Right after Thanksgiving, Dan and I celebrated my 30th birthday in Healdsburg, California. Just the two of us. We’d been to wine country before, but we had heard great things about Healdsburg and were super excited to explore the area. Mostly, I just wanted to have some wine, enjoy the sunshine, eat good food, and relax.
Before leaving Marin, we stopped for a quick lunch at Rustic Bakery. So good! We tried their Saigon sandwich which was basically a bánh mì. Marinated chicken with cilantro, carrots, and daikon. It could have been a bit more spicy, but I guess it wasn’t trying to be authentic, so that’s fine. We also had their simple green salad which was anything but simple. It was quite flavorful for such a straightforward salad. Apparently Rustic Bakery has three locations – definitely check it out if you’re ever in Marin! Oh and the pastries looked divine, but I’d already been showered with birthday cupcakes, so I wasn’t in the market for sweets.
Once in Healdsburg, we easily found our hotel, h2, on the main street. We couldn’t check in yet, but that didn’t matter because our plan was to grab one of the hotel bikes, and head off on a ride through wine country. The concierge provided us with a map, and just moments later we were pedaling down a country road with scenic vineyard vistas galore. Obviously, the plan was to do some wine tasting. But once we were out there, neither of us was particularly thinking about wineries. We were just enjoying the beautiful fall weather. Biking can make you feel so free.
We did, of course, taste some wine. We first stopped at Lambert Bridge where we tried several of delicious reds in their cavernous wooden barn. Further along our bike loop, we found a place that advertised a sparkling white, which we sipped outside in lieu of doing their tasting. Finally, we stopped at Wilson winery which seemed to be letting people taste as many reds as they wanted for just $5. We had a few, but mostly just enjoyed the view of the sun going down over the vineyards.
Just as the the light was disappearing, we arrived back at our hotel, and made our way to our room where our luggage was waiting. The h2 was definitely on trend and quite chic. The room was modern, bright, and comfortable with a fantastic bathroom and a balcony overlooking the hotel pool. And definitely my favorite part was that each floor had a “water bar.” Which was really just a place to get water, like even a Super 8 has. But the difference here was that the water bar had not only still water, but sparkling. Yep, unlimited bubbly. I love bubbly water. Especially when I’m enjoying it out of a cool green glass made from a wine bottle.
We hadn’t made a reservation for dinner since we weren’t sure what we’d feel like, but we lucked out by finding our way into Chalkboard. It must have been a birthday gift from the food gods that there was a table free, without even a minute’s wait. The restaurant was just my style: a casual atmosphere with bare wood tables and an open kitchen, a menu full of “farm-to-table” small plates, and a smart cocktail list. (Good golly, we did not need another glass of wine!) Everything we ordered was delicious, but there were two standouts: a crudo of tuna with grapefruit, jalapeño, and avocado cream, and the dungeness crab tater tots. To me they were a bit more like crab cakes than tater tots, but whatever they want to call them, they were delicious. I enjoyed every bite of everything, along with a Vesper cocktail, which very well might be my new favorite drink.
Overall, Healdsburg was a cute, food-focused town and a great place to stay if you’re looking to hit up Sonoma’s wineries. It was perhaps a tad too touristy for our liking, but still a fantastic spot to celebrate my birthday. The next morning, after a run around town and a tasty complimentary breakfast, we headed back feeling completely relaxed. I am so lucky to have been able to have such a wonderful night away with my husband to celebrate my special day.