We just returned from a 4 night trip to Healdsburg. Thanks to all from this board that helped with the planning, we had a great time! As a side note, we had fabulous weather. Here's a rundown on the eating and drinking...
Sunday... flew into Oakland and drove to Healdsburg (not much traffic in our direction, glad we were not trying to get into the city).
Lunch: Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar. It was fun, we had 6 small plates (burp.. 4 would have been plenty). Our favorites were the crab cake and the ceviche.
Tasting: Stephen and Walker. Wines were interesting, but I wasn't that excited about them. Can't say I'm a fan of the whole tasting room concept (I had no idea how many tasting rooms there were on the square).
Dinner: Barndiva. The food was quite good, I had the beet salad and the vegetarian plate of the day -- heirloom tomatoes, roasted vegetables, homemade pasta. DH had the pork tenderloin which was very nicely cooked. He had the better salad, shaved apples and fennel.
Lunch: grabbed an early bite at Costeaux French bakery. I had a salad with smoked duck, DH had a turkey sandwich (real roast turkey, good bread). Not too fancy, but the food hit the spot.
Tasting: MacPhail... everything I love about a winery visit. Actually saw them making wine (including hand sorting grapes), meet the dogs, taste the grapes, hear their story. And found some outstanding wine that I had not had before.
Ramey... Place seemed deserted.. felt more like a warehouse than a winery. They have some nice wines (especially the chardonnay) and some ambitious expansion plans.
Dinner: Mateo's. Perfect evening out on the patio. We both had very interesting plates, I had beef cheeks with vegetables and corn tortillas, DH had a lamb (or was it pork?) enchiladas with mole sauce. The only dinner where the place was not absolutely packed.
Lunch / Tasting: We did the Food and Wine Pairing at Arista. This lunch was our favorite meal of the trip. After a short tour of the grounds (including gathering eggs from the chickens and walking through the gardens the vegetables were grown in), we went to a separate dining room... just a large table and lots of windows up the hill from the tasting room). Lunch was 5 courses, each matched with a wine. The start was gazpacho and BLT skewer, followed by King Salmon over various pickled vegetables, followed by a Duck Mortadella sided with a Sheep's milk ricotta rolled in a thin slice of zucchini, followed by a confit of lamb and a farm egg with a Kohlrabi Puree. And last was a zucchini bread jelly roll .. paired with a Zinfandel (yes, a dry Zin). It was just genius. I need to give kudo's to the chef, Timothy Kaulfers. Not only did he cook everything, but also shared how he did some of it.
Dinner: Chalkboard. The food was good, a couple of the plates were excellent (the pork belly biscuits... and here I thought that I was over pork belly. There was also a mushroom dish that was excellent), Service was good. BUT... the room was loud. Not just noisy from people having fun, but uncomfortably loud from bad acoustics. And as confirmation (since sometimes I worry that we are becoming fuddy-duddy old people) a younger couple we met the next day at a tasting.. from Miami Beach, said it was really bad. Fortunately, they ate in the bar, where it was much better (so it you go, see if you can sit at the bar if you would like to talk).
Lunch/tasting: Culinary Tour at Chalk Hill. Similar format to Arista, but a much bigger property, a much bigger group. Lunch started with a spicy Thai Soup with tiger shrimp, followed by a picture worthy Brandade stuffed pepper, then a glazed pork belly with a interesting slaw, and last was an apple galette. All very nice (and probably would have seemed nicer had it not followed Arista).
Tasting: Lambert Bridge. They were actually at the hotel for the evening wine and cheese hour. It was one of the wineries I had wanted to visit, but didn't (lightweights... can only do one or two wineries a day). We really liked their wines, and will definitively be on our list to visit next time.
Dinner: Scopa. Our favorite dinner of the trip. It was Winemakers Wednesday (in order to be on the wine list, you have to come pour your wines). The place was packed, noisy in a good way, server was great .. We had a couple of excellent salads and a fig and speck pizza. Desert was strawberries with aged balsamic. Heaven.
We stayed at Hotel Les Mars. They did a nice job of setting up our reservations (dinners and tastings). Breakfast was included with our room and was fresh fruit, house-made Greek yogurt, pastries, and coffee... perfect for us.