So, you’re planning your next wine country vacation? California’s Napa and Sonoma are obviously a good place to start, but where can you find one of America’s best small towns right there in the valley? Do you want to stay in a secluded vacation home in the middle of a vineyard? Do you not only want to taste new wines, but want to actually become a winemaker for a day? We answer all your wine country questions with four little words: The Residence in Healdsburg.
Welcome to Healdsburg, California
With beautiful scenery and a bevy of specialty shops and open-air markets, Healdsburg is a quintessential 19th-century American small town. Thanks to its location in the midst of the Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valley, it’s also home to some of the country’s top wineries. Healdsburg is a rising star of California’s Sonoma County and “the it wine country town right now,” according to The Residence’s Property Manager, Anna McPeck. Sonoma, McPeck says, resonates more with the younger generation than its wine country counterpart to the east. “Napa is the version of wine country our parents went to, but Sonoma County is the undiscovered side where all of us want to go. I think Healdsburg is that to the nth degree; it’s got a super hot dining scene, really down-to-earth people, and great shopping.”
Healdsburg Plaza is the town square and where the masses will gather to wander in and out of shops and restaurants. Within eyesight of the plaza, browse shops like Punch — consistently voted “Best Women’s Clothing Store in Sonoma County” — and the only OSKA outlet in the U.S. For bites, try Dry Creek Kitchen, the Charlie Palmer restaurant that launched Healdsburg into the dining hotbed it is today, and SHED for its cult-followed Liberty Farms duck.
When is the best time to plan a trip to Healdsburg? It might not be when you think, according to McPeck. “A lot of people get it in their heads that harvest time is the only time worth coming to wine country,” she says. “The reality is there is no bad time to visit. When is a good time to drink wine? Any time! There’s something special about every season.” During the winter, The Residence’s winery has mustard blooming and green grass throughout the vineyards, making for a stunning landscape. The area is less crowded then too, making it much easier to get those sought-after restaurant reservations at places like The French Laundry. During the “off-season” you’re more likely to get some one-on-one time with the winery’s knowledgeable staff, meet the winemakers, or sneak a chat with the home’s owners.
This is The Residence
Just five minutes from the town center, The Residence is a four-bedroom villa on the grounds of the Comstock Winery. Its exterior reminds the eye of a modern farmhouse that ties in nicely with the winery’s aesthetics. Inside though, you’ll find a beautiful ambiance with a clean, muted color palette featuring pops of artwork. Each bedroom shows off vineyard views — and in fact, you won’t so much as look out a window anywhere in the home without seeing vines. As the only home on the vineyard, it’s completely private and has no neighbors — but don’t be surprised to see staff tending to the vines during pruning or bud break season.
The home’s 6,600 square feet of custom-designed interior was the brainchild of Sandy Comstock, who sourced the entire local art collection, including hand-blown glass bottles made by well-known Italian artist, Giulio Manfredi. It’s perfect for three or four couples taking an annual wine country retreat and with four guests suites, no one shares a bathroom. Plus, each room has a custom-built gas fireplace and French doors leading to a wraparound deck with bistro tables and adirondack chairs. The backyard’s expansive courtyard surrounds a fire pit and has a gas barbecue with an alfresco dining set-up.
A full commercial kitchen is a treat for anyone with culinary inclinations, but guests can also hire in a private chef to take care of all the cooking. The home is great for events such as an anniversary dinner or birthday celebration since both indoors and out, the venue can host up to 100 people. For wine country weddings, The Residence can be a home base. While the venue won’t host the ceremony, it has held welcome receptions for arriving guests, accommodated a bride and groom on their wedding night, and served an outdoor morning brunch the following day.
A Private Winery Experience
Having opened its doors in 2012, the 17-acre Comstock vineyard is relatively new in the Dry Creek Valley. It was founded by Bob and Sandy Comstock, college sweethearts from Manhattan Beach that began growing grapes in Dry Creek Valley in 2002 before retiring to Sonoma County and opening their winery 10 years later. Now, their daughter Kelly is the General Manager, and their Winemaker is local veteran Chris Russi. The Comstock brands produces a number of zinfandels, which is what the valley is best known for, plus a delicate pinot noir, and a lovely Viognier, the latter a favorite among wine club members.
Staying at The Residence is nothing short of a dream for vacationing wine lovers, particularly for its blending seminar, a one-of-a-kind tasting experience rarely found in Sonoma Valley. The seminar is hands-on and educational: Guests learn about the vineyard blocks from which Comstock sources their fruit and how they put them together to create the perfect blend. The guides pull out barrel samples just like the winemaker would do and talk about characteristic of different vineyard sites. Then guests separate into teams and create their own blends before a panel of wineries pros that judge the blends and crown a winner. “You get to not only taste, but take it to a deeper level and get a much closer appreciation for how wine is actually made,” says McPeck.
The winery is open to the public, but the team can bring its exclusive experiences to The Residence. In the past, celebrity guests wanting to keep a low profile have arranged to hold a wine tasting experience at the house. From start to finish, a stay at The Residence is unlike any other wine country vacation.
The Comstock Wines Blending Seminar is being offered at a 20% discount during the month of February. Ask your Luxury Retreats Guest Experience Specialist for more details.