Healdsburg is nearly everyone's idea of a trendy Sonoma County destination. Visitors descend there to dine in swank restaurants and shop at upscale boutiques surrounding its beautiful town square, despite the steep price tags. But six miles south is the charming town of Windsor with its own share of cute shops and excellent restaurants next to a lovely town green. The tab: Two nights at the WorldMark Windsor cost us $412 plus tax; lunch at Kin was $43 plus tip; and two glasses of brown ale and a six-pack to take home was $19 at St. Florian's Brewery.
We chose the WorldMark Windsor, a 228-unit timeshare resort adjacent to the picturesque Windsor Golf Club. When not in use by members of the Worldmark by Wyndham ownership program, these attractive units are available to the public. We stayed in a spacious one-bedroom unit with a king bed, full kitchen, washer and dryer, and a gas fireplace. The grounds were beautiful, and the location was a mere mile south of downtown Windsor.
One of Windsor's delights is its variety of restaurants. For lunch, we chose Kin, in the heart of old downtown Windsor. According to our waitress, its name reflects the family feeling everyone who works here shares. We paired a fried brie, strawberry and grilled chicken salad with a potato pancetta pizza. Delicious. For breakfast we found ourselves at KC's American Kitchen, a lively, retro diner that attracts locals and travelers alike. My wife, Jeannie, chose the eggs Benedict with grilled tomatoes and avocado; I had the Southwest potato cakes. The portions turned out to be enormous. Next time we'll split a cheese omelet.
A trip to Sonoma County means wine tasting. And with 50 wineries within five miles of downtown Windsor, we decided this was the ideal opportunity to turn our traditional Sonoma pastime on its head. We went beer tasting. The Old Redwood Brewing Co. is part of an upswing in microbrewing that is now making Windsor its home. Old Redwood prides itself on brewing a variety of beers, from its light and smooth River Rider Cream Ale to its hop-intensive Full Windsor Triple IPA. A mile or so down the road is St. Florian's Brewery, named after the patron saint of firefighters. The brewery is popular with first responders, and uniform patches from fire departments around the state decorate the walls. We loved its brown ale, so much so that we bought a six-pack to take home.But the best may be yet to come. Russian River Brewing Co., currently headquartered in Santa Rosa, is building an 85,000-square-foot facility on 10 acres that will include a 180-seat brew pub, a year-round outdoor patio and a gift shop – thus cementing Windsor as the microbrew capital of Sonoma County.
THE LESSON LEARNED
If Healdsburg is a little expensive for you, try Windsor. It may be the region's best-kept secret.
WorldMark Windsor, 1251 Shiloh Road, Windsor; (707) 836-2420. Wheelchair accessible.
Kin, 740 McClelland Drive, Windsor; (707) 837-7546. Wheelchair accessible.
KC's American Kitchen, 9501 Duvander Lane, Windsor; (707) 838-7800. Wheelchair accessible.
Old Redwood Brewing Co., 9000 Windsor Road, Windsor; (707) 657-7624. Wheelchair accessible.