Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> Wining and Dining in Healdsburg Part II

Wining and Dining in Healdsburg Part II
Mark Gapinski, CSW


After terrific tastings at Littorai and Vérité our first full day in the wine country was heading toward dinner time. Sometimes you eat, and sometimes you dine. Tonight, we dined.

Single Thread Restaurant in downtown Healdsburg has earned 3 Michelin stars and is regularly included among the 50 best restaurants in the world by the likes of Conde Nast, Bon Appetit, and CNN. It had been on my restaurant bucket list for years. With a little help from my west coast kids, we were able to snag a reservation. Yes!

Single Thread is a farm, a restaurant, and an inn. Kyle Connaughton is the Chef, while his wife Katina has responsibility for the farm. Needless to say, the farm-to-table link here is hardwired. The cuisine can be described as California/Japanese fusion. The menu is a nine-course prix fixe and roughly follows the flow of a Japanese kaiseki traditional multi-course dinner. Two options for wine pairings are offered standard and premium. I chose the former. An alcohol-free beverage pairing with each course was also available. 

The photo at the top of the article shows the table when you are first seated, featuring an assortment of sushi. A 2012 Dom Perignon Champagne was paired here. Two cooked options were added to this first course, tempura-fried abalone and a small aerated mashed potato dish with a good whack of black truffle on top. It was so delicious Joël Robuchon himself might have asked for the recipe. Each dish presented was a fusion of art, texture, and flavor. The small bite shown in the photo is a perfect example of food as art.

A cooked Dungeness crab course with cauliflower mousse followed paired with a 2020 Radio-Coteau Wingtine Chardonnay. I've been a huge fan of Eric Sussman's wines at Radio-Coteau for many years. Having this wine show up was almost like having an old friend join for the course. Seasonal greens from the farm were featured next in a "walk through the garden salad." The freshness and clarity of the flavors were almost like experiencing them for the first time.

The palette cleanser before the meat courses was outrageously delicious. A preserved lemon sorbet was perched atop a lemony granita, in turn sitting on a puree of Kuri squash. The mastery of flavor in such a simple course was astounding. The first meat course featured duck breast with roasted pumpkin. It was paired with a 2014 Cobb 1906 Block Pinot Noir. This was a superb pairing with the food and the wine enhancing one another. This dish featured a "garnish" of powdered green onion and yellow squash. The final "meat" course was a rich and delicious smoked eel paired with a Schioppettino from the Friuli area of Italy. The smoky, black pepper elements in this unusual wine complimented the eel dish particularly well. To conclude, a variety of small-bite desserts were served. The ethereal flavors of each were different and ranged from vanilla to plum to hibiscus and peppercorn. The dessert wine was a luscious 2017 Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyas, Aszú, which we currently stock.

This was an extraordinary dining experience. The freshness and quality of the ingredients allowed the flavors and textures to shine in a way I've seldom experienced. The culinary preparations were creative, perfectly executed, and artfully presented. The service was pleasant, timely, and efficient. Three Michelin stars are well deserved!

It's hard to be the next meal up after a dinner at Single Thread, but I want to give a shout-out to Little Saint. Little Saint is a vegan restaurant on North Street in Healdsburg. As a non-vegan, I enjoyed everything I tasted here. The eclectic decor is very comfortable.

Our first tasting on our last day was at Hartford Court Winery. While they have a tasting room in Healdsburg, we drove down to Forestville to visit the winery. The Grapevine Cottage carries a number of Hartford Court wines, so we received a warm welcome. We tasted several Chardonnays, but my favorite was from the Three Jacks Vineyard in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA. This AVA is close to the Pacific Ocean and is one of the coolest in Sonoma County. Three Jacks showed rich fruit and ample body, which was nicely lifted by acidity and a streak of minerality that made it a joy to drink. I was especially impressed with the Pinot Noir from the Warrior Princess Block of the Zena Crown Vineyard in the Eola-Amity AVA of Willamette Valley. I hope we can land a couple of six-packs for the store. Hartford Court also produces lovely Zinfandel. We thoroughly enjoyed the 2021 Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard Zinfandel we tasted. As we took lunch at one of the outdoor tables, our hostess was kind enough to bring a glass of the Four Hearts Vineyard Chardonnay that made my Oakville Grocery smoked turkey and bacon sandwich taste even better.

Our afternoon tasting was at Benovia. Founded in 2005, Benovia is located northwest of Santa Rosa. They focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I had heard good things about Benovia, but had not tasted any of their wines. The winemaker and co-owner here is Mike Sullivan, who served as head winemaker at Hartford Court before founding Benovia. My favorite Chardonnay here was the 2019 La Pommeraie, made from grapes grown at Martinelli's Zio Tony Vineyard. This wine featured nicely balanced citrus with good minerality. It earned 96 points from the Wine Enthusiast. Among several lovely Pinot Noirs, I enjoyed the 2019 Tilton Hill the most. This vineyard sits very close to the ocean on the Sonoma Coast and rarely sees temperatures above 75 degrees. I liked the earthiness and ripe red fruit evident in this wine. I enjoyed our tasting at Benovia and will keep an eye out for it at retail or on restaurant menus.

Our last dinner on this visit was at The Matheson in Healdsburg. The menu features local, seasonal ingredients. Everything we tasted was delicious. They have an incredible selection of 80 or so wines by the glass, which creates some great opportunities for wine pairings. I was able to pair a 2020 La Roi de Pierre "Silex" Sancerre with a celeriac and chestnut soup for starters and then a 2019 Rockpile "Jack's Cabin Vineyard" Zinfandel with a braised short rib for the main. The Matheson also has a great rooftop bar with a simpler menu that we'll look forward to enjoying another time.

 Our time in Healdsburg passed too quickly, but we made the most of it. I hope you find these notes useful when planning your next visit.

Mark Gapinski's Trip to Healdsburg Part 1...