Feeling like a coffee break? If you are in Healdsburg then be sure to visit Plank Coffee. This place not only has a great vibe, friendly owners and baristas but also make excellent food. Try the Greens Sandwich and pair it with a Matcha Latte. It’s the perfect afternoon pick me up. Slightly off the touristy Healdsburg Plaza but well worth a little detour we think. This great coffee shop also has a Cloverdale location with sweet little outdoor tables right on the main drag. They have a super selection of sweet treats too. Enjoy!
Roses, roses and more roses
If you find yourself in Healdsburg during the months of April and May then be sure to check out this little known treasure where you can enjoy perfume harvest tours complete with a full demonstration of a rose distillation to rose water and rose oil. The aromas will stay with you even after you leave….trust us on this one.
A great nursary with a large and sumptuous selection of exquisite roses, available April thru May plus a few special events in Fall.
Display gardens connected by a Rose Alleé of 8 arches displaying 600+ rose varieties for you to visit and enjoy. Garden tours available on special request.
Open Hours This lovely display garden and nursery are open during the SPRING April through May on every Saturday and as well as every SUNDAY from 10 am to 5 pm. During the FALL we are open some Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in September and/or October.
Sometimes a local spot is so great that the locals you talk to mostly ask you not tell too many people about it. They want to keep it as their own little secret. That said….we still want to share this one with you because it is a truly friendly watering hole owned by Healdsburg’s own KC Mosso. If you want to listen to some of the best live music lineup around, then The Elephant in the Room is for you. Located in a nondescript parking lot at the south end of town, this spot has a great outdoor area and is both dog and cannabis friendly. All the bartenders are great and, although it is only a wine and beer spot, the changing selections are always on point. Sometimes there’s a food truck or pizza being made…or you can order food for delivery to the outside tables and just enjoy the music while you eat. Don’t miss this spot if you are visiting or spending any time in Healdsburg. Just don’t tell too many other people about it please 🙂
Sonoma Valley Hikes
Check out this article in the Press Democrat highlighting Springtime winery hikes!
Not too long ago my partner and I were looking for a quiet weekend getaway and after some research decided on Wilbur Hot Springs which was originally established in 1865. Visit Wilbur’s webpage and you will find the following description:
“Wilbur is an off-grid, solar-powered destination resort with naturally occurring hot mineral springs in the heart of an 1800-acre nature preserve located in Northern California. Our baths and flumes are clothing optional.”
Wilbur prides itself on being rustic. It contrasts with other more refined and busier hot springs resorts. We were looking for a quiet, restful, and healthy escape and that’s what we found at Wilbur. As mentioned in the quote above, Wilbur is remote. You realize just how remote starting with the entrance road. Its long, its dirt and at some point, if you’re like us, you’ll think you’ve taken the wrong turn. Persevere. Arriving at Wilbur you’ll find a main building (which dates to 1915) where you check in and a number of modern cabin accommodations.
The rooms are simple. If you’re looking for high-end comfort you should probably look elsewhere. But they are quiet and very comfortable.
Before you visit, Wilbur’s website recommends you read their FAQ’s and “Planning Your Stay” pages. You should. Just a few items of note –
No cell phones or other service.
Bring your own towels (in fact your best bet is to bring everything you need. Don’t assume Wilbur supplies it.)
Bring your own food.
Clothing in and around the Baths is optional.
For us Wilbur was just right.
The hot springs were wonderful. Three adjacent “flumes” offered three temperature levels. The water emerges from the Wilbur source at approximately 145° F. When it reaches the flumes, it has cooled to about 128° F. The water is channeled into the flumes with average temperatures of 98° F, 105° F, and 109° F. Adjacent to the flumes is a “plunge pool” in the form of a deep old porcelain tub filled with bracingly cold water. Moving from the flumes to the plunge pool and back is a wonderful wakeup for your body. Also adjacent to the flumes is a large pool with plenty of seating for relaxing and enjoying the sun.
I had never been to a clothing optional spa before and faced it with some trepidation. But I found it appropriate to the environment and for me it added to the experience. The clothing optional area is fenced and discrete. Having said that, the choice is yours. There was no pressure to disrobe.
I made a reservation for a massage, which really hit the spot. The massage cabins are well appointed. The masseuse was skilled and listened carefully. My masseuse worked primarily in San Francisco but had come to Wilbur for the summer. She “lived” in a screened–off part of the cabin. Her experience showed.
