014) vintage. Two Flambeaux wines are always on tap at Region wine bar in Sebastopol, but book a terrace tasting at the estate vineyard for a more intimate introduction. The Crescent City hospitality and views across the valley to Geyser Peak uplift the experience all the more.

Flanagan Wines

Fodor's choice

The back labels outline vintner Eric Flanagan's recipe for creating memorable wines: "Great vineyard sites. Meticulous, sustainable farming. Honest winemaking." Having purchased, upgraded, and sold prestigious vineyards, Flanagan knows how to locate pristine fruit, and once harvested, the grapes receive minimal manipulation from fermentation to bottling. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the mainstays, but the winery also produces a fragrant Viognier, along with reds that might include Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Bordeaux-style blend. As with the wine making, the hospitality is understated, the hosts eager to educate guests seeking enlightenment or just let them ease back and revel in the views northeast across Dry Creek Valley to Geyserville Peak. Oriented toward serious wine drinkers but welcoming to newbies, the winery prefers visitors to book appointments (required) two days ahead.

Flowers Vineyard & Winery

Fodor's choice

Steel, glass, and wood architecture that discreetly astonishes but ultimately yields to the surrounding gardens, redwoods, vineyards, and distant hills supplies a dramatic backdrop for tastings of this illustrious winery's Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Their grapes, grown far to the west in wild Pacific Coast terrain thought years ago too cool and harsh to produce fruit sufficiently ripe, undergo minimal cellar intervention during their transformation into wines recognized for their balance and vibrancy. Tastings take place indoors or out, sometimes accompanied by small bites that illustrate how food-friendly these beautifully crafted wines are.

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Fodor's choice

Pass through an impressive metal gate and wind up a steep hill to reach this winery with knockout Russian River Valley views from the two-tiered tasting room and terrace outside. Wine Enthusiast magazine once crowned a Gary Farrell Chardonnay wine of the year, one among many accolades for this winery known for single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Farrell departed in the early 2000s, but current winemaker Theresa Heredia says her philosophy has much in common with his. For the Pinots, this means picking early to preserve acidity and focusing on "expressing the site." The Elevation Tasting of single-vineyard wines provides a good introduction; other tastings involve a winery tour or library wines. Visits are by appointment; same-day reservations are possible on weekdays, but call ahead.

Jordan Vineyard and Winery

Fodor's choice

Founders Tom and Sally Jordan erected the French-style château here in part to emphasize their goal of producing Sonoma County Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons—one of each annually—to rival those from the Napa Valley and France itself. Since taking the helm, their son John has instituted numerous improvements, among them replanting much of the estate vineyard and shifting to all-French barrels for aging. A sampling of current releases and a winery tour that includes a tasting are offered year-round. As part of these experiences and seasonal events like wine-and-food pairings on the château's terrace and the 3-hour Estate Tour (highly recommended), the executive chef prepares small bites and dishes whose ingredients come mainly from Jordan's organic garden. Visits are strictly by appointment.

Kokomo Winery

Fodor's choice

Since decamping for California, Hoosier winemaker Erik Miller, who named his winery after his Indiana hometown, has raked in awards for his single-vineyard wines, most notably Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. A few years back, one of the Pinots scored 100 points at a prestigious local competition, capturing top honors for its varietal and among all the reds entered. Fans of the Pauline's Vineyard Grenache Rosé snag most of the supply within weeks of release. Some guests sit amid the potted plants fronting the industrial-parklike production facility, though the banter in the main tasting area, high rows of oak aging barrels its focal point, lures many inside. (The adjacent room for club members is a veritable party even midweek on some summer days.) Appointments are highly recommended; same-day visits are possible, but call first.

Limerick Lane Cellars

Fodor's choice

The rocky, clay soils of this winery's northeastern sliver of the Russian River Valley combine with foggy mornings and evenings and hot, sunny afternoons to create the swoon-worthy Zinfandels (critics love 'em) produced here. The estate 1910 Block Zinfandel comes from old-style head-trained vines planted more than a century ago. Fruit from this block adds richness and depth to the flagship Russian River Zinfandel, whose grapes also come from nearby sources. You can taste Limerick Lane's Zins and a few other wines at a restored stone farm building with views of the vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountains. Tastings are by appointment; call ahead for same-day visits, which are easier on weekdays than weekends.

