by Emily Hsieh (S.F.)
With fall quickly creeping up on us, my friends and I rented a cottage in California’s wine country to soak up the last few days of summer. Among the many wonderful things about the trip was the fact that the house came equipped with a couple of ridiculously cute (and surprisingly practical) bikes, one of which you see me on above. They’re made by San Francisco–based company Public, which specializes in sleek, European-style bicycles. Though they’re technically designed for city riding—ultra-lightweight steel frames, wide comfy seats, multiple speeds, chain guards to protect your clothes from grease marks and snagging—I used mine for easygoing downtown Sonoma and the bumpy, hilly backcountry.
Another gem is the Manzanita Creek Vineyard (1441 Grove St.), which has a great courtyard for post-wine-tasting relaxation. I spent a long afternoon here eating takeout sandwiches, drinking Syrah and playing bocce.
Also, if you like having lunch under a canopy of manicured trees, I’d suggest heading straight to Barndiva (231 Center Street), a gorgeous restaurant in downtown Healdsburg where I went twice in one week and proceeded to order the exact same thing: their amazingly delicious Kobe beef burger.
Last but not least, there was El Molino Central (11 Central Ave.). Having developed a major taco and burrito addiction from growing up in San Diego, I consider myself something of an expert when it comes to Mexican food. So you can imagine my surprise when I found a seriously amazing taqueria in wine country (of all places) to rival my old haunts. This charming restaurant specializes in lovingly made Mexican fare using super-fresh, top-notch ingredients—but best of all might be the organic corn tortillas they grind on-site every morning. Everything looked so good, I went a little overboard when it came time to order: Niman Ranch crispy beef brisket tacos, a pork tamale with pickled cabbage relish and a side of the made-to-order guacamole. (Fellow San Franciscans: Turns out they’ve also got a stand at the Ferry Building farmer’s market every Saturday morning. Dangerous!)