Guide to Healdsburg & Dry Creek Valley

Bella Wine Caves

Ferrari Carano Winery

Ferrari Carano Winery

DaVero Farms & Winery

Dry Creek General Store

Sbragia Family Estate

Seghesio Family Vineyards

Dry Creek Vineyard

Kachina Vineyards

Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate

Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate

Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate

Simi Winery

Preston Farm & Winery

I’m lucky enough to call Healdsburg home, and after half a year as a resident I’m finally ready to create this guide to share my recommendations.

Healdsburg is such a great place to base yourself as it is smack bang in the middle of an intersection of four major appellations; Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, Russian River and Chalk Hill. There are about 150 wineries between them, not to mention the Napa Valley (Calistoga) being only 45 minutes drive away! So where do you start?  I’ll cover Alexander Valley, Russian River and Chalk Hill in future guides. For first timers, or Zinfandel lovers particularly, this itinerary focuses on Dry Creek Valley,  my home and one of the most stunning wine regions you’ll visit.

Although you can certainly spend longer, I’ve designed this two-day itinerary as an ideal introduction to the area. What I recommend is to visit both larger and smaller wineries, take time to visit some of the great restaurants, try a food and wine pairing, and take some time out to enjoy a relaxing picnic.

Day 1 – Healdsburg & Dry Creek Road

Getting an appreciation for this area first is a good idea. Both Simi Winery and Seghesio are good places to start as you’ll get a sense for the rich history in this area. Both wineries can speak to what Italian immigrants brought to this part of Northern Sonoma County. Seghesio’s history spans four generations of winemaking, while at you’ll hear the fascinating story of Isabelle Simi, a true pioneer for the wine industry.

Next, pick up lunch at the Dry Creek General Store. This rustic and quirky store has delicious sandwiches, cheeses and other picnic supplies. (It is owned by Gina Gallo of E&J Gallo.)

Head down Dry Creek Road to Sbragia Family Vineyards at the far end of the valley. Winemaker and owner Ed Sbragia founded the winery after being winemaster at Napa’s Beringer Estate for 32 years. Their roséis one of my favorites, but you’ll also want to try what they are known for, Cabernet and Zinfandel blends. From here you’ll get a fabulous view of Dry Creek Valley on the patio and can picnic in style on their lounge chairs. For a view of Lake Sonoma take a drive afterward up to the hill to the lake. The fish hatchery is also interesting for a quick stop.

Finally, if that wasn’t relaxing enough – drive back down Dry Creek Road to Truett-Hurst Winery. Have a quick tasting, then take a glass or a bottle of your choice out to their seating area beside the river.

Finish your day in Healdsburg, where you can rejuvenate yourself for the evening after a quick shot of espresso, or ice cream from Downtown Creamery.

The ideal place for dinner is Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar where you can sit in their booth seating for a private, or romantic experience. I highly recommend the lobster rolls, but truly everything is good here. For something low key, try Healdsburg Bar & Grill.

Day 2 – Healdsburg & West Dry Creek Road

After breakfast (I suggest Downtown Creamery or Cousteaux French Bakery) drive over to DaVero Farms & Winery for an olive oil tasting. Here you’ll try their estate-produced oils including a Giada de Laurentiis favorite, Meyer Lemon Olive Oil. You’ll also want to try their wines including their rare, small batch, Sagrantino. They do offer an estate tour by appointment that is well worth doing especially if you are interested in Italian varietals produced here. (Call ahead to make sure they are open during the time you want to visit)

Next, take a leisurely drive down West Dry Creek Road to Quivira Vineyards & Winery. Here you’ll learn about their biodynamic farming practices, and taste some fabulous wines (my favorite is the Sauvignon Blanc). If you have a little more time you can do the Estate Tour ($20).

Time for lunch! For a special experience I recommend a food and wine pairing experience. One of the best I’ve come across is at Michel-Schlumberger’s 5-course Food & Wine Pairing ($45 per person).  Here you’ll get a delicious array of generous bites, taste four wines and a sherry. What is special about their food and wine pairing is that Chef Pryor will come to your table and talk about the local products and the pairings. Chef works with local growers and small purveyors in Sonoma County & Napa Valley to seek out the best products from local farmers. For an example of their menu click here. It’s best to call ahead and reserve this.

After a long lunch inside their tasting “lounge”, or outside on the mission-style patio, you’ll have time to squeeze in one or two more wineries. Two that I recommend close by are Preston of Dry Creek and Bella Wine Caves.

Preston of Dry Creek is an organic farm & winery specializing in Rhone varietals. In the tasting room you can also sample their homemade bread, their estate-grown olive oil, and olives. They have a little farm store where you can buy organic vegetables, fruits and nuts, you-pick strawberries, estate-laid eggs, sauerkraut, salami and a selection of local, artisanal cheeses.

