A U.S. region mostly known for wine is coming out as a new foodie capital

More often that not, destinations that are built around a specific park, element of their geography or activity do not stand out on the culinary front. 

For generations, visitors to the high-end ski resort have complained about having to pay $50 for a bad burger in Aspen while the areas around many of the country’s best national parks often have just one or two restaurants serving a simple menu meant to tide visitors over as they go on to hiking and exploring.

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While it’s home to just under 12,000 people, the town of Healdsburg in California’s Sonoma County has in recent years come out as a top foodie destination. Now in its third year, the Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience festival is currently running from May 16 to 19 and highlights farmers and chefs that make use of local ingredients and viticulture pairings for their dishes. This year, over 2,000 visitors are expected to descend upon Healdsburg for the festival.

A food and wine festival brings foodie visitors to a small town

On top of the annual festival, several local restaurants have started raking in both awards and visitors coming in specifically for the food in recent years. Opened just over two years ago in early 2022, Troubadour is a French restaurant that transforms from a Parisian-style baguette sandwich shop during day hours to a fine-dining bistro serving a nightly prix-fixe menu with ingredients such as foie grass and caviar in the evening. Husband-and-wife founders Melissa Yanc McGaughey and Sean McGaughey earned their chops at the 24-acre SingleThread Farms in Dry Creek Valley that also brings in guests for a three Michelin-starred restaurant experience (the restaurant was started by Kyle and Katina Connaughton in 2016 and gained its third Michelin star in 2019.)

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In December 2023, the glitzy Sushi by Scratch omakase restaurant opened its first outpost outside of Los Angeles in Healdsburg. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had previously named the Montecito location as one of their favorite places to get sushi in the area while chef-owners Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee said the decision to open in Healdsburg was made because it “has become the epicenter of luxury hospitality in California’s Wine Country.”

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In luxury travel, food and wine often go hand in hand

The luxury Montage Healdsburg hotel and resort has also recently partnered with winemaker and Aperture Cellars founder Jesse Katz for a new 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc launched under its own private label.

Katz, who founded Aperture Cellars in 2009 and was featured in Forbes’ “30 under 30” list back in 2013, has gone on to receive 11 100-point scoring wines (the highest combined critic rating a specific wine can receive) and hosts tours on the property that spans 42 acres and has a 4,000-square-foot tasting room — Aperture’s wines are served at several local restaurants in the area.

“Getting the first three Michelin star restaurant in Sonoma County history [SingleThread] was huge for us because the region is dedicated to food and wine and once you reach the top pinnacle and get to that level that really says something about the region,” Katz told TheStreet. “A lot of people come to this region to visit the wineries but the food is such an integral part of why they stay.”

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