Marine Layer Wines

Fodor's choice

Sometimes a winery's name or design sensibility hints well at what's in the bottle. In the case of this winery on Healdsburg Plaza's eastern flank, both do. The name references the Sonoma Coast fog rolling off the Pacific, allowing the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes to ripen more slowly than further inland. With spare elegance, the loungelike tasting room's soft lighting, soothing white tones, and alternately gray, dark brown, and light mahogany hues also evoke the shoreline. The winemaker and owner have worked together previously; this project evolved out of a yearning to craft cool-climate, appellation-specific wines from high-pedigree sites. Marine Layer offers as an add-on seasonal mezze plates and similarly adventurous food pairings whose multilayered flavors mirror those of the wines. Appointments are recommended for flights, poured until 5, after which hosts serve wines by the glass (no reservations taken) until closing.

Mauritson Wines

Fodor's choice

Winemaker Clay Mauritson's Swedish ancestors planted grapes in what is now the Rockpile appellation in the 1880s, but it wasn't until his generation, the sixth, that wines bearing the family name first appeared. Much of the original homestead lies submerged under human-made Lake Sonoma, but the remaining acres produce the distinctive Zinfandels for which Mauritson is best known. Cabernet Sauvignon, other red Bordeaux grapes, Syrah, and Petite Sirah grow here as well, but the Zinfandels in particular illustrate how Rockpile's varied climate and hillside soils produce vastly different wines—from the soft, almost Pinot-like Westphall Ridge to the more structured and tannic Pritchett Peaks. The Mauritsons also grow grapes in Dry Creek Valley, where the winery and tasting room are located, and Alexander Valley.

Medlock Ames

Fodor's choice

A participant in a worldwide movement promoting earth-friendly regenerative farming techniques, this winery established in 1998 produces small-lot wines from organic grapes grown at 338-acre Bell Mountain Ranch. Most of the hilly property is in the southeastern Alexander Valley, but a portion spills into the Russian River Valley AVA. The estate Cabernet Sauvignons garner the most acclaim, but the other wines—Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Merlot reds, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and brut-style sparklers—are also well made. In addition to a standard tasting, you can book an evocative self-guided audio tour or experience the ranch on an excursion led by a wine educator. Ames Morison, the winery's eloquent cofounder and winemaker for the first two decades, leads enlightening vineyard walks on Fridays. All visits require an appointment. Closer to Healdsburg, Medlock Ames operates a tasting room in a converted century-old country store.

Nalle Winery

Fodor's choice

Established in 1984 on a ranch farmed by the same family for five generations, this resolutely old-school winery produces restrained low-alcohol Zinfandels. Aged in French oak and elegant in ways Zinfandel often is not, they score well in competitions and with critics. How well? In 2022, the flagship Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel was the only Zin on Wine Spectator magazine's list of the world's top 100 wines. Two other notable bottlings are a Russian River Pinot Noir from Swan clone grapes and the estate Dry Creek Valley Cabernet. These crackerjack wines would be worth a trip on their own, but getting to know the family behind them—Doug and Lee Nalle, who founded this small operation, and their son Andrew, the current winemaker, and daughter-in-law April, a viticulturist—makes a visit all the more fulfilling, as does seeing the above-ground rosemary-covered "living roof" wine-aging "cellar."

Ramey Wine Cellars

Fodor's choice

Anointed by Wine Spectator a "legend of California Chardonnay," David Ramey has been making acclaimed, ageworthy wines for four-plus decades. Collectors and wine lovers appear daily at his spick-and-span industrial space, where hosts convey the passion, artistry, and deep knowledge of wine-making chemistry underlying his output. The seated sessions (book well ahead in summer) begin with a few Chardonnays, followed by equally accomplished reds. Cabernet Sauvignon receives the most accolades of the latter, but Ramey also does well by Pinot Noir and has a soft spot for Syrah. Scrupulously farmed Napa and Sonoma sources supply the grapes for most of the wines, the exception being a Chardonnay from Westside Farms, the estate Russian River Valley vineyard. Ramey's children own and run his operation now—he chuckles that he's become their employee—and a longtime associate handles the day-to-day wine making, but the vision remains emphatically his.