An important note about food – Bring your own. We knew this was the case, but made the mistake of packing simple ready-to-eat fare. We did not realize that Wilbur has a large commercial style kitchen for its guests to use. We love to cook and next time will be sure to bring ingredients for dishes we will prepare ourselves. Localswill be glad to supply wine for the occasion.
Wilbur is remote in the best of ways. There are wilderness trails to hike, an outdoor pavilion that’s ideal for yoga. Wildlife abounds. No light pollution – the nights are silent and the stars are bright.
We left Wilbur relaxed and refreshed knowing we’d return. As we left Wilbur we had a very fitting farewell as a coyote crossed the road ahead of us.
Beyond Wine Tasting
When you come to wine country, you’re gonna taste a lot of wonderful wine and learn everything you might want to know about wine and grapes. But if you’re in the Russian River valley, don’t let the tastings blind you to so much else is there for you. Here’s just one idea:
Find a Swimming Hole
This isn’t about that one special swimming hole you just have to find. They’re everywhere! And the experience is always different. Is the river slow and lazy or is it spotted with rapids? Is the bottom one of boulders that are knee deep or do you take one step in and feel the smooth bottom drop away? Are clouds of swallows swooping from their nests under a bridge? Is your spot solitary and romantic or full of playful kids and their parents? Bracingly cold or so refreshingly cool?
The answer is yes.
That’s right. The Russian River is all of those and more. And you don’t need a secret map or tip from a local (although you can always get one) to find your spot on your day. Cloverdale, Guerneville, Geyserville, Healdsburg . . . you’re always minutes from the river. Backing up to a vineyard, tracking a road, pouring into the Pacifi or at the end of a dirt road or meandering through town. There it is! Explore! Swim, canoe, kayak, sunbathe, fish, dangle your feet in the water and let little fish nibble your toes. The river is there for you.
Now go taste that wine while the memory of the Russian River is with you. That’s an experience.
Go camping without any gear or hassles and even take your dog. We especially liked Mendocino Grove.
As one passes the General Store and heads north along Dry Creek road toward Lake Sonoma grape vines carpet the valley floor and terrace the hills. Our climate which is so synonymous to the Mediterranean allows them to flourish and proliferate there. The richness of the soil, the long summer angles of the sun, the cool breath from passing creeks, these things flavor the grapes and sturdy the vines. Grapes have won the race to dominate the crop market and our shelf space, but the California grape is not alone in these lush oak spotted hills. In the even light of afternoon, the silver bellies of olive leaves flash.
Grapes entered Sonoma County from two points almost simultaneously. Russian settlers came from the coast and Fort Ross to plant grapes in the north, near dry creek. Entering near Petaluma, Spanish emissaries planted vines and olives alongside the white arches of their missions. There are three pillars to cuisine along the Mediterranean coast, grapes, olives and wheat. The Russians, only bordering the Black and Caspian Seas to the south and thus out of the loop, inconsiderately only brought a single pillar to our county. The Spanish were kind enough to bring all three.
Needing even tempered sun, the olive trees thrived along side the vines and spread. Today there are 75 different varieties of olives and oils to be harvested in California, ranging from the heat and dust of central valley to the cool red wooded pockets of the Big Sur coast. The state’s southern slopes and moderate winters provide the olive’s optimal climate. The rich clay soil holds rain near the surface for the tree’s shallow root system.
Today olives coexist quietly in the shadow of grapes along Sonoma’s valleys and while Mediterranean countries like Spain continue to lead the world in production, California olives are gaining traction the world over as a high-end crop used in the kitchen, both in restaurants and at home. In Locals Denier Handal olive oil can be found bottled and resting underneath the densely forested shelves of wine. Here is another layer to the experience of the palate.
The wine we drink and the food we eat, the oil that anoints our bread (Or gluten free substitute) is all building towards another stratum of experience. Perhaps people’s different impressions of wine over the kitchen sink has nothing to do with the changing chemistry of the bottle and more to do with the passing of an experience. The closer these delicacies come to their source the greater the joy in the taste. Wine, oysters, olives, salmon, greens, these wild products are endowed with another level of splendor when enjoyed in the shadow of their genesis. When one finds the specter of memory rising like a tatter of steam from every dish it is time to break free of the home and refresh the senses out in the realms of the things we enjoy.
