Last weekend we had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Healdsburg after a visit to the Palo Alto area. Our journey began by stopping in at a bakery in San Rafael that I had read about who was baking whole grain baked goods and breads. The bakery is called Ponsford’s Place and they use “no white flour” in any of their products. I found the peanut butter and jelly cookie jealous and hearty and the danish with cream and berries chewy and flavorful. I think alot of people might find the pastries a little dense but I found it refreshing to see a baker making croissant dough out of whole grains. Interesting.
Next, we stopped in at Landmark Winery on the way up through the Sonoma Valley to try out some wines. They mostly specialize in white wine but the Grenache was a hit with us. Another favorite of ours is Siduri which makes incredible pinot noir. Siduri is located in an industrial park in Santa Rosa and if you haven’t been it is a fantastic experience. We were lucky enough to be there during “crush” and the winemaker and staff were hard at work.
Our first dinner in Healdsburg that evening was at Spoonbar. This restaurant just changed chefs about six months ago and I had read he was from Fifth Floor in San Francisco. For openers, we ordered the Crispy Rock Shrimp and Smoked Chicken Livers. The shrimp were fantastic – crispy, mildly seasoned over a bed of savory granola. As for the chicken livers, sauteed then pureed and served on top of crostini with a dollop of tomato puree. The tomato puree over powdered the entire toast and I found the liver flavor to be lost. Next, we shared the Cannelloni with Swiss Chard and Crescenza. The large cannelloni filled with gooey cheese and greens was good but the outside was crispy as if it was pan fried and we found it to be tough. I think this dish needs a little work. As for our main dish, we went with the Short Rib with Hen of the Wood Mushrooms and a side of Broccolini. The short rib was predictable and the broccollini needed to be twice the size for the cost but nicely prepared. Overall, a nice place but not sure the chef is cooking up to his potential.
The following day we hit a few wineries in Healdsburg. We started at Unti Vineyards which specializes in Italian varietals. All of the wines were good but, we didn’t find anything exceptional. Next, off to A. Rafanelli Vineyard to try some Zin and Cab. Both wines were full bodied and delicious as usual but, I fell in love with the Merlot. We got a recommendation to visit Preston Vineyards so we stopped in to taste. What we found most interesting and fun is the jug of wine called Guadagni. Named after an Italian farmer who moved to Dry Creek in the early 1900’s and always had a jug of his own wine on hand while working on the farm. Also, Preston bakes their own sourdough out of a woodburning oven on the premises and you can buy loaves at the winery. A quick stop into Talty for a taste of Zin and MacLaren for Syrah, who is still making his wine at Talty. MacLaren is moving into Hudson Street Wines for pouring within the next month. Both create lovely wine. For lunch we dined on a quick sandwich at Jimtown. I found the $13.95 BBQ brisket to be good but, I little high for what it delivered. Next door to Jimtown was Hawkes Winery which was recommended but nothing stood out.
For dinner that evening we got in to Scopa, a small Italian restaurant on the Healdsburg Square. Scopa only seats about 35 people so the reservations are hard to come by on the weekends. For starters, we had the ricotta and chorizo stuffed peppers over arugula. They were well prepared and small in size which left room for our entrees. I had read the Nonna’s Tomato Braised Chicken was the way to go and boy it was — delivered in a staub pot — the most moist and delicate leg and thigh served over creamy polenta and greens in a rich tomato sauce. Delicious – best dish of the trip. Next, we had to share a Pizza Salsiccia with Merguez sausage and frigatello peppers. The crust was crispy and thin and the oil from the sausage spread across the entire pie for added flavor. We are definitely going back!
On our way to the airport the following morning, we had just one quick stop to make to one of our favorite wine makers new winery, Amapola Creek in Sonoma. Alis, Richard’s wife, met us at our car and generously shared her wisdom and time with us as well as poured his new releases: Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet. All three wines were fantastic (of course) and we can’t wait to receive our shipment! Thank you so much Alis and Richard!
Another great weekend in Sonoma and the Healdsburg area.