Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar in Healdsburg
As far as I am concerned, Healdsburg is the culinary capital of North California, i.e. the part of California that lies north of San Francisco. If you are in the region and are interested in good food and good wine, this is the place to go. Here are my favorites.
Pictures: Healdsburg in Sonoma County
Wine Bar: Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar
I love oysters and I love in particular US West Coast oysters. Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar, just north of the town square, has a superb selection of US West Coast ousters. The inviting, vibrant decor, and an extensive list of small plates combine with the eclectic drink menu to make visitors feel right at home. Designed for sharing, the menu features items ranging from New England Style 'Rolls" and Latin-inspired skewers to ceviches and tartares. But I went there for the impressive selection of oysters and the large selection of local wines by the glass.
For fine wining and dining, the place to go is Cyrus. At Cyrus, Nick Peyton and Chef Douglas Keane's intent was to create a top echelon restaurant in the Sonoma half of Wine Country and they've certainly succeeded. Cyrus is the most expensive table and has the most elaborate menu in Sonoma County. The food sets the highest mark in the county - and has been awarded appropriately two Michelin stars.
Picture: Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg
Unfortunately, the days of Cyrus in the current location appear to be numbered. The owners of Cyrus Restaurant are suing the new owners of the swank Les Mars Hotel, claiming they are unfairly trying to evict them from the building. Cyrus owners claim the hotel owners who bought the Les Mars in Healdsburg for $5.2 million last year are attempting to wrest control of the restaurant’s ground-floor space.
Wine Tasting Room: Boisset
“Winetasting Salon: Burgundy meets Sonoma” is written over the entrance door. You can taste wines made by wineries owned by the Boisset family and these include various Bourgogne estates, including Bouchard Aine & Fils, founded in 1750 in Beaune, and DeLoach in Sonoma. The tasting salon is very glamorous with darkly painted walls and ceiling, a raw steel table base with the white calacutta marble top, and steel tasting bar with leather panels, yet still fits in on the square in Healdsburg. I met DeDeLoach Winemaker Brian Malony a few days later in San Francisco.
Pictures Boisset Tasting Room in Healdsburg and Christian G.E.Schiller with DeLoach Winemaker Brian Malony in San Francisco
The Seghesio Winery is located right in the center of Healdsburg and features a very nice tasting room. The Seghesios are one of the pioneering families in Sonoma County's wine industry. Their story begins in 1886 when Eduardo Seghesio departed his family's vineyards in Piedmonte, Italy for a new life in America. Like so many immigrants, he was drawn to Northern Sonoma County and the Italian Swiss Colony. The "colony," as it was known, hired immigrants for three year stints, providing room and board and then, a lump sum at the end of those three years enabling employees to buy land or set up a business in their new home. Soon, Eduardo rose through the ranks to winemaker. In 1893, he married a young girl, Angela Vasconi, also from Italy. In 1895, they purchased a modest home in northern Alexander Valley, less for the home than the surrounding 56 acres Eduardo recognized as ideal vineyard land. They planted the "Home Ranch" that year to what has become the family's lifeline - Zinfandel.
Eugene Pio Seghesio, the son of Angela and Eduardo Seghesio, joined the family winery in 1941. During his tenure, Seghesio became a leading bulk producer, but he also started the process that would see the winery transformed to one of the world's premium producers of Zinfandel. While this transformation took place during the tenure of Eugene Pio, it was engineered by 2 Seghesios from the third generation: Eugene Pio’s son Pete Jr. Seghesio, who became the CEO (who I met recently in Washington DC), and Eugene Pio’s nephew Ted Seghesio, who became the winemaker. They trimmed production from 130.000 to 40,000 cases. The first wines bottled under the Seghesio label were released in 1983.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Pete Seghesio jun. in Washington DC and Seghesio Winery in Healdsburg
Today, all Seghesio wines are sourced from the four hundred acres that the Seghesio family owns and operates in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and the Russian River Valley as well as another 100 acres leased on a long-term contract.
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