2020 in Sonoma County has a lot in store, including a great new way to sample the best of Healdsburg.
During the last weekend of January, the recently launched Tastemaker Weekend will introduce participants to Healdsburg’s food, wine and artisan scene through a variety of activities, such as hunting for garden treasures with flower farmers and blending wine with renowned winemakers.
The new event is part of an effort to bring more visitors to the northern Sonoma County town in the wake of October’s Kincade fire. Though the fire largely spared Healdsburg, downtown businesses have continued to suffer as less visitors come to the area.
“The message we want to get out there is that we’re open for business,” said Holly Fox, chair of the Healdsburg Tourism Improvement District, the organization sponsoring the event. “What makes [our town] special are all the incredible people who live and work here, and our first ever Tastemaker Weekend gives you the chance to get to know these talented makers and experience their crafts firsthand.”
As Fox suggests, the weekend features one-of-a-kind, hands-on experiences with some of the best and brightest artisans in the city. Among them: A flower-foraging and design class with Carlisle Degischer and her team at Dragonfly Floral; a pastry class with Karah Williams, pastry chef at Costeaux French Bakery; high tea at Jordan Vineyard & Winery with Executive Chef Todd Knoll; a cooking class with Oaxacan chef Mateo Granados; a wine-blending workshop with Lambert Bridge Winemaker Jennifer Higgins; and a distillery and mixology class with Jason Jorgenson, co-founder and head distiller of Alley 6. (Tickets to each experience are sold separately.)
Winemaker Jennifer Higgins is excited to share the wonders of wine-blending with those who previously may only have enjoyed tasting wine.
“Blending is where the artistic side of winemaking comes out…we have this huge blank canvass and much like a painter with a brush stroke, we are creating something beautiful with each blending trial,” she said. “Giving our customers the opportunity to blend allows them to experience first-hand just how much effort and energy go into producing our wines. It’s truly a behind-the-scenes look. I think it will give folks a whole new appreciation for what we do.”
Other Tastemaker Weekend events include a wine cave dinner with Shelly Rafanelli Fehlman, the winemaker at A. Rafanelli Winery; a cooking class with four other local winemakers at Relish Culinary Adventures; a cave tour and bottle-sabering experience at Breathless Wines; a watercolor-painting class with two local artists; and a wild-mushroom foraging excursion.
The weekend itinerary also features a free activity — a trail run to the top of Fitch Mountain, led by Skip Brand, owner of Healdsburg Running Company — and ticket holders can enjoy deep discounts on lodging: 50 percent off a second night at most local inns and many Healdsburg-area hotels, including the new Harmon Guest House, Hotel Trio, Duchamp Hotel, and the Best Western Dry Creek Inn. Considering that this is the off-season in Wine Country, base rates at most properties are already lower than usual, and so the discount amounts to a pretty sweet deal.
Mike Brennan, director of sales at Mill District, a mixed-use real-estate development at the south end of town, says the Tastemaker Weekend captures the very best of what Healdsburg is all about.
“Living and working in Healdsburg, we are fortunate to sample the fruits of [these artisans’] labor on a daily basis,” he said. With this event, he added, “visitors can experience it, too.”