Wine Country (259 miles round-trip from San Francisco)
Farm stands and family-run tasting rooms instead of faux châteaux: the word on Northern California’s Anderson Valley is that it’s what Napa used to be 30 years ago. The nearby town of Healdsburg acts as a sophisticated jumping-off point for this rural paradise, whose remote location and sleepy vibe are tempered by the buzz surrounding its wines. This is a destination tailor-made for the golden days of Indian summer.
Lay of the Land
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the Amalfi-like town of Sausalito harbors a worthy shopping stop—the Heath Ceramics Factory Store, known for iconic tableware that’s a favorite with modern-design fans and magazine prop stylists.
Heading north on Highway 101, the usual shopping strips alternate with stretches of bucolic farmland, dotted with ramshackle barns and black-and-white dairy cows. An hour north of Sausalito, Healdsburg has definitely been discovered—numerous restaurants, tasting rooms, and boutiques cluster around the historic plaza, where the Hotel Healdsburg holds court. Yet despite the recently acquired gloss, this remains a small town at heart. The restored Raven Theater presents everything from gospel concerts to the annual Mr. Healdsburg pageant, and the Saturday farmers’ market is one of the social highlights of the week.
Two-lane Highway 128, the main access to the Anderson Valley, twists and turns up a notorious set of steeply graded switchbacks, through rocky ridges and moss-covered oaks. Twenty or so miles later, you’ll emerge onto the valley floor in Boonville, the region’s largest town (all seven blocks of it). Snatches of Boontling, a dialect developed in the 1800’s, still persist—a reminder of the area’s quirky, somewhat insular nature.
The even smaller hamlet of Philo consists of a beloved Mexican restaurant, a tasting room for limited-edition Pinots, and Lemons’ Market, where Tom Lemons sells his own line-caught salmon.
At the valley’s northernmost edge, tiny Navarro feels like something out of a fairy tale: a village deep in the red-woods, with a river that runs to the sea. —Irene Edwards