Not-So Dry Creek (Slideshow)

By

West Wines

Like most Dry Creek wineries, West Wines — my first stop — has lots of vines on the valley floor. Owner Bengt Akerlind opened several bottles and gave me the keys to his guest house. 

Not-So Dry Creek

A tributary of the Russian River, Dry Creek is now a steady stream because its flow is controlled by Lake Sonoma, carved into the hills of Sonoma’s Coast Range.

Head-Pruned Vines

Dry Creek is well-known for its old-vine zinfandels, many of which are individually head-pruned, standing alone without support from wires or cordons.

Very Traditional

Many of the wineries along Dry Creek have styled their tasting rooms along traditional architectural wines, such as this one for Mill Creek Vineyards, founded in 1974.

Very Modern

Ferrari-Carano has been a Dry Creek fixture since 1981, but its tasting room and winery, almost in the shadow of the Lake Sonoma dam, are a very modern take on a traditional Tuscan estate.

Chambers of Kachina

Dry Creek has a diverse group of winegrowers. Greg and Nancy Chambers left Silicon Valley to start up Kachina Vineyards, and now sell all their production at the winery or by mail order.

The Bench Lands

The Chambers’ home and winery sits on the cooler bench lands above the valley floor. Over a home-cooked dinner, I was treated to Nancy’s chardonnay and Greg’s cabernet and charbono.

Bilbro of Passalacqua

Passalacqua Winery’s Jessica Bilbro was hired two years ago to craft Passalacqua’s elegant, yet big, zinfandels and cabernets. She also poured me a rare fiano white varietal.

Art of the Label

Jason Passalacqua left an electronics career to take over the family business. His modern labels reflect the elegant wines, but one traditional label honors great aunt Edith, herself a winemaker.

Talty Vineyards

Michael Talty boasts he is his winery’s only full-time employee and that he makes only zinfandel wines. “I just wanted to get really good at one thing,” he laughs. He has.

Kreck of Mill Creek

Jeremy Kreck worked in the family vineyards and winery since a teenager, got a degree in business and is now head winemaker. I left loving his sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon.

Higgins of Lambert Bridge

Jennifer Higgins joined her mentor Jill Davis at Lambert Bridge in 2010 and helps make about 20 varietals and blends. We had a great talk over a fabulous wine and food pairing.

Fritz and Kokomo Wineries

Clay Fritz of Fritz Underground Winery and Erik Miller of Kokomo Winery brought their bottles with them for my goodbye dinner at Healdsburg’s Bistro Ralph. 

Huevos Rancheros

Visitors can’t leave Healdsburg without a breakfast of huevos rancheros. I savored mine the next morning at Center Street Café before I re-packed my bags for the flight back east.