California’s wine country is a dream destination for so many people—in 2016 the Napa Valley alone welcomed more than 3.5 million visitors. That kind of tourist traffic makes it more important than ever to get recommendations on where to eat, hike and wine taste from in-the-know locals. We turned to the guests at the Noci Sonoma harvest dinner—all wine country locals—for their recommendations.
Event Creative at Russian River Flowers in Healdsburg
Perhaps I’m biased because it’s a walk from my front door, but the Geyserville Gun Club is a great local bar in Geyserville. It has wonderful cocktails, great space, and they bring live music in every weekend. It’s a great mix of locals just off work, folks from surrounding counties, and tourists only in town for a weekend.
Handline in Sebastopol is a favorite spot to eat thanks to their simple and delicious seafood, that is all caught using good, responsible fishing practices. It has a relaxing atmosphere that’s really stylish, plus plenty of outdoor seating for balmy nights.
I’m currently excited for Alysian Wines to open up their tasting room in town. It should be a good time once they fill out their modest winery in town. They make great Pinots, and they just released an amazing vermouth line.
Unti also makes such great wines! I happen to have a predisposition to Italian varietals, and they do such great work. The tasting room is bare bones, but the staff and wines are legit.
Writer and Trainer
Barndiva Restaurant and Bistro are two properties next door to one other that both have so many gorgeous treasures to discover. Their chef, Ryan Fancher, makes it the perfect spot for for special occasions and decadent brunches. Their private event spaces are also dreamy.
I could stare at Alex Harris’s luminescent cloudscapes for an eternity at The Harris Gallery. I’d like to have six or seven of them in my house. His dad Marc’s stylized landscapes and still lifes offer a bright and earthy complement to the son’s celestial portals.
Healdsburg Running Company is a newish addition to town. In a downtown that is dominated by wine, real estate and food, this shop dedicated to all things running has brightened up a certain corner of the plaza. And it’s not just about finding the right shoe for your gait; the owner, Skip, has made it his mission to unite the community through running. They host at least a dozen runs a month including a full moon run, pub runs and family nights.
Owner and designer at M.E. Moore Jewelry
In Cloverdale, I like to visit Plank Coffee and 14Feet, a coffee shop and design gallery that are connected and owned by the same couple, Morisette and Marne Dupere.
I can never resist popping into Lulo, a beautiful space and jewelry gallery in Healdsburg that carries works by a number of amazing artists.
For wine tasting, I recommend Hawkes Wine in Alexander Valley, which has great wines and vibes in a beautiful space. I’d also recommend Bannister Wines, which makes some of the best small-production Pinot Noir you can find. Plus, they do you their tastings in a gorgeous Moroccan tent!
Being from Healdsburg, I am surrounded by the abundance of fresh food, flavors and unique pairings. When I go out on the town, you can find me at Chalkboard enjoying their ever-changing ceviche special alongside a tiki cocktail. I love the focus on hyper-local ingredients based on the seasons of Wine Country. Because I’m a pastry chef by training, no evening is complete without a sweet! Two blocks north, Noble Folk Ice Cream awaits me—I just can’t go home without a scoop of my favorite black sesame coconut.
Getting out of town on a day trip for me means relaxing, I always head to Calistoga for some soaking and spa time. On the way, crossing the Sonoma Valley on Highway 128 I love making a quick supply stop at Jimtown Store. This quaint and lovely side-of-the-road spot will fuel me with a hot breakfast and load my lunch basket with house-made chips and hummus, a selection of meats and cheeses, and a variety of local wines and brews. I love the mud and the hot mineral baths of the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. They have picnic tables and three large soaking pools, I try and get here early so I can spend all day in and out of the spa exploring around the quiet town of Calistoga.
Head Gardener at Noci Sonoma
California’s wine country is where “farm-to-table” cuisine got its name: We have so many local restaurants that serve food and wine from local farms and vineyards. Personally, my favorites in Sonoma and Napa are all centered around local caught seafood. I love River’s End Restaurant & Inn, perched atop a cliff where Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean. They serve local food and freshly caught seafood.
Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa is an incredible food market with tons of the areas best food vendors. You could spend the whole day there eating and shopping.
The Sonoma Coast is a natural wonder right in our own county. I always take my visitors on the dramatic coastal drive down Highway 1 from Jenner to Bodega Bay. There are plenty of beaches, hiking and camping in between. Be sure to stop at Bodega Head Trail. it’s a light hike with spectacular views and a magical spot to encounter the Pacific.
If I have a morning drive into town, I’ll visit the Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg. I grab a cup of joe along with the infamous sticky bun and share a few bites with my toddler. Then we walk across the street to the plaza and I watch him run wild from the sugar rush.
Corrin Acome Messing
Designer & Stylist
Saturday mornings we have a family ritual of loading up our two-year-old daughter and wagon and walking through town to the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market. Our family produces the small batch Deergnaw Olive Oil grown in Dry Creek Valley that we sell here. It’s always bustling with the best produce from farms in Sonoma County. There’s live music, our favorite smoked salmon and enormous flower bouquets to take home. It’s a true community family event.
Preston Farm & Winery is such a dreamy, off the beaten track place, to taste, wander and picnic all day. It’s 125 acres are completely organic and bio dynamic. You can sit under the wysteria sipping wine and playing bocce, or stroll through their gardens and lose track of time.
An easy way to beat the summer heat is to head down to the Russian River for a swim at Memorial Beach Park, there are sectioned off areas for little ones and it’s shallow enough where most people simply float around in inner tubes. You could be a bit more ambitious by renting a canoe for the day at River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe and then end the day with a soft serve, slush split at the new Wicked Slush.
Sara & Matt Licklider
Co-Owners, LIOCO Wine Co.
I love going to The Nectary, Healdsburg’s newest restaurant addition on the main square. Everything they serve is homemade, healthy and delicious.
Will drive for fresh seafood! From littleneck clams to ocean trout, the freshest seafood north of the Golden Gate is at Santa Rosa Seafood and I regularly drive 30 minutes to get it!
I visit coffee shops all over the country and I can never wait to come home and get my daily Americano at Flying Goat Coffee in Healdsburg. It’s the best in the land.
My guilty pleasure is at Diavola, just a ten-minute drive away in Geyserville. After a long day, a “Dictator Pizza” and Peroni on tap await.
Learn more about our Noci Sonoma harvest dinner in the video below.