Connections: Healdsburg, California with Winemaker Chantal Forthun
For this week’s iteration of our Connections series, we spoke with Chantal Forthun, the winemaker extraordinaire behind Flowers Winery, about the town of Healdsburg. Nestled in the heart of California’s Sonoma wine region, Forthun shares how the unbeatable food and wine scene and the gorgeous, rugged scenery make her home truly special.
At All Roads North, we believe that a place is nothing without its people. So often, when we ask our clients the most memorable parts of their journey, it’s not the Instagram-worthy landscape or acclaimed hotel that they mention, it’s the encounters they had along the way. That’s why our trips are carefully designed to make those connections, providing you with an authentic and immersive experience. These experiences– whether it be with a local craftsman, musician, chef or marine biologist– are the inspiration for our Connections series, where we talk to friends of All Roads North to get an insider’s look at some of our favorite places across the U.S.
Tell us about your Healdsburg story?
Hello, I’m Chantal Forthun, winemaker for Flowers Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg. For the past decade, I’ve had the fun privilege of making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that amplify the wild natural spirit of the far Sonoma Coast, where our high-elevation estate vineyards are situated.
My Healdsburg story begins about 12 years ago when I was visiting friends in the area. I was immediately and indelibly struck by the bucolic beauty while driving on Eastside Road. The golden-hour sunlight was hitting the sea of undulating vineyards in the most perfect manner. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the landscape was, and how I was just discovering it for the first time! Furthering my budding love for Healdsburg was the interplay between locals and tourism — the community seemed so unified through its deep and solid roots.
What three words sum up Healdsburg for you?
Food & Wine Mecca.
What’s something that Healdsburg does better than anywhere else?
Genuine and warm hospitality and appreciation for the land, born from Healdsburg’s agrarian roots.
What major “tourist attraction” lives up to the hype?
Healdsburg Plaza – a convivial community gathering spot framed by redwoods and date palms, and flanked by some of the world’s best restaurants and wineries.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to wander?
I love the historic architecture of the homes downtown, so that’s the neighborhood I frequent the most.
Underrated in Healdsburg, overrated in Healdsburg, personal favorite, and recent discovery?
Underrated: Shopping around the Plaza. Ooh La Lux and Jam Jar are some of the sweetest boutiques that embody the Healdsburg lifestyle.
Overrated: World-class dining in our backyard means that reservations at highly rated (not overrated!) destinations such as SingleThread are hard to come by! To avoid disappointment, it’s well worth it to plan ahead and make a reservation months in advance. The beautifully curated dining experience will certainly reward your pre-planning efforts!
Personal favorites: Healdsburg Farmers’ Market (Saturday mornings!), and live music during the summer at Tuesday in the Plaza
Recent discovery: Maison Healdsburg — grower champagne at your fingertips!
What’s your Sunday morning in Healdsburg?
Grab a coffee and a pastry at Quail & Condor. Take a leisurely stroll through the Plaza. Check out Little Saint Farms’ farmstand at Little Saint. Pop into Marine Layer to say hello to friends and have a splash of Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast.
What restaurant do you take friends from out of town for dinner, a casual local’s favorite, and a weekend brunch?
Bardiva is my go-to for out-of-town guests. The stylish barn architecture and culinary spotlight on fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients is quintessential Healdsburg.
Hands-down casual local’s favorite is Guiso Latin Fusion. This family-owned & operated eatery is super small, with only a handful of tables. The intimate setting coupled with lively stories told by one of the servers (also the father of the chef!) makes you feel like part of the family. And, the pupusas are not to be missed.
For weekend brunch, I love The Parish Cafe — a taste of New Orleans in Sonoma County.
Where do you go to get into nature?
There are so many great nature spots around Healdsburg, but I always gravitate toward the Sonoma Coast for its dramatic landscape and salty sea breezes. The Kortum Trail hike out to Goat Rock Beach, where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean, is one of my favorites. Rocky coastline meets windswept coastal forest — and seals! It’s also a hop, skip, and a jump from our coastal estate vineyards.
What trends are you noticing in Healdsburg right now?
The diaspora of talented chefs who cut their teeth at Michelin-starred restaurants going out on their own with inspiring new additions to the local culinary scene. Troubadour Bakery and Molti Amici, to name a few new greats.
We love sending clients to places that portray an authentic sense of place. How does Flowers encapsulate the Healdsburg region?
Architecturally, House of Flowers was designed as an homage to the natural landscape of the Russian River Valley, and to the wild natural elements of our coastal estate vineyards where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean. Our space is filled with natural materials, earthy hues, abundant natural light, and ever-present views of the surrounding redwoods, vineyards, and mountains that define our local landscape.
Experience Healdsburg with this itinerary: