You Can Absolutely Visit Wine Country Without Drinking Wine – Here’s How

While wine country’s claim to fame is, well, wine, it’s not the only reason to visit. Healdsburg, in particular, has plenty for those who aren’t oenophiles or abstaining from alcohol. Tucked away where Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley meet, the Sonoma County town brims with warmth and charm, yet has first-rate dining, accommodations, and activities you’d expect from a big city.

“Healdsburg is a small town full of amazing artists, philosophers, stewards, and craftsmen inspired by the beauty that surrounds us,” says Alexander (A3L3XZAND3R) Harris, an artist who shares a gallery with his father M.C. (Marc Cabell) Harris. “Downtown is home to some of the best food, galleries, and shopping in the county, and most businesses are small and family-owned. Beyond that, access to some of the best hiking, biking, running, fishing, and river and lake sports makes it easy to burn all the calories we indulge in.”

In short? Consider Healdsburg the quintessential escape from the stressors and pressure of everyday life – no matter where you live, your interests, or the season.

Where to Stay

Montage Healdsburg

Just opened this year, Montage Healdsburg is luxury resort the area needed and deserved. With over 258 rolling acres dotted with oak trees and vineyards – the wine program is being overseen by superstar Jesse Katz of Aperture Cellars – the property is positively pretty with soul-soothing views everywhere you turn.

The 130 rooms are bungalow style to ensure complete privacy, and appointed with warm, natural materials such as stone, copper, and wood that nod to the wine country aesthetic. The dramatic ceiling-to-floor windows lend an airy, indoor-outdoor feel, while the private terrace with firepit provides a tranquil spot to kick off or end the day.

The fitness center is spotless and well-maintained with four Peloton bikes, and overlooks the infinity pool – perfect for a dip after a workout. And the adjacent spa, which has quickly established itself as Healdsburg’s best, is a serene retreat merging holistic treatments (like the Harvest Honey Ginger Infusion Ritual sourcing local honey) with cutting-edge facials incorporating Swiss skincare line Valmont.

And at Hazel Hill, the resort’s all-day restaurant, Chef Jason Pringle and his team turn out artful, yet approachable cuisine that showcases wine country’s rich bounty in an open, interactive kitchen. (The black cod with fruit de mer and sauce normande is especially sublime.)

Harmon Guest House

The third property from the team behind Hotel Healdsburg and h2Hotel, Harmon Guest House is conveniently located near the town’s plaza and walking distance to many of Healdsburg’s top attractions. With just 39 rooms accented with Treko hand-loomed bed throws, quilted headboards, and Peace Industry rugs, the LEED-certified boutique property takes on an intimate, residential vibe. While there’s no gym or restaurant onsite, guests are treated to complimentary valet parking and breakfast at neighboring restaurant Spoonbar. When the weather’s fine, the hotel’s rooftop is the place to be with views of downtown and the surrounding hills.

What to Do

The Harris Gallery 

Founded in 2001 and occupying the historic The Plaza Arts Building (a pillar of the local community, literally and figuratvely), The Harris Gallery is a bonafide family affair. More often than not, you’ll be greeted by Peggy (M.C.’s wife) or Leah (A3L3XZAND3R’s wife) upon entering and offered a glass of their namesake wine adorned with labels featuring original works by M.C. and A3L3XZAND3R.

The space itself is equally inviting, with plenty of outdoor areas (like an al fresco living room and private cabines with Hermès throw blankets and Louis Ghost Chairs) to safely socialize. Inside and across two floors, you’ll get a strong sense of the structure’s history – many of the original details were thoughtfully preserved – and both artists’ distinct styles. M.C. describes his works as “modernist, cubist, and abstract expressionist, whereas A3L3XZAND3R’s approach, in his words, enlists “a large range from classic impressionism to abstract minimalist. I express and interpret all modalities of subjects (figurative, still life, landscapes) purely from my mind’s eye or directly from life itself.”

The Spa Hotel Healdsburg

Here’s proof positive that some of the best things come in small packages. Discreetly tucked away in Hotel Healdsburg, this jewel box of a spa with just six treatment rooms might lack the perks of a bigger facility (like a steam room and sauna), but has a scenic pool cradled by fig and olive trees. As for what to experience, consider the Meyer Lemon Massage. During the sixty-minute session, your therapist will work out even the tightest muscles and knots with a whipped body cream delicately scented with meyer lemon and sage essential oils you’ll be able to take home afterwards.

Where to Eat and Drink

Asahi Ramen & Izakaya and Asahi Sushi & Kitchen

Tokyo born and bred chef Nobuyuki Asahi didn’t open one, but two restaurants in town over the past year. The first, Asahi Ramen & Izakaya in Healdsburg Vineyard Plaza, specializes in comforting ramen and snacks like gyoza, yakitori, and tempura, while exceptional, pristine sushi is the speciality of Asahi Sushi & Kitchen in Healdsburg Downtown Plaza.

Your best bet? Sit at the counter and order the omakase for day’s freshest fish. No matter which spot you choose to dine at, though, Asahi’s goal is simple: “I want to make everyone in our restaurants happy.” (And if you’re really lucky, he’ll even drink some sake or beer with you.)

Black Oak Coffee Roasters

Despite opening during the pandemic on April 21, Black Oak Coffee Roasters – this is the sister location of the original in Ukiah – has quickly emerged as Healdburg’s top spot for coffee, baked goods, and a quick meal. But whether you decide to sip a lavender latte or espresso, you’re guaranteed an exceptionally smooth beverage thanks to Black Oak’s award-winning beans. The food menu, too, is dependably delicious with tartines smothered with cashew butter and fig jam, eggplant banh mis, and s’mores rice krispy treats.

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