More Favorite Places

By Kate Riley September 27, 2010

Hello there, hope you had a great weekend, I sure did!  It was my birthday last week, so  my hub and I hired a babysitter on Saturday, and spent an afternoon and evening at some favorite places nearby.

It’s the high season in Wine Country right now.  The leaves are turning, the festivals have begun, the tasting rooms are filled with tourists.   September through November is the most colorful season to visit this bountiful region.  If you’re ever in our area, here are a few worthwhile places to spend an enjoyable afternoon.

wine country colors


Korbel Champagne Cellars is home to some of the finest (and quite affordable) sparkling wines.   ‘Toast Life!’  is the motto here  ~ I certainly subscribe to that.   They have some helpful tips on their site giving all the details for choosing, storing, and entertaining with champagne.

korbel sign in vineyard


A visit to their winery is a worthwhile trip.  The brick building that greets you is so very pretty with its classic brick facade and ivy covered walls.

korbel exterior


No doubt you’ve seen these labels in local grocery stores, we often opt for this vintage.  I like the ‘Brut’ but the hub prefers the ‘Extra Dry’.   Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter to me, just hand me a glass!

korbel brut


Korbel offers cave and garden tours, which we skipped that day because we had many stops.  The gardens are really beautiful, and there are several historic buildings on this property.

korbel gardens korbel historic signs


One of the sights you can see a lot of in Northern California are redwood tree groves.  Often, this region is dubbed the ‘Redwood Empire’.  Korbel has its own cluster of historic trees, they are so beautiful.

historical redwoods


Arista Winery is another great stop if you love Pinot Noir.  They specialize in it!

arista winery


Gorgeous valley vineyard views, even from the parking lot.

valley views from arista


The grounds are really lovely here.  Plenty of oak barrels and botanical gardens surrounded by oak trees.  So much beauty around every bend in the winding gravel path.   I prefer a winding path to a straight one, don’t you?

arista duo


With so many gathering spots for friends to relax, it’s difficult to decide where to sit and sip.  Should it be here?



Or here?

adirondacks and table


I think these people had the right idea.  Enchanting !

wine country table


After Arista, we popped into the new Ferrari-Carano tasting room on the Healdsburg Square, different from the Ferrari-Carano winery which I mentioned here.

I loved the tin ceiling covered with its layers of patina, and the light fixtures made out of wine jugs.  I could do without the faux leaf garland, I think it distracts from the stunning series of jug fixtures that stretches over the bar.  Do you agree?

ceiling and jugs


Beautiful hutches for display placed up against a natural brick wall (love those) in the perfect shade of gray green.

hutches ferari carano


Oooh, such pretty ceramics.  Loving these rich vibrant colors.

wc pottery


Here’s a fancy trick our server taught us.  With a bordeaux glass, it’s better to decant (or aerate) your taste by spinning your glass rather than swirling.  Seemed a bit of a novelty to me, but I think this will be my newest party trick.  *wink*   Notice the recycled glass speckled countertops in warm shades of green, amber, and brown.

decanting taste


We dined at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for years, Bistro Ralph, on the famous Healdsburg square.  Very quaint, very chic.  Delicious food!

bistro ralph


I swear, I had the best bread I’ve ever had here!  No exaggeration.  They bake these little buns in the restaurant, then add a hint of sea salt, fennel, and olive oil.  Sooooo good, proving that often simple ingredients are the best!   There is no saying ‘No’ to carbs with bread this good, it’s simply impossible.

best buns ever

I especially loved the white brick wall (yes, I’m fickle, I love both natural and white brick) and these charming river rock vases.   CG makes mental note: learn how to carve a vase out of a rock.

river rock vase


After dinner, we stopped into Boisset: Taste of Terroir, where Sonoma meets Burgundy.  This is an absolutely gorgeous tasting room on the northeast corner of the Healdsburg Square.  Did you know that ‘Terroir’ is a French term defined as ‘the set of local conditions in which a particular wine or family of wines is produced, including soil-type, weather conditions, topography and wine-making savoir-faire’?  

So interesting, I didn’t know that until this past weekend.  Cheers to always learning something new!



The charcoal walls of Boisset paired with the glitzy crystal chandelier and cool marble tabletop are a welcome departure from the warm tones so often used in the typical French or Tuscan inspired tasting rooms.  Not that I don’t love that style too, but this tasting room has a modern New York vibe.  Very chic and glamorous.

They even had Philippe Starck Ghost Chairs with custom platinum satin seat cushions.   Heart!

phillipe stark chairs


A six hour break from the munchkins and sparkling pink bubbly for my birthday.  This girl couldn’t ask for a better present !

cg champagne


Oh, and speaking of favorite things, how gorgeous is this feminine and French inspired basement turned wine cellar from a recent issue of Country Living?

basement wine cellar country living

Who needs to visit a tasting room with a cellar this pretty?


