When you get away with your love, where do you go? I think Sonoma is the perfect weekend getaway sans kids. It’s also a great place to meet up with friends.
Beautiful vineyards and architecture, world renowned restaurants and of some of the best wine sets the stage to create unforgettable memories. Dave and I met our friends Jill and Greg (who flew in from Florida) here for 3 nights of eating, drinking and laughing.
Jill and I met on our first day of work in New York City when we were 22. We’ve been close friends ever since. I also worked at the same company as Jill’s husband Greg a few years later in Corporate Finance. I was around during the beginning of their relationship. And I was a bridesmaid in their wedding. Our friendship is life-long and we meet up every few years to catch up and spend quality time.
We decided to stay in Healdsburg, California due to its small town nature and proximity to the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley wine producing regions. The town is centered on a 19th century plaza which houses great restaurants, shops and hotels.
Our Itinerary in Sonoma
- Meet up with Jill and Greg in San Francisco and drive to Sonoma
- Stop in at The Wurst for bratwurst sandwiches and ice cream
- Lodging: Hotel Les Mars in Healdsburg, California
- Dinner at Valette
- Car service for wineries to
- Chalk Hill
- Roth with picnic lunch
- Dinner at Scopa
- Wine Tasting at Jordan
- More bratwurst sandwiches and ice cream at The Wurst
- The French Laundry
- Breakfast at Downtown Bakery & Creamery
- Depart to Airport
This place is the bomb. It’s a gourmet hot dog, sausage, brat & hamburger joint with ice cream and beer.
We stopped in for a snack on Friday upon our arrival in Healdsburg and again on Sunday for an afternoon snack.
- The Green Bay Packer Brat
- Loved their sweet potato fries too.
Hotel Les Mars
- Front of Hotel Le Mars
Hotel Le Mars (16 room hotel originally constructed in 2005) is in the center of town in Healdsburg, California. It is a Relais & Chateaux member luxury hotel. The hotel was acquired by William P. Foley and David Fink in 2010 and management was taken over by Fink’s Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group.
- Lobby of Hotel Le Mars
The hotel is small and quaint. The lobby has a few seating areas and feels like a large living room. There is no gym or swimming pool.
- Lobby Seating Areas in Hotel Le Mars
- Chalkboard Restaurant Bar which opened to Hotel Le Mars Lobby
Adjacent to the hotel is a popular restaurant named Chalkboard, also owned by Foley. This hotel replaced 2 Michelin starred restaurant Cyrus a few years back after multiple lawsuits between the restaurant and Foley/Fink led to Cyrus vacating the space. We tried their pork belly biscuits as a happy hour snack and they were delicious.
- Source: Yelp guest from 2013. What we got for breakfast was 1/2 of this… I wish I took a picture.
A word about their “in room breakfasts.” I have a feeling the hotel breakfasts have gone down in quality over the years. We were given a choice of croissant, yogurt and apple crumble, juice and coffee per guest.
We made our choices on a breakfast card with time we wanted delivery for the next morning. I chose one of each item for Dave and I. What arrived were the smallest portions of food you can imagine. There was no bacon, probably 3 spoonfuls for each item and barely enough coffee to fill 2 cups!
Our bathroom had these stains on the marble, only around the toilet. Are they urine stains? I think they are. A 5 star hotel which charges over $600/night should not have ANY stains on the marble, right? I was turned off by this.
My conclusion about the hotel:
- They got us into The French Laundry for dinner, as open table had a cancellation when they went to check for us. We greatly appreciated this.
- We were not charged for the wine tastings at the three Foley wineries (Chalk Hill, Roth and Lancaster) since we were guests of the hotel (each tasting otherwise would have cost about $25 per person).
- We loved Tucker, one of the hotel staff who was very helpful in helping us with our reservations at the wineries and restaurants prior to our arrival.
- In general, the service was very good.
However, I think we might have been happier at Hotel Healdsburg due to the pool, gym, spa and larger breakfast options.
Dustin Valette and Aaron Garzini are two brothers who own this restaurant with Dustin as the chef and Aaron as the manager. Their dad was at the restaurant with wine in hand, greeting the guests and making small talk. You could see the pride on his face as he explained that he is the father of the owners. It was very charming and sweet and made us enjoy the restaurant even more.
- On our way out to dinner at Valette
- Atmosphere was hip, fresh, lively and “Californian”
- Aged, smoked meat to serve guests
- Charcuterie & Cheese plate given to us as a courtesy at the bar due to our table not being ready on time. We thought this was very considerate of management.
- We asked the bartender to make a fruity vodka cocktail and a savory cocktail… these were just perfect.
- I didn’t mind waiting.
- Hawaiian Ahi “Poke”, Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese
- Maine Lobster Stuffed Halibut
- Joe Valera’s Healdsburg Lamb Trio
Tour and Tasting Chalk Hill
- Chalk Hill Winery
- Having Fun!
- We enjoyed Oscar, the lovely somalier at Chalk Hill. He told us the story of the generations of family who have lived in Sonoma working with wine. Oscar started at UC Davis in civil engineering until he realized his real passion was to pursue a degree and career in the wine industry.
- Oscar gave us a tour of the winery via this Hummer which was convenient and fun
- How many glasses of wine by now? Feeling Happy!
Roth Winery – Lunch, Tour and Tasting
- Roth Winery had an energetic vibe.
- Cheers to good friends and happy marriages.
- This was us all weekend.
- Love my hubby.
- Picnic Style lunch at winery. Even the bread was divine. Everything was fresh and delicious.
Lancaster Tour and Tasting
- This was a high-end winery among the 3 we visited on this day.
- Loved the ivy growing on the building at the Lancaster Winery.
- Tasting room at Lancaster
- Group pic before dinner at Scopa
- Scopa is a long and narrow restaurant with tight seating. But man, is it worth it!
- Homemade Ravioli
- Tomasso’s Sugo Calabrese
- Pizza Margherita
- Brownie a la mode
- Rasberry Panna Cotta
- We went into a special conference room for our tasting.
- This was high-end.
- Loved the cheese, bread and quince paste that accompanied our tasting.
- There is a big red door outside of Jordan winery we loved.
- Being goofy again.
- Love these two.
- Click here to read about our finale dinner at The French Laundry.
So are you hungry now? I got hungry while putting this post together. We had a great time in Sonoma and can’t wait to return again for another indulgent weekend. What were your favorite parts of Sonoma?
Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt.
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