Every savvy San Franciscan knows that summertime is not the warmest season in the city by the bay. While we do enjoy the occasional glorious 70-degree day, the majority of the summer is chilly, windy, and cold. If the thought of June gloom, grey sky July, and Fogust has you contemplating a move to warmer climates, hold up. From vineyard resorts to seaside retreats, SF is within a close proximity to all sorts of haute places. This summer, why not get out of the city and explore the nearby regions? Drive an hour or two North, South, or East, and you’ll end up spending the weekend lounging poolside. Up first on the agenda? Healdsburg. Located about 90 minutes North of SF, Healdsburg is Sonoma’s most chic wine country destination.
Start by checking into a beautiful hotel in the region. Book two nights at the Les Mars Hotel, a 16-room Relais & Chateaux property just off of the Healdsburg Square. Walk into the charming hotel and step back in time to a mansion in the French countryside. Elaborate tapestries cover the walls, a book filled library is located directly next to the lobby, and a grand staircase winds up to the second and third floors. Rooms are filled with traditional 17th-and-18th century antiques like massive wooden armoires, stately four poster king-sized beds, and unique fireplaces. The marble bathroom has a large and luxurious hydrotherapy jet, soaking tub and an assortment of aromatherapy salts.
Leave your car at the hotel and explore the nearby shops of the Healdsburg Square. Punch is a great little boutique that is filled with sumptuous basics by Pam & Gela, Frye, Jeffrey Campbell, Mother Denim, and Rachel Pally. Browse the shelves at Copperfield’s Books or art at one of the many art galleries—Erickson Fine Art, Harris Gallery, or Upstairs Art Gallery to name a few. Pop into A Taste of Tea and get a lesson on the science of tea and the proper technique for steeping.
For dinner, make a reservation for two at Valette. The upscale and sophisticated eatery is from brothers Dustin Valette and Aaron Garzini. Valette is the chef, while Garzini runs the front of the house. Together they have over 47 years of restaurant industry experience and they shine brightly at the restaurant. The decor is rustic wine country chic with cement walls, intimate wooden tables, a white leather banquet, cozy chestnut bar and exposed beam ceiling. The kitchen is partially open and aging ham legs and other types of housemade charcuterie are on display. The food is classic Californian cuisine. The wildly decadent day boat scallops sit in a pool of champagne beurre blanc, are topped with a generous dollop of American caviar and encased in a puffed, flaky pastry crust. This dish is to die for! The Australian vs. American lamb duo is a playful take on two different, but equally delicious, lamb preparations—a grilled rack and smoked shoulder that come with garden arugula, piquillo peppers, and artichoke barigoule.
Grab a post dinner cocktail at Ralph’s Martini House on the square. Order an expertly shaken or stirred icy cold martini. The bar stocks a wide selection of both gin and vodka and also has a menu of hearty bar snacks, like BLT sliders with fried quail eggs and sriracha aioli.
Hungry for breakfast? Walk to Shed, which is an amazing food emporium directly next door to Les Mars. Shed’s all-day cafe, manned by chef Perry Hoffman, has an assortment of tasty breakfast offerings including homemade granola with local fruit, baked lemon ricotta pancake with cane syrup and whipped cream, and eggs on levain toast with dried oregano, mushrooms and balsamic vinegar. There is also a coffee bar, Komboucha bar, pastries, wine, speciality pantry items, local cheese and meats and sophisticated home goods. Do take a moment to browse the carefully curated shelves. Shed is your one-stop shop for everything you’ll need in terms of picnic provisions, culinary creations or thoughtful gifts.
While the region is known for its incredible wineries, Sonoma County also has a burgeoning beer, cider, and spirits industry. Spend some time exploring the local scene before you head to lunch. Bear Republic Brewing Co. uses hand-selected ingredients and an age-old technique to make artisanal ales and lagers. Their hoppy Racer 5 IPA has a cult-like following. At Sonoma Cider, father and son team David and Robert Cordtz are making sensational hard cider from organic locally-grown apples. The cider is produced in incredibly small batches to ensure an intense flavor. They also make seasonal and exotic flavors. The Breakfast Cereal cider tastes like the childhood favorite, Apple Jax, while The Crowbar is a habanero lime cider that will make you crave Mexican food.
Drop your culinary and drink treasures at Les Mars and grab your bikini and a straw hat. It’s time to spend the rest of the day in the sun, relaxing at the pool at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Two inviting turquoise pools are surrounded by plush lounges and private cabanas. Take a tour of the winery, then pull up a chair by the pool. The Pool Cafe serves up delectable Italian-inspired fare including pizzas, salads, panini, and gelato. Why not indulge in a leisurely alfresco lunch? There is full bar service, so if you’re in the mood for a piña colada, go ahead and order one. Or, sip on a glass of the winery’s Sofia Blanc de Blanc sparkler, the Diamond Sauvignon Blanc or Reserve Viognier.
After a soak in the tub at Les Mars, head to Bravas Bar de Tapas for a Spanish-inspired meal on the patio. Order a bottle of local wine and a bunch of small bites to share. The pan tomato, a traditional Catalan tapa of toasted bread with tomato pulp, is a must order. Other favorites include the duck meatballs bocadillo, the housemade garlic and manchego sausage, the chicken, ham and gruyere croquetas and clams steamed in cava. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of the items on this authentic and scrumptious menu.
The next morning sleep in late and get brunch at Barndiva. This farm-to-fork eatery, event space, and gallery is located on a spacious and peaceful garden patio. The food—caviar omelette with pecorino, bacon, avocado, marble potatoes and creme fraiche; duck leg confit with kale caesar, poached egg and bacon; herb roasted salmon filet with bacon, crouton, and apple—is sustainably sourced, elegantly presented, and absolutely delectable.
Before you head home, ensure that you’re totally at ease, by stopping in for a treatment at the Hotel Healdsburg Spa. The serene spa offers everything from a head-to-toe facial that uses heated hydration to a hot stone massage with warm polished basalt stones. Get a Meyer lemon sage purifying body polish and herbal wrap or manicure and pedicure that includes an aromatic hand and foot mineral soak plus exfoliation. There is also a garden patio, jacuzzi, and access to the hotel’s swimming pool, which is nestled into an olive grove.