I’ve got a super cute Halloween party idea coming up next, inspired by Martha.  Haunted beverage labels for both kids and grown ups created with free fonts and free software.  I’ll show you just how easy it is to make your very own, plus I have lots of free printable labels for you too!   Poisonous potions and spooky ciders, mooo ha ha ha.  They’re frighteningly fun, that’s coming next!





  1. Perfect! I love spending the day with my hubby, too :) Happy Birthday!

    BTW, you’re 100% correct about the faux leaf garland…I would have been tempted to take it down right then and there ;)

  2. So glad you had a happy birthday. Mine was Saturday and I had a pretty terrific weekend too with a little surprise party planned by my husband. I would have loved eating that delicious looking bread! Have a great day!

  3. A very happy belated birthday to you! You spent it in the perfect way (in my own humble opinion) and I’m taking notes for my own celebration, tee hee.

    I agree with you on the faux garland detracting from the fabulous light fixture. Couldn’t they use some interwoven dried grape vines? Kind of austere, but fits with the overall wine theme and I love shapely branches.

    Thanks again for sharing such a lovely experience and beautiful photos! Your blog is always such a treat :-).

  4. Kate fabulous images! you know I love champagne and wine. I had a special trip to Napa Valley for my 40th!! A dream come true to remember always!

    Art by Karena

  5. Happy Birthday! It looks like you had a wonderful celebration with your husband. Thanks for sharing with us. La

  6. I was just up there for the Kendall Jackson Tomato Festival. We stopped in at Healdsburg & I’m wishing we had seen this Boisset tasting room. It looks fabulous!

  7. Love the ceramics and the river rock vase; and I agree, just say no to faux when you have such naturally gorgeous surroundings! My favorite “Sparkling Wine”/champagne tour is Schramsberg. I love the smaller, more traditional method of riddling bottles and the mom and pop feel. Plus, their bubbly is SOOOO good.

  8. I love the jug light fixtures. And agree on the leaf garland removal! That was just a fabulous photographic tour of your wine country. Thanks! (and can I just say that somehow I was expecting a tour of water closets, from your twitter post! ha ha!)
    (oh, p.s., terroir rather than terrior. I think that’s pretty much the only French word I know.)

  9. Happy Birthday! I celebrated a birthday last week as well. Your outing looks like it was fabulous.

  10. I love it when you take us on tours with you. :) Happy (very belated ) birthday!! Looks like you two had a wonderful time away. Can’t wait to see what you have for us for Halloween. :)

  11. This looks like the perfect day. I am finding that wine doesn’t like me much anymore and I hate that. I get migraines (even from the white ones). Even though I rarely do more than taste or take a few sips…I still love to visit wineries, they are all so different and usually so beautiful.

  12. Happy Birthday, Kate! Beautiful photos. Sounds like a perfect way to celebrate your birthday. I will have to put Bistro Ralph on our list of restaurants to try. My husband and I love to try out new places.

  13. Hi Kate—hope you have a wonderful birthday year and get all you wish for!

    I was in the wine country for a wedding over Labor Day but we didn’t get up to Healdsburg. I will definitely make that a priority next time. Beautiful pictures and great tips on wineries and restaurants. Thanks.

  14. MY GOODNESS! That sounds and looks like a DREAM birthday! I have to say this quote, “Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter to me, just hand me a glass!” just tickled me pink! I couldn’t have said it better! Happy Birthday!

  15. Yay! Happy birthday! I love all the pictures. Wine Country is beautiful…Napa is one of my family’s favorite places to visit. We’re from the Bay Area, so it’s a short trip!

  16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY….even if it’s a little late, it’s heartfelt!

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the myriad posts on CA wine country you create.

    It’s surreal, but even though I’ve been to other countries and even lived in Europe, I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO CALIFORNIA!

    Your photos make me want to correct that oversight!


    Again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY–you bring so much beauty and joy to all your readers,

  17. I am going to be there in just a couple of days. Your recommendations couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks!

    And . . . happy birthday!!

  18. Happy (belated) birthday, Kate! It looks like you had an amazing time celebrating. As a former attorney, mother of two young children, and wanna be interior designer, I just love your blog. I also love your neck of the woods – we were just vacationing there earlier this year (I REALLY tried to win that HGTV dream house in Sonoma — drats!). However, the next time we are in Northern California, I will be sure to review your blog for all the must-see places. Thanks for sharing!

    P.S. And, yes, the faux leaf garland has got to go! :)

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