If you enjoy food and wine get-aways with magnificent vineyard views, the Dry Creek Valley AVA of Sonoma County may be the next wine region you should visit. And the timing couldn’t be better, because Dry Creek Valley wineries are celebrating their 40th anniversary of being an official AVA (appellation) this year.
“The Dry Creek Valley AVA is a little pocket of magic nestled within Sonoma County,” stated . Amanda Brower, Communications Manager with the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley. “It is home to one of the densest concentrations of old vine zinfandel in the world, with many multi-generational family-owned wineries. The history here is deep rooted.”
Located 70 miles north of San Francisco, and just outside the charming town of Healdsburg, Dry Creek Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in California, settled just after the California Gold Rush of 1849. Today the valley boasts over 70 wineries and 9000 acres of grapevines, including 12 historic vineyards, with three dating from the 1890’s.
Fun and Creative Dry Creek Winery Itineraries
If you love zinfandel wine, then the Dry Creek Valley AVA will be a paradise for you, because this grape is widely planted and celebrated here. But the valley is also equally well known for other varieties, such as zippy sauvignon blanc, rose, grenache, big velvety cabernet sauvignon, red blends, and even some sparkling wine.
With 70 wineries, it can be challenging to decide which ones to visit first. But the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley have made this easier for you by providing 13 suggested wine tasting itineraries based on your preferences. For example, some of the choices include The Founder’s Tour, Hidden Gems, Zinfandel Exploration, Agritourism, Dry Creek by Bike, and others. Each itinerary includes visits to 4 or 5 wineries.
The two oldest existing wineries in Dry Creek Valley are the Frei Brothers and Pedroncelli, but other famous wineries, established in the 1970’s include A. Rafanelli, Dry Creek Vineyards, Mill Creek, Preston, Lambert Bridge and Lytton Springs. However, there are many newcomers and hidden jewels to discover.
Another strong appeal of Dry Creek is that it is only 16 miles long, 2 miles wide, and has no stoplights. Driving through the valley is spectacular anytime of the year, with the vineyards spread out in a verdant green tapestry in the summer; covered with gold and red leaves in autumn; and filled with old vines that look like sculptures in the winter. Springtime fills the vineyard rows with yellow mustard and orange California poppies.
World Class Restaurants and Hotels Near Dry Creek Valley
With the town of Healdsburg right next to the Dry Creek Valley, it is easy to find world-class dining experiences and accommodations. The 3-Michelen star restaurant, Single Thread, attracts gourmands from around the world, along with other popular establishments such as Barndiva, Dry Creek Kitchen, the Matheson, Valette, The Madrona, and many others.
Hotels fill up quickly during the summer season, so be sure to book early. Popular locations near the Healdsburg Plaza include Hotel Healdsburg, Harmon Guesthouse, and H2 Hotel. Just outside of town is the luxurious Montage resort, the historic Madrona Manor, and other popular options. Several B&B’s can be found in Dry Creek Valley, and of course, house rentals with Airbnb, VRBO, and other rental firms are also available. The nearby towns of Windsor, Santa Rosa, Geyserville and Cloverdale also offer accommodations.
The 40th Anniversary Tasting of Dry Creek Valley Wines
Recently the Dry Creek Valley AVA hosted a special 40th anniversary tasting where ten wineries showcased their wines. “There is so much diversity in this region – in soil, grape varieties, and winemaking styles, but the main grape is zinfandel and old field blends, planted by Italian immigrants,” stated moderator Chris Sawyer
Indeed three of the wineries showcased Dry Creek wines that tasted as if they were produced in Europe, with complex earthy notes and fresh acidity. Examples included Nalle winery’s 2018 zinfandel, Davero winery’s 2018 sangiovese/barbera blend, and Teldeshi winery’s Terraluna old field blend of valdigue, carignan and petite sirah grapes.
But other wineries highlighted some of the newer grape varieties to be planted in Dry Creek Valley. Mauritson winery and Dry Creek Vineyards both featured crisp and fruity sauvignon blancs, while Quivera winery shared a juicy grenache. During the reception, Amista Winery shared one of their sparkling wines, made from mataro grapes. “We have become known for making sparkling wine from unique varietals,” stated Amista Estate Director, Brian Shapiro.
Complex cabernet sauvignons and red blends made an appearance, with Pedroncelli offering a 2019 cabernet sauvignon brimming with cassis and dark chocolate. Flambeaux winery also featured an expressive cab aged partially in American oak; whereas A. Rafanelli winery provided an elegant cab/merlot blend aged in French oak. Newcomer, Emmitt-Scorsone winery, featured a fruity red blend called Gusto Amato.
At the conclusion of the tasting, Shelly Rafanelli, 3rd generation winemaker with A. Rafanelli winery, described her philosophy of living in the valley. “Winemaking is not a job for us…..it’s a way of life,” she stated. Many of the other wineries present agreed with her.
Hiking, Kayaking and Beach Combing Around Dry Creek Valley
After a day or two of winetasting, many visitors are attracted to the many hiking trails around Dry Creek Valley. Also kayaking and boating opportunities are available on the nearby Russian River and Lake Sonoma.
If you are feeling very adventurous, you can take the 1.5 hour drive on Stewarts Point-Skaggs Spring road from the Dry Creek Valley General Store (built in 1881) to the Pacific Ocean. The road is extremely twisty with hairpin turns over the mountains, but the reward is the crashing waves and vast beaches at the end of the road – perfect for beach combing.