Bella Wine Caves is another impressive stop. Inside the magical candle-lit cave you’ll taste some superb Zinfandels. To top that off, every Saturday and Sunday they feature Chef’s Bites to pair with your wine.

Once back in Healdsburg, you’ll have plenty of restaurants to choose from. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, Chalkboard (owned by Chalk Hill Winery) is great for small plates, for a more hearty meal, you’ll want to head to Zin Restaurant.

WineryCritic Tips

  • Work your way along Dry Creek Road (both West and East roads).
  • Buy lunch at Dry Creek General Store – a gourmet deli, wine shop and bar
  • Do a food and wine pairing for lunch. I recommend Michel-Schlumberger and Seghesio.
  • You don’t need reservations for tasting at most of these wineries, however I have identified the ones with experiences worth reserving.

Wineries to visit

  • Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves, Superb Zinfandels, tasting inside impressive cave. Every Saturday and Sunday they feature Chef’s Bites to pair with your wine. Tasting fee is $10. 9711 West Dry Creek Road, 707-473-9171.
  • DaVero Farms & Winery – Producing olive oil adored by celebrity chefs, also Italian varietals including their signature wine, Sagrantino. 766 West Side Road, Healdsburg. (707) 431-8000
  • Dry Creek Vineyard (Picnic area) 3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-1000
  • Ferrari Carano Vineyards & Winery, 8761 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-6700
  • Kachina Vineyards Boutique estate, appointment only, wine and cheese pairings. 4551 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 332-0854
  • Mauritson Winery – Family with long history in the area, excellent Sauv Blanc and Rockpile Zinfandels. 2859 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. (707) 431-0804
  • Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate (By appointment, food & wine pairing lunch highly recommended) 4155 Wine Creek Road, (707) 433-7427. ****
  • Preston of Dry Creek (Picnic area), Organic farm & winery producing Rhone varietals. 9282 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-3372
  • Quivira Vineyards (Picnic area) 4900 West Dry Creek Road, 707-431-8333
  • Sbragia Family Vineyards (Picnic area). Stunning views of Dry Creek Valley. Excellent wines by 9990 Dry Creek Rd, Geyserville, (707) 473-2992
  • Seghesio Family Vineyards (Picnic area). Produces extraordinary number of Zinfandels. 700 Grove Street, Healdsburg, (707) 433-3579
  • Simi Winery, 16275 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (800) 746-4880. Historic tour includes tasting of four wines. Available daily at 11am and 2pm. ($15)  (Picnic area under the Redwoods)
  • Talty Vineyards – Ideal for the Zinfandel lover. Appointments required during the week. 7127 Dry Creek Road, (707) 433-8438.
  • Truett-Hurst Winery (Picnic area by the river) 5610 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-9545.
  • Wilson Winery (Picnic area) Ideal for the Zinfandel lover, 1960 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg

 

Where to Eat

  • Picnic supplies: Dry Creek General Store, Big John’s Market, Oakville Grocery
  • Coffee: The Flying Goat “The Goat”, Healdsburg Shed
  • Breakfast: Downtown Creamery, Costeaux French Bakery
  • Lunch: Healdsburg Bar & Grill (25 best burgers by Food & Wine Magazine), Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar (Seafood heaven!), The Wurst (hotdogs on steroids!)
  • Dinner: Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar, Partake (Kendall Jackson’s flights and bites), Chalkboard (specializing in small plates), Zin Restaurant & Bar, Spoonbar (part of H2 hotel, great bar & Mediterranean dining), Sake’O (excellent sushi), Dry Creek Kitchen, Applewood Inn (Michelin Star restaurant in Guerneville), Madrona Manor (Michelin-rated).

Where to Stay

In Healdsburg, there are plenty of luxe choices, but my favorites are Hotel Healdsburg, H2 Hotel, a chic, modern hotel also owned by Hotel Healdsburg, the Healdsburg Inn, Madrona Manor and the ultra elegant Hotel Les Mars. Best Western Dry Creek Inn is another great option.

About Dry Creek Valley

In Dry Creek Valley nearly all wineries are family-owned and offer unique wines and tasting experiences. Zins and Cabernet thrive here, and you’ll find much of the valley floor covered in Sauvignon Blanc. Italian immigrants planted the early vineyards here and today there are about 70 producers.

Getting there

  • 1 hour 20 minutes drive from San Francisco
  • 70 minutes drive from Napa
  • 45 minutes from Calistoga

 

Map courtesy of Dry Creek Valley Winegrowers

Map courtesy of Dry Creek Valley Winegrowers. Click to see enlarged version.

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