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Guide to Eating Well in Sonoma Wine Country

When wine tasting, our preferred method of eating is to graze as we go. The area around Healdsburg provides ample opportunities such a culinary scavenger hunt.

SHED in downtown Healdsburg calls itself a market, café, and community gathering space designed to bring us closer to the way we grow, prepare, and share our food. It’s the winner of a 2014 James Beard Award for restaurant design. For us, it’s the neighborhood market of our dreams. We can never get out of there without buying a few trinkets to go along with our snacks.

Venturing out to wine country north of Healdsburg sits the Jimtown Store. Jimtown has been a landmark since 1895, when Jim Patrick founded it to serve as the general store, post office, and meeting place for residents of Alexander Valley. Fashioned into a celebration of Americana by new owners, artist Carrie Brown and her husband the late John Werner, Jimtown reopened in 1991.

We got the box lunches from here for our wedding wine tour last year. House-made and local food products (like the cornmeal strawberry rhubarb hand pie we enjoyed this trip), old-fashioned toys and candy, home-wares and gifts stock store shelves decorated with vintage collectibles and distinctive antiques.

Sonoma County has several different wine-producing valleys, each specializing in different types of wines and each worth a visit. Fortunately, there are good eats to be found in all. In the neighboring valley is yet another favorite, Dry Creek General Store. We always find plenty of picnic supplies here to carry us through our day of wine tasting.

Nothing caps an afternoon of wine tasting like a little dessert. Over a year ago, in the midst of wedding planning, we wandered into Moustache Baked Goods and ate one of the best cupcakes we’d ever had – The Local, an almond blueberry confection. So moist and flavorful, we were surprised to find out it was gluten-free. This little cupcake soon transformed into our terrific wedding cake. A year later, we were back. Mr. Smith surprised Mrs. Smith by asking Moustache to have a couple of Locals ready with our names on it. It was a “sweet” surprise. They even gave them to us complimentary for our anniversary because that’s the kind of people they are!

Pretty full from both food and wine, we opted to share a smaller dinner at our only new restaurant of the weekend. Bergamont Alley is the local wine bar where the wine makers go after a day of work. Most of the wines come from beyond Sonoma (for something different) and there’s craft beer too for those who are wined out.

The menu is limited but was dominated by something we love dearly – grilled cheeses. We opted for the pepper party with house-made pimento cheese – rich and gooey with a hint of spice. It also happened to be trivia night. We planned to eat and run, but too easily got sucked in by the fun crowd. We even won a round!

So what about breakfast? There are many delightful options, including Downtown Bakery and Costeaux. But since we were staying at a bed-and-breakfast this time, we must give a shout-out to our terrific hosts, Dave and Kathryn, at Heaven in the Oaks.

Not only was their breakfast as good as any in town, they personalized our stay with such touches as a birthday cake for Mrs. Smith upon our arrival.

They also served us coffee in the most adorable “Happy Anniversary” cup before we left.


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