Tomales Bay resides just South of Sonoma County’s coastal border. There, the summertime crowds line up in undulating throngs along its Eastern bank. They gather in the deep fog that forms between the Petaluma hills and the Point Reyes dairy farms and stay to be blistered in the noon day 90 degree temperatures which spill over the hilly spines of the long Sonoma and Petaluma valleys, drawn by the great heat suck of the Pacific Ocean. There isn’t a winery for miles, so why come? As the tide exits and the heat rises the mud flats loan the air a perfume of wet dog. All along Highway-One, there are flashes of Ferrari red and yellow in the deep blue-green of the twisted cypress trees. Laughter rings across the water, raising Blue Herons. Small barges pull alongside over crowed restaurant patios, driven by men in thick rubber waders, delivering the bay’s treasures in thick rubber buckets, Oysters.
Tomales Bay is the negative space created by the friction of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates rubbing against one another. Over millennia the Pacific plate has pushed farther North into the sea building the great diamond head of Point Reyes. The waters that rushed in to fill the scar of the fault made Tomales bay. In the South, the Petaluma River enters the long narrow bay and dumps its silt, creating vast mud flats. Near the Northern end of Tomales are two small islands, Hog and Duck. Past these, the mud flats deepen and eventually drop off into the cold and notoriously sharky water of Bodega Bay. Just West in the bay is where Sir Francis Drake beached during his trans global voyage.
More locally to the bay, Hog Island is famous for the specific variety of oysters the mudflats grow and for the mythical hog colony which started there after a ship exporting pigs caught fire and crashed, letting its cargo run wild. The parking lots of the town Tomales are as likely to be filled with gun rack toting Fords as they are to host the rearing horses of European made sportscars. But closer inspection of the two-acre Hog Island suggest it couldn’t support a single hog, much less a herd, and the local farmers are all generally friendly to oyster lovers.
Seen from its profile, the oyster looks very comparable to that of a time weathered whale, with its narrow top shell and potbellying bottom shell. The comparison does not stop there. Like a whale, the oyster feeds by drawing water between its lips and filtering out plankton. Its preferred hunting grounds are shallow watered estuaries that stay warm and provide oysters with constantly refreshed water to strip of plankton. Tomales, while small in terms of oyster estuaries, is ideal with its long shallow expanses of bottom. In many places, skinny wooden poles extend from the water like mooring posts forever waiting on a ship to return. The poles stake bag after bag of oysters to the soft bottom and stop them escaping into the wild. On a calm day, it is not uncommon to see small sailing craft moving from South to North with the wind disturbed by waddling brutish little barges charging up and down the estuary, ferrying these bulging mesh bags, recently unstaked, to the waiting maws of nearby diners.
In their final purgatory, the oysters are gracefully shucked and laid out bare to the world over a sandy beach of rock salt. Kept in the ocean until the last possible moment, these oysters are another expression of the deeply historical roots in the area between farmers and a crop.
By Sam Styles
Have You Met Luther?
The Luther Burbank Center for Arts is best known by locals for it’s world class Ruth Finley Person Theatre. Praised for its national and international touring performances ranging from shows such as Tony Bennet, Brain Candy, to the Moscow Ballet. With a range live comedy specials taped by HBO to some of the hottest television hits translated to the stage like Move Live on Tour, its no secret that the performers love her as much as we do! But did you know that the Person Theatre is just one of four on-site theaters? With the East Auditorium, Carson Cabaret, and Left Edge theatre there’s something for everyone. Presenting a wide array of performances, the Center’s three resident theatre companies, North Bay Stage Company, Roustabout Theater, and Left Edge Theatre offer reasonably priced entertainment for children and adults alike.
When you add in the 9,000-square-foot Atrium, three conference rooms, the Fireside room, Pavilion, The Anova Center for Education, Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmer’s Market, and outdoor Sculpture Garden, the LBC is as big a figure in square footage as it is in the community. The Luther Burbank Center is a nonprofit organization owned and operated by the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation, a established in 1979. With revenue generated from performances, venue rentals, concessions, sponsors, and private contributors, their education programs flourish……..going straight back into the center with an emphasis on education the LBC has thirty six school shows during the day with busses provided for the students, a Music for Schools instrument lending library (for low-income students to participate in bands and orchestras), free events including Fiesta de Independence and pre-show crafts for kids. With almost 5,500 members, donors, volunteers (14.000 hours of donated services, and sponsors who help sustain the center its easy to see and feel the love many have for the center.