If you live outside Sonoma county and have not heard of Dry Creek Valley you are like the most people, and you have a lot to look forward to. The fame of the larger wine regions like instance Napa and Alexander Valley has made them known worldwide for high quality great tasting wines.
The locals of Sonoma County would tell you that Dry Creek Valley, their own lesser well known wine area gem, offers a rich set of diverse and excellent wines from a small area that you need to discover.
Located just North West of Healdsburg and south of Lake Sonoma the valley is about 16 miles long and 2 miles wide. It offers the typical valley floor as well as hillsides for vine growing for a total of 9000 planted acres of vineyards and is now home to more than 160 wineries.
Like other areas nearby the region has been agricultural from the arrival of the first settlers first who grew prunes and peaches. There was grape growing from the early days, but the area was impacted by prohibition which changed to focus to other crops. From the 1970’ies the grape growing took off and now completely dominates the valley with only few peaches and prunes orchards left. It became its own American Vinicultural Area in 1983.
Dry Creek Valley is ideally situated for growing grapes when it comes to both climate and soil. With Lake Sonoma on the North end Dry Creek and the Russian River to the south it basically has water all around it. The area experiences both coastal and inland influences, with the nearby coastal mountain range keeping cool marine temperatures at bay, allowing for daily temperatures in the mid-80’s, July-Sept. The coastal cold air and fog does to come in at night, dramatically dropping temperatures. Long, warm days allow the fruit to fully ripen, while cooling in the evening enables the grapes to mature slowly and retain their acidity and balance.
The soil deposited over thousands of years on the valley floor is primarily gravelly and sandy loam – deep, well drained, and fertile dirt that produces good crops of flavorful grapes. The soil on the surrounding benches and hills is composed of gravelly clay loam, often strikingly red in color. This very rocky soil drains exceptionally well, helping to stress the vines late in the growing season, concentrating varietal character.
The valley has proven to be a great place for growing a truly diverse set of grapes. While in Napa and Alexander Valley the claim to fame has been the wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley is primarily famous for Zinfandel but when you look closer you will find over 30 different grapes grown there with fields of French, Italian and Spanish red, and white varietals.
At Locals, the quality of wines from Dry Creek Valley plays a key role in our assortment and several of our wineries grow grapes and make wine there.
We offer three great Zinfandels, one from Dernier Handel, one from Peterson and the Old Vine Zin from Eric Ross. All of them are much appreciated by our wine club members.
A great example of the rich soil types and grape varietals is found in the Peterson Vignobles which is a blend of Carignane, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel. The wine offers unique blend of fruits served with soft tannins and aromas special to Dry Creek Valley.
For the wine drinkers with a preference for Italian grapes Dernier Handel offers a rare and very dry Sagrantino and the Peterson Sangiovese delivers the expected fine blend of fruit and medium body you know from that grape.
When it comes to the Rhone varietals, we offer the Kitfox GSM blend, and the Dernier Handel Syrah blend called Family Selection.
Finally, for the sweet wines we look