A visit to Dry Creek Vineyard

Affectionately known as the “old dog on the block”, Dry Creek Vineyard should naturally be on your list of wineries to visit in Dry Creek Valley.  With more than 40 years of history, this winery has made its mark in Sonoma County, both with Zinfandel and also for Sauvignon Blanc.

One look at the bottle, and you may be intrigued, as I was about this “Wine for Sailors”.  It turns out that founder Dave Stare is a yachtee at heart.  Dave is a Boston native with a sailing passion who brought his love of Sauvignon Blanc to the area in 1972.  Dave’s two passions come through loud and clear in the tasting room decked out with sailing memorabilia and merchandise.

You’ll taste plenty of Zinfandel here, but what is also interesting is their range of Sauvignon Blanc.  (It is also labeled as Fumé Blanc depending on the style.)  Dry Creek Vineyard was the first winery to plant Sauvignon Blanc in Sonoma County, a gutsy move at the time, but fueled by Dave’s interest in the wines of the Loire Valley.

On today’s visit I was in for a tour and tasting experience hosted by wine educator Darren Abel.  After a quick taste of Chenin Blanc, we were off to the vineyard for a look at some of the Zinfandel vines.

Winter is not the best time for pretty pictures, but what you will get at this time of year is less people and more time to ask questions.  Darren is one of the more passionate guides I’ve met and he spent a lot of time with me going through the history of the region, the diverse soil types, and the ideal conditions for growing Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.  Next it was time for our wine tasting in the cellar featuring the Old Vine Zinfandel, Estate Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, the Meritage and the Endeavour Cabernet.

Dry Creek Vineyard is still a family-run winery and you may, like I did, have the pleasure of running into Kim Stare Wallace, Dave’s daughter, in the cellar.  If you don’t see her at the winery, you will spot her face in the many photos with celebrities you’ll see on the walls in the tasting room.  Kim now runs the winery, along with her husband Don Wallace.

A visit to Dry Creek Vineyard will give you a good basis for what is in store in the Dry Creek area.  With many more wines beyond Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, there is certainly something for everyone.  The gardens are also a great place to have a picnic and with the most popular lunch spot in the area (Dry Creek General Store) within walking distance, you may well be tempted to spend the afternoon relaxing in the garden.

Expert tips:

  • There is plenty of picnic space here so plan to bring one. The rustic, but foodie friendly Dry Creek General Store is literally within walking distance and is the perfect place to pick up a sandwich or snacks.
  • Booking a tour in advance is a good idea.  The tasting room itself can get busy and in the tour you will get to do a tasting in the cellar.

WineryCritic Ratings

8/10 Overall visitor experience

9/10 Knowledge of guide

9/10 Location

8/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

8/10 Other experiences: A variety of different tastings depending on your level of knowledge

9/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

9/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

9/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required: No.  Reservations required the tours and the Meritage blending experience.

Address:  

3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448

www.drycreekvineyard.com

Tasting fees & experiences: 

Tasting room hours: 10:30am – 4:30pm

  • $5 per person – tasting of Signature wines
  • $10 per person – tasting of Wine Club selections
  • $15 per person – Tour and Taste Dry Creek Valley:  Includes a tasting, vineyard visit and winery tour.  Available at 11am and 1pm Monday through Friday.
  • $25 per person – Tasting Flight:  Cellar tasting hosted by wine expert.  Weekends at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.
  • $45 per person – Meritage: The Art of the Blend: For groups of 6 or more you can learn how to blend Bordeaux varietals and create your own blend.

Good for:  Zinfandel lovers, couples, sailors, small groups

Wines produced:  Chenin Blanc, Fumé Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage.

What’s nearby:  Dry Creek General Store, Michel-Schlumberger, Quivera, Kachina.

District/Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Contact for appointments:  Call the Hospitality Manager Kristine Shirley at 1-800-864-9463 x124 or kristines@drycreekvineyard.com.

Date of visit: November 20, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com