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Wine Tasting at Dry Creek Vineyard

Long before Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley became a wine wonderland, it wasn’t all planted in prunes. Valued for their contribution to popular jug wines like “Hearty Burgundy,” the valley’s gnarled old Zinfandel vines soldiered on.

But it took a New Englander with a love of the Loire to found the valley’s first winery since Prohibition. Replacing prune trees with Sauvignon Blanc, David Stare helped to launch a revolution in premium winemaking that characterizes Dry Creek Valley today.

Set Sail on Dry Creek
Inspired by founder David Stare’s travels in the Loire Valley of France, the winery’s tasting room and forward buildings are ivy-covered and easy on the eyes. Sheltered by redwood trees from the road, the winery’s verdant lawn and picnic tables are always open to winery visitors.

Newly built in the last two years, a bocce ball court is available by reservation — for safety, staff will bring wine to the players. Also recently completed, a gravel pathway around an insectary garden provides a simple, self-guided tour punctuated with explanatory signage and useful wine trivia — Do you know how many grapes it takes to make a glass of wine? Sign up for a staff-guided tour of the cellar and vineyard if you want to learn more about Zinfandel.

In 2005, Stare stepped back from running the winery, but it’s still owned by the family. What was ground-breaking in 1972 may appear conventional today, but with the small upgrades that they’ve made, and a well-run tasting room, Dry Creek Vineyard looks like it’s on the right course sailing into its fifth decade.

Wine for Sailors
There’s a reason for the nautical theme in the tasting room and on wine labels — known for making “wine for sailors” ever since the iconic sailing ship label debuted in 1982, Dry Creek Vineyard supports and sponsors sailors and sailing events.

You can’t have a Loire-inspired winery without Chenin Blanc, but the winery has to source their floral, crisp but lingering 2014 Chenin Blanc ($12) from Clarksburg. A sample of this wine is free when you step in the tasting room. Also look for Sauvignon Blanc in both Sonoma County Fumé Blanc ($14) styles and single-vineyard offerings like the DCV3 Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($25).

Dry Creek Vineyards was a pioneer in labeling “old vine” Zinfandels. Today they’ve got six single-vineyard Zins, and a new “geekified” label with lots of technical harvest, acidity, and fermentation data printed below the sailboat picture. The 2012 Wallace Ranch Zinfandel ($40) lacquers the palate with big, brambleberry fruit, but leaves on an elegant note.

In August, Dry Creek Vineyard raises the Reserve tasting fee to $25 and rolls out the library wines, with some vintages dating back as early as the 1970s.

Chart a Course
The best lunch around is a deli sandwich from the Dry Creek General Store, enjoyed on the winery’s manicured picnic grounds. When considering dinner plans in nearby Healdsburg, don’t forget that Dry Creek Vineyard participates in the Culinary Cooperative. Purchase a bottle at the winery, and receive free corkage at participating restaurants.

Madrona Manor, Raford Inn, and Geyserville Inn are great overnight options with gorgeous vineyard views. Or, browse through the listing of all Sonoma County hotels and lodging.

Dry Creek Vineyard, 3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg. Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tasting fee $10-$15, waived with one bottle purchase. 707-433-1000

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