While are many reasons to check into Montage Healdsburg — from rooms with cozy outdoor fireplaces to the indulgent spa — one of the lesser-known perks is the new hotel’s VIP wine tastings.
Less than two hours from the Bay Area, Sonoma County’s charming Healdsburg offers more than 80 vineyards throughout the destination and 40 tasting rooms alone in the downtown plaza. Montage can get you priority access to the most exclusive wineries — all you have to do is consult the well-connected concierge.
Here are three sought-after local wineries (and one bonus reservation) that Montage Healdsburg booked for us during our visit:
The stunning view from Robert Young’s newly expanded hilltop terrace makes you want to linger over a bottle and gaze at the vine-covered hills from one of the red cushy chairs. But itcan be difficult to get into this by-appointment-only winery. Part of the reason for this is the vista and part of it is the family-owned winery’s rich history.
Among the fifth generation to live and work on the land, Robert Young, who’s on the hospitality team, hosted us at a tasting and shared his family’s story. The Youngs trace their California history back to 1858, when the original Robert Young came from New York and built a ranch on the plot, raising wheat, cattle and prunes. Eventually, the Youngs focused on growing grapes and became pioneers — they were the first to plant cabernet sauvignon in Alexander Valley in 1963 and now are the largest family-owned grape growers in the valley. In 1997, they ventured into winemaking.
We savored pairings like the 2016 Bob’s Burn Pile, an oaky cabernet sauvignon, with peppery local Journeyman Parmesan-porcini salumi and the 2016 Silas, a smooth cab with dark fruit notes, alongside a wedge of Wisconsin aged cheddar.
Although the winery closed temporarily during the pandemic, Young says it’s open and doing well. “Everyone’s been drinking more,” he says. “I know I was.”
Picturesque gardens make this stylish Healdsburg winery primed for Instagram (it helps that owners Joan and Walt Flowers used to have a nursery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania). Snap some photos of the black circular swing dangling from an arch amid redwood trees or the tasting pergolas with billowing white drapes surrounded by flowers and greenery.
It’s just the setting to enjoy gourmet bites and cool-climate Sonoma Coast pinots and chardonnays (get a sense of the rugged terroir by peeking at the massive coastal polyptych that greets you at the entrance at the contemporary farmhouse).
A light and crispy Dungeness crab croquette with a dollop of Meyer lemon aioli and fennel pollen accompanied the citrusy 2018 Camp Meeting Ridge chardonnay. Soft bombolini (Italian doughnuts) stuffed with whipped Brie and fig jam and crowned with salty prosciutto was as indulgent as the 2018 View Ridge pinot noir. A mushroom and leek gratin with fresh thyme and toasted crumble topping paired with the bold 2018 Camp Meeting Ridge pinot noir.
And the saffron arancini garnished with tiny blossoms and house-baked baguette with trout rillette went well with everything.
Aperture has a deep relationship with Montage Healdsburg: its winemaker, Jesse Katz, oversees the hotel’s 15.5 acres of nascent vineyards. The Healdsburg winery celebrates its 10th anniversary this summer, and it debuted a modern hospitality center in July 2020 that melds two art forms: wine and photography. Katz, who is much buzzed about, crafts big Bordeaux-style reds in a camera-inspired venue.
The focal point of the clean, white space is the large skylight that resembles an aperture, or the opening in a photographic lens that lets in light. Sharp, detailed photos, including landscapes and portraits, adorn the walls. The images come from Jesse’s father, Andy, a professional photographer whose work has appeared on album covers for musicians such as the Doobie Brothers and Dan Fogelberg as well as museums and galleries.
Propped up three feet to offer a better vantage point to see the vines, the hospitality center has floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open and transform the interior tasting rooms into indoor-outdoor spaces. It puts you closer to the 40-acre estate in the Russian River Valley, and there’s seating on the patio as well.
“We are trying to show Sonoma can do luxury in an approachable way,” says Lauryn Mitrovich, Aperture’s director of hospitality. For our soil series tasting, we sampled blends and single-origin wines made from distinct soil types. For example, a 2017 Del Rio Vineyard, was made in fine, chalky volcanic dirt, resulting in a robust cabernet sauvignon with a particular richness.
We received a prized pour that wasn’t on the menu: Devil Proof. Revered wine critic Robert Parker hailed Katz’s malbec as one of the best in the world when it launched in 2012. It’s only sold once a year. The name was inspired by a Katz family trip to Cuba, where it’s said if you live well and drink well, the devil can’t get you — you’re devil proof.
This extra taste is a benefit for those visiting the winery from Montage Healdsburg. “We will absolutely go out of our way to accommodate their guests,” Mitrovich says.
Valette isn’t a winery but a small, refined restaurant in downtown Healdsburg that showcases local ingredients. But it’s the only place you can try friendly chef Dustin Valette’s versatile Valette chardonnay by winemaker Tom Rochioli. (Side note: this month, chef Valette will open The Matheson Healdsburg, a tri-level restaurant with a sushi bar, patio and rooftop cocktail bar and garden lounge.)
Plus, you can sip the drinkable white wine with dishes like the roasted celeriac soup with baby beets and crispy rock shrimp (on a rainy day on the patio, the silky soup was as comforting as a cashmere blanket) and the excellent dayboat scallops en croute with leeks, fennel, and a caviar and rich champagne beurre blanc.
For dessert, try the Bread, Butter and Jam, a recipe inspired by chef Valette’s great-grandfather, a baker. Brioche gets dipped in condensed milk, baked and sprinkled with sugar and sits on a pool of housemade strawberry jam next to salted brown butter ice cream, making a delicious bonus finish to a day touring wineries.