In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants (1000 and counting), and visit all 600 Napa wineries (400 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently had the pleasure of visiting the charming town of Healdsburg.
About a two-hour drive from our home in Danville, we enjoyed the movie set like town with Michelin Star restaurants, shops, world class wineries, tasting rooms and the Healdsburg treasure Les Mars Hotel featuring old world luxury.
Les Mars is owned by entrepreneur and Fidelity Title CEO Bill Foley. Bill owns many wineries and resorts all over the world. He also recently purchased the new NHL Las Vegas hockey team the Golden Knights. The team is appropriately named as everything Bill touches turns to Gold.
Les Mars is no exception. Located one block from the town square, General Manager Brian Sommer demands impeccable service and strives for magical memories for every guest. There are 16 elegantly decorated rooms, offering wine and cheese every evening and a European style breakfast every morning.
Our trip to Healdsburg began with a private tasting of The Calling Wines arranged by Public Relations Director Karen Brennan and proudly hosted by Winemaker James and Kerry MacPhail. The Calling Winery is owned by famous sportscaster Jim Nantz and long-time wine expert Peter Deutsch. Their love of wine and partnership is based on the belief that you find success by pursuing a calling in life.
We began our tasting with the 2017 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. It is a well-balanced Chardonnay with flavors of Meyer lemons and honey crisp apple. Next, we tasted the 2017 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. It was a crisp Chardonnay with flavors of citrus, fruits, Gravenstein apple and pear. The next wine was 2016 Sullivan Vineyard with an elegant pewter label. It was a balanced acidity exhibiting the citrus, spice and mineral notes for which this region is renowned. The final tasting was the 2016 Patriarch Pinot Noir. The vineyard is located near the ocean in Sea Ranch. The cooler weather creates grapes with thicker skins creating wine with more structure and earthier notes. All of these wines were very enjoyable and available to purchase at Total Wine.
For lunch, we enjoyed Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar on the square that featured a large variety of fresh seafood. We especially enjoyed the barbecued oysters and fish tacos. The calamari was seasoned perfectly and the best we have ever eaten.
We also enjoyed a bottle of 2015 Le Reve wine that we blended and bottled a few years ago at Judd Hill Winery. This beautiful wine was silky and a full-bodied blend of 70% Estate Napa Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 5 % Cabernet Franc And 5% Petite Verdot. We were very pleased with the results of our first blending experience.
After lunch, we checked into the elegant Les Mars Hotel then went to a private tasting of wines at Bill Foley’s magnificent 1400acre Chalk Hill Winery. We took a tour of the pristine piece of property in a 4wheel drive vehicle and enjoyed the sensational vistas on this sunny winter day. They also have a huge facility for private parties, large garden and even a charming chapel for weddings.
We enjoyed all the wines and took home a few bottles of the 2015 Carmenere that was an elegant blend of 96% Carmenere and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Returning to the hotel we enjoyed the daily wine and cheese happy hour before an elegant dinner at nearby Valette.
Valette is the dream of two brothers and Dustin Valette and Aaron Garzini that opened in 2015. It was a unique foodie experience to add to our rich memory bank as the ambience, service and food presentations was like viewing classic art at the Louvre museum in Paris.
It was a pleasure watching the skilled chef Dustin create these masterpieces in the open kitchen and enjoying the heavenly aromas with a bottle of wine from their extensive wine list. If you bring your own juice, there is a $20 corking fee.
We began with a mushroom soup with a farm fresh egg on the bottom in a large heated bowl. Fresh truffles are then added to this perfectly seasoned soup. It was definitely the best mushroom soup that we have ever experienced. We were then recommended their famous scallops served in a puff pastry that exceeded all of the expectations. We then had the Hawaiian Poke with deep fried avocado slices that looked like a Monet painting and so tender it melted in your mouth. For dessert, we savored carrot cake that was moist and served warm with shaved carrots and a delicate sweet sauce.
It is no wonder this restaurant is highly rated and full of happy patrons every night. We will definitely return.
The next day we enjoyed breakfast in the Les Mars elegant wood paneled library. You can also choose to have breakfast served in your room. After breakfast, we took a walk around the Healdsburg Square and enjoyed shopping at the unique shops that even included a dog store complete with a wine barrel dog house.
We also stopped by the Wurst Restaurant featuring a variety of brats made by Detroit born and bred owner Charles. We enjoyed splitting a perfectly cooked brat and listening to some interesting stories from owner Charles. Charles played in a band with Ted Nugent also known as “the motor city madman”. He has his guitars displayed in the restaurant and also serves micro brews and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. In addition, he also offers Vernors ginger ale which was invented in Detroit. It was extra special for us since we were also born and raised in the “Motor City”.
Before we returned home, we enjoyed a wine and food pairing at nearby Jordan winery. It was a great way to conclude our trip. Jordan is another elegant winery producing world class wines. Of course, we took a few bottles of Chardonnay back to Danville with us.
In conclusion, we would highly recommend you put Healdsburg and Les Mars Hotel on your “must do” bucket list.
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