On a warm Sunday afternoon, the city of Healdsburg in Sonoma County is surprisingly peaceful. People stroll, wandering in and out of the pretty shops and swank winetasting rooms that line the square block surrounding the plaza, but no one’s in a hurry and the crowd’s refreshingly thin. A few stores running air-conditioning post handwritten signs on the door—“Come on in, it’s cool inside!”—but in most, fans stir. In several, clerks yawn.
Healdsburg lies about 15 miles north of Santa Rosa, just off U.S. Highway 101, the last exit before offramps space out and vineyards, meadows and forests dominate the scene from the car window. The little city, population 11,200 or so, rests beside the Russian River, smack in the middle of wine country. Three wine-growing regions—Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River—converge in Healdsburg, and those viticultural roots lend flavor to the town’s ambience; wine and all things related to it drive much of the area’s commerce. The city center, especially its one-square-block Healdsburg Plaza, lures visitors to shop, dine, hunt for antiques, gallery-hop, wine-taste or relax by the Sandborn Memorial Fountain and copper-topped gazebo. Outside of town, wineries beckon, the arrow signs stacked thick on poles at every intersection.
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