Escape the Whining in the Wine Country


It’s the middle of July and the sounds of the season surround me. Nature’s symphony – with the birds and bees humming a soft summer tune. Children laughing, water splashing and time passing lazily by. Suddenly, there’s a low whining. It starts softly, then builds to a pitch that can’t be ignored. It’s a bird – it’s a plane – it’s the collective call of the kids, who after 5 weeks of summer cry “We’re bored”. That’s when you make your getaway.

healdsburg_fountainSo here I am in Healdsburg, my favorite wine country town. Rolling hills laced with vineyards, the Russian River winding its way through the fertile valley and a cordial country village that’s more like Mayberry with Zin. In fact, the corner service station reflects the enthusiasm for wine in this town, with two kinds of gas – Chablis (unleaded) and Chardonnay (premium).

On a quiet corner, where stately shade trees give shelter to the streets below, is the Honor Mansion. Walk through the white picket gate with your bags and you slip back in time, to an era when hospitality was paramount. The parlor has fresh white linens and round the clock pastries and espresso. There’s food for the Koi pond outside, and the fish show their appreciation by loudly and enthusiastically kissing your hands. Couples kiss here too, for the grounds are exquisitely romantic and private – with benches in the most hidden of places. But for me, it’s the perfect place to write, with a glass of Sonoma County wine never more than an arm’s length away.

Despite my relaxed state of mind, I am getting exercise. I took a wonderful bike ride with Getaway Adventures out of Calistoga, where we rode through the countryside in the bosom of Mount Saint Helena. This is a unique way to see the wineries and cool off in the air conditioned tasting rooms. Bikers usually catch the big natural attraction here, too – the Old Faithful Geyser, which blows its top about every 20 minutes or so. The sign out front still exclaims “As featured in National Geographic”.

healdsburg_roomLunch at Healdsburg’s Costeaux Bakery is always a treat, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. When the big boys in the Bohemian Club fly in for their annual Russian River summer camp, Costeaux stocks the food for their private planes. Powerful politicians and billionaire businessmen know how to take care of themselves – and so do I. It’s like the note-card said in my suite at the Honor Mansion: “we’ve turned down your bed, anticipating you may want to indulge in an afternoon nap.” And you know what? I Don’t mind if I do.

Photos by Lee Dailey

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