Travel Journal: Healdsburg, California

Courtesy Graves Winery

Who went: Richard and Caprice Ieyoub and children Phillip, Khoury, Christian and Anna Michael

We went because: We went to visit Richard’s older children, Nicole Murray and Brennan Ieyoub, who both live in California.

Hotel recommendations: We stayed with Nicole at her and her family’s vineyard home in Dry Creek Valley.

Christian, Khoury, Anna Michael, Richard, Brennan, Nicole and Phillip at a tasting at Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves

Where to eat: As we were visiting during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, most restaurants were booked for bigger parties like ours. Instead, we ventured to Santa Rosa for dinner, where restaurants like Ca’Bianca are well worth the drive through the hills. For lunch, pick up sandwiches at the Dry Creek General Store before heading to afternoon wine tastings.

Favorite dish on the menu: At Ca’Bianca, you can’t go wrong with any of the housemade pasta dishes. Our favorites were the gnocchi, zucca and duck ravioli. As for the Dry Creek General Store, the Bark Shark Brisket sandwich was recommended to us and did not disappoint.

Item of clothing you shouldn’t leave home without: A jacket! Although warm during the day, the hills are chilly in the mornings and evenings.

Caprice and Phillip kayaking with harbor seals on the Russian River

Favorite local attractions: Visiting Healdsburg’s Historic Plaza downtown is an easy and fun way to familiarize yourself with the town. Stroll through its charming streets filled with boutiques, restaurants and tasting rooms. And of course, tastings at local wineries are a must. Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves and the Coursey Graves estate were our favorites, as their scenic views were just as amazing as their wines.

A great experience off the beaten path: We ventured to a small Sonoma Coast town called Jenner, or sometimes, Jenner-by-the-Sea. There, the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean in an amazing estuary. We rented kayaks to get an up-close look at the wildlife including harbor seals. If you’re lucky, the curious creatures will come right up to your boat!

Worth the splurge: The wine, of course! We definitely recommend taking home a few of your favorite bottles from tastings.

Christian and Stella, the infamous wine dog of Flambeaux Wine

Something surprising we learned on the trip: Everything about the process of winemaking is surprising and interesting. For example, we learned from Nicole and her husband Art—who produce their own wine label, Flambeaux—how California wine country’s unique climate affects wine production. The continuous rise and fall of temperatures ripens grapes perfectly.

Insiders’ tips: While everything from the scenery to the weather was perfect in the summer, a great time to visit Healdsburg is October. This is when everything is extra lush and they harvest the grapes.

We would suggest this trip to others because: Everyone should visit wine country at least once. While we’re partial to wine tastings, there are so many things to do that everyone will enjoy. Our family loves Healdsburg because it is a little less touristy and more relaxed than other spots like Napa.