The History & Landscape
Dry Creek Valley is one of California's oldest AVA’s (American Viticultural Area). Over 140 years old, spanning 16 miles long and 2 miles wide, the appellation has over 9,000 acres of vineyards planted. Dry Creek Valley is the epicenter for Zinfandel in the world. This is the perfect microclimate for Zinfandel to thrive in - located only twenty miles from the coast and running through the middle of the Russian River, Dry Creek Valley receives plenty of cool fog and mist in the mornings. By noon the fog has burned off and the sun’s rays shine brightly on the Dry Creek vineyards. The cool evenings in Dry Creek Valley truly make it an ideal situation for the Zinfandel grape.
The appellation is beautiful with rolling hills and steep hillside slopes that create a much needed strain on the vines. Steep hillsides add strain to the vines by forcing the roots to dig deeper into the earth to absorb more water and nutrients to survive. The deeper the root, the more concentrated flavor you will receive from the fruit, which helps produce the bold tannin structure, spicy characteristics and full bodied wines that Dry Creek Valley is known for.
The Wines and Wineries
Dry Creek Road is full of beautiful estates and vineyards on both sides of the road. Mauritson, Dry Creek Vineyards, Passalaqua, and Unti are a few must stops for Zinfandel in Dry Creek Valley. Dry Creek Valley also has some of the oldest wineries in Sonoma County with A. Rafanelli and Seghesio Family Vineyards.
In the most southern part of Dry Creek Valley resides Mill Creek Vineyards, right at the cusp of Russian River Valley. This is one of our personal favorites to visit in the Dry Creek Valley - with two picnic areas, an old (but functioning) water wheel and mill pond, and spectacular views, this is just a really comfortable place to hang out and enjoy some exceptional wines. The cool nature of this vineyard softens the fruit in the mid palate and ends with soft luscious pepper; a real benchmark for Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels.
In addition to Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley does a phenomenal job of growing Sauvignon Blanc as the vineyards in the southern part of Dry Creek Valley are cool enough for this white grape to thrive. This appellation has so much diversity in soil content and climate. Take "the bench" for example - a two mile stretch within Dry Creek Valley where the soil takes a very deep dive down to the river. The soil down by the river is very sandy and soft, a wonderful condition for any grape to grow in. Up at the top of "the bench" is tough clay and rocky soil which puts much strain on the vines, creating a nice tannin structure and pepper characteristic to the grapes.
Dry Creek Valley is definitely a must stop when making your wine tasting trip to Sonoma County. There are some of the most beautiful views in all of Northern California and some incredible parties! Take Passport weekend for example, one large party that spans across all of Dry Creek Valley where each winery picks a specific theme for the weekend. Whether it be an Italian theme, Spanish theme or a weekend in Las Vegas, each winery shows great hospitality, great wine, live music and best of all…GREAT FOOD!
On the edge of Dry Creek Valley lies one of our favorite places in all of wine country, Healdsburg. This small town has a high-end but welcoming feel, with a beautiful plaza in the center of the village. This is definitely a foodie town with plenty of restaurant options that will satisfy your cravings after a long day of tasting wine. Our top picks include Willi's Seafood, Chalkboard, and Bravas Bar de Tapas. These all provide casual dining atmospheres with award outstanding cuisine, cocktails, and wine lists. Check out this Modern Guide to Healdsburg for some more shopping, restaurant, and lodging recommendations.
If you want to take a break from all of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that dominates Sonoma County just head up north to Dry Creek Valley and experience world class Zinfandel and maybe even some varietals you’ve never heard of. The wines are great, the view is immaculate, the people are friendly and the experience is unforgettable.