Ridge Vineyards

Fodor's choice

Ridge stands tall among local wineries, and not merely because its 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon rated second-highest among California reds competing with French ones at the famous Judgment of Paris blind tasting of 1976. The winery built its reputation on Cabernets, Zinfandels, and Chardonnays of unusual depth and complexity, but you'll also find blends of Rhône varietals. Single-vineyard estate wines, such as the Lytton Springs Zinfandel from fruit grown steps away, are the focus of tastings. You can sit outside in good weather, taking in views of rolling vineyard hills while you sip. The educational Century Tour & Library Tasting, a solid value, begins with a spin around the property in an electric cart, followed by a comparative tasting of current and older wines.

Silver Oak

Fodor's choice

The views and architecture are as impressive as the wines at the 113-acre Sonoma County outpost of the same-named Napa Valley winery. As in Napa, the Healdsburg facility—an ultramodern, environmentally sensitive winery with a glass-walled tasting pavilion—produces just one wine each year: a well-balanced Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon aged in American rather than French oak barrels. One tasting includes the current Alexander Valley and Napa Valley Cabernets, plus an older vintage. Two or more wines of sister operation Twomey Cellars, which produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Merlot, begin a second offering that concludes with the current Cabernets. Hosts at a third pour current and older Cabernets from Napa and Sonoma. Make a reservation for these and other sessions.

Tongue Dancer Wines

Fodor's choice

Down a country lane less than 2 miles south of Healdsburg Plaza, James MacPhail's modest production facility seems well away from the upscale fray. MacPhail makes wines for Sangiacomo and other labels, but Tongue Dancer's Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are handcrafted labors of love. From choice vineyard sites, the small-lot wines impress—sometimes stun—with their grace, complexity, and balance. The flagship Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir blend from two or more vineyards is poured at most tastings, in a mezzanine space above oak-aging barrels or on an outdoor patio. Either the winemaker or his co-owner and wife, Kerry Forbes-MacPhail will host you, their aim to "create an approachable experience for guests we hope will leave as friends." It's best to book a day or more ahead.

Vérité Wines

Fodor's choice

Sixth-generation French winemaker Pierre Seillan and the late Jess Jackson of Jackson Family Wines cofounded this winery set amid Chalk Hill's rolling countryside. Grapes for three soulful Bordeaux-style blends—La Muse (Merlot-forward), La Joie (Cabernet Sauvignon), and Le Désir (Cabernet Franc)—come from estate properties in four Sonoma County appellations: Chalk Hill and the Alexander, Knights, and Bennett Valleys. Since 2013, Seillan has crafted Vérité's collector-quality gems with his daughter, Hélène, and with no drop-off in quality: a well-respected wine critic bestowed 100-point scores on her debut blends. Hosts at the tile-roofed château greet guests with Champagne, directing them to large comfortable sofas for a bit of conversation before the tasting. The French-style hospitality, overseen by Pierre's wife, Monique, makes a visit here enchanting. Appointments, required, are best made a week ahead.

Zichichi Family Vineyard

Fodor's choice

Most winery owners would love to be in Steve Zichichi's shoes: wines from his flagship vineyard, some of whose vines were planted in the 1920s during Prohibition, are largely sold out before they're bottled. As a result, customers of this northern Dry Creek Valley operation taste some wines while they're still aging in barrels and purchase "futures" available for shipping or pickup months or more later. The highlight, only sometimes available for tasting, is the Old Vine Zinfandel. Zichichi makes another Zinfandel and a Petite Sirah from his main vineyard, and one of each from another Dry Creek property. There's also a 100% Cabernet from the Chalk Hill appellation. The amiably paced tastings, all by appointment, often take place on a porch overlooking the historic vines.

Alexander Valley Vineyards

The 1840s homestead of Cyrus Alexander, for whom the valley is named, is the site of this winery known for Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a trio of Zinfandels, most notably the widely distributed Sin Zin. Tastings here are low-key and breezy; opt for the reserve one to sample the single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and the Bordeaux blend called Cyrus. Twice-daily free tours take in the winery and caves dug deep into a nearby hillside. Weather permitting, you can take an invigorating vineyard hike (book at least two days ahead) focusing on the land and the winery's history.

8644 Hwy. 128, Healdsburg, CA, 95448, USA
707-433–7209
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tastings from $25

Alley 6 Craft Distillery

Krystle and Jason Jorgensen make small-batch rye and single-malt whiskey, plus gin, peach liqueur, apple brandy, and candy-cap bitters, at the couple's industrial-park distillery 2 miles north of Healdsburg Plaza. The rye derives its overlapping flavors from its "mash bill" of rye and malted barley aged in heavily charred American oak barrels that add further layers of spice and complexity. The Jorgensens pride themselves on crafting their spirits entirely on-site, from grain milling through bottling, a process they describe with enthusiasm at their apothecarylike tasting room, open on weekends (weekdays by appointment).

1401 Grove St., Healdsburg, CA, 95448, USA
707-484–3593
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tastings from $20, Closed Mon.–Wed.

BloodRoot Wines

How about this for a marketing twist: the folks behind this winery produce outstanding wines using grapes from leading vineyards but reveal neither sources nor winemakers. The novel approach turns the lineup—sparkling wine, Chenin Blanc, rosés, Pinot Noirs, Grenache, and a Syrah-dominant blend, among others—into a who-made-what-from-where guessing game for local oenophiles, who also appreciate prices well below expected for wines so well crafted. (The red blend tops out around $50, and one of the Pinots sells for less than $30.) The tasting space's country-cool decor hints at the panache behind this enterprise, whose servers appear to have been chosen for their ebullience.

Breathless Wines

The mood’s downright bubbly (pardon that pun) at the oasis-like garden patio of this sparkling-wine producer in an industrial park ½ mile northwest of Healdsburg Plaza. Established by three sisters, Breathless sources grapes from Sonoma County and a few places beyond. The small indoor tasting area was fashioned out of shipping containers, though in fine weather nearly everyone sips—by the glass, flight, or bottle—in the umbrella-shaded garden. Visits require an appointment, with same-day reservations sometimes possible. Splurge on the Sabrage Experience to learn how to open a bottle with a saber, a tradition Napoléon's soldiers supposedly initiated.

499 Moore Ln., Healdsburg, CA, 95448, USA
707-395–7300
Sight Details
Rate Includes: From $28 for tastings, Closed Tues. and Wed.

Chalk Hill Estate

At 1,300 acres one of Sonoma County's largest estates, this is the most prominent winery of the Chalk Hill appellation. Most guests taste on the châteaulike production facility's terrace, basking in views of steep, woodsy, vineyard-studded hills. A subappellation of the Russian River Valley AVA, the Chalk Hill AVA is so far east—less than 10 miles from the northern Napa Valley as the crow flies—that it gets much warmer. Although even in summer you might detect the Russian River Valley's cooling Pacific breezes, the estate, which has 15 separate microclimates, isn't cool enough for Pinot Noir, so the winery grows it on land nearer the ocean. Many of Chalk Hill Estate's 300 vineyard acres are devoted to Chardonnay—the grape represents more than half of production—with Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, a few other Bordeaux varietals (the Malbec's quite good), and Syrah also planted.

10300 Chalk Hill Rd., Healdsburg, CA, 95448, USA
707-657–1809
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tastings from $50

Comstock Wines

Elegant Zinfandels, one of them from the characterful old vines that front the tasting room, are a specialty of this Dry Creek Valley winery that also does well with estate-grown Dry Creek Valley Merlot and purchased Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. The winery also makes a few Rhône reds, plus whites that include Chardonnay, Viognier, a Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine, and Sauvignon Blanc. Comstock is the kind of place that encourages lingering, best done in fine weather behind the contemporary barnlike production facility, whose terrace's vineyard and hillside views enhance the pleasure of these refined wines. Tastings are by appointment, with same-day visits sometimes possible.

1290 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, CA, 95448, USA
707-723–3011
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tastings from $30

Copain Wines

The reputation of this winery whose name means "friends" in French rests on its Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Syrahs. Copain occupies an enviable slope in Northern Sonoma County—one that begs guests to sit, sip, and take in the Russian River Valley view—but for years most of its wines derived from grapes grown in hillside vineyards near the coast in Monterey and Mendocino Counties. Since the winery's purchase by Jackson Family Wines, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast fruit, including Cabernet Franc, has joined the mix.

7800 Eastside Rd., Healdsburg, CA, 95448, USA
707-837–1101
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tastings from $65