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Friday, March 7, 2014

Highway to Heaven-Healdsburg 2014

Having traveled around the world, my wife Linda and I appreciate the San Francisco Bay area restaurants, wine and food experience. Our goal is to hit all 3000 San Francisco restaurants and we have been to over 500 of them.

Recently we had the pleasure of taking a 2 day getaway on the "Highway to Heaven" to the charming town of Healdsburg, California.   General Manager Nicole Abela of Les Mars Hotel in downtown Healdsburg organized a full 2 day experience for us to two Foley owned winery's that specialize in red and white wines and the Chalkboard restaurant located in “Les Mars” the European style boutique hotel. Their motto of "exceeding excellence" made our experience opulent and outstanding.

A 2 hour ride from our home In Danville, California, we enjoyed the enchanting ride thru the famous Napa Valley, St. Helena and Calistoga to Lancaster Estate Vineyards...   Lancaster is a breathtaking piece of property that specializes in red wines. We were welcomed by our knowledgeable and passionate wine host Luke Hricik with a glass of 2012 Samantha's Sauvignon Blanc that was a perfect way to begin our Lancaster wine experience.

Lancaster Estate Tasting Room

After touring thru the caves and receiving lots of information about the wines including the young and worldly winemaker from Screaming Eagle Jesse Katz, we stopped at their elegant tasting room located in the cave. Luke had 4 glasses for us to sample of their perfectly blended red wines. We sampled the 2010 Sophia's Cuvee that was 83% Cabernet and 17% Cabernet Franc, 2008 Cabernet 92% Cabernet, 4% Malbec, 2%Merlot and 1% Petite Verdot, 2009 Cabernet 85% Cabernet, 7% Malbec, 1 Cabernet Franc and 1% Petite Verdot and Nicole's Propriety Red 85% Cabernet, 8% Malbec, 5%, Petite Verdot, and 2%Merlot.

All of the wines were fantastic with the 2008 Estate Cabernet and 2010 Nicole's Proprietary Red being our favorites.

The non rushed tasting was generous and a great way to begin our day. We also enjoyed a wine lunch with picnic tables that overlooked the vines and hills of this serene setting.

Our next stop was Les Mars Hotel in downtown Healdsburg. The charming hotel is about a 20 minute drive from Lancaster. The 16 room gem is located near the famous Healdsburg Square filled with many wine tasting rooms, restaurants, clothing and olive oil shops and art galleries. Michael greeted us and we checked into an elegant appointed room complete with fresh flowers, handwritten welcome note, wine and cozy fireplace to warm your spirit.    
Les Mars Hotel

Included is a continental breakfast served in your room and wine and cheese happy hour in their elegant library complete with fireplace. It is a fun way to meet guests from all over the world and enjoy some great wine before dinner. We met some interesting people from Manhattan and shared information about our wine, food and travel experiences.

For dinner we ate at Chalkboard located in the hotel. Chef Shane McAnelly and General Manager Sean Coleman, formerly of Va Da Vi in Walnut Creek, California, have created a small plate menu of daily changing specials and are highlighted by superb service.  Our waitress Jocelyn was very knowledgeable and full of passion about the food that insured our experience to be very special and memorable.

They have an extensive wine list, but if you bring your own, the corking fee is $15.00 dollars. It is located in the same place as the former Cyrus restaurant and has been open for a little over a year and already has received many culinary kudos. 

Chalkboard Restaurant

We started with the warm pretzel and three sauces and a shot of cauliflower soup with beer/cheese foam that was fantastic. Linda had the Yellowtail Jack Crudo with blood orange/jalapeno/fennel basil that was delicate and delicious. I had the chopped salad with cauliflower/romanesco/radish/carrot/feta and mustard vinaigrette that was a generous proportion and very good.

For the main course, Linda ordered the horseradish crusted bistro filet with baby carrot/kohirabi/sauerkraut/bordaise that paired perfectly with our Caymus Cabernet. I had the patron favorite buttermilk fried quail with parsnip puree/spinach/chestnut honey that was seasoned perfectly.

For dessert, Sean insisted on the famous candy bar: brownie/carmel/roasted milk chocolate creameaux/nougat ice cream/peanut crunch that did not disappoint and a great ending to an elegant dinner in a casual, friendly atmosphere.

The next day we had our favorite newspaper and continental breakfast delivered to our room and then took a walk around Healdsburg Square. 

We then departed for Chalk Hill Winery about 20 minutes away. This winery is located on 1300 stunning acres of rolling hills complete with chapel, buffalos, equestrian center and dining on the top of the hill for weddings and private lunches and dinners. It is also the home of Bill Foley proprietor of Les Mars, Lancaster and Chalk Hill as well as several other properties in the Napa area.  

Chalk Hill Winery
Our hostess Nicole greeted us and we had our wine tasting outside overlooking the spectacular beauty of the rolling hills and vines. Chalk Hill specializes in white wine. The estate Chardonnay is very popular and very good. We also sampled the 2010 Estate Red and Malbec that was added to our collection for our trip back to Danville. After the tasting, Nicole drove us around this property in a large SUV to experience the private gardens and winding road to the chapel and wedding facility. You definitely felt you were on the "Highway to Heaven."

We look forward to our next visit to Healdsburg and to Les Mars hotel. For more information go to:Click here: Hotel Les Mars - Relais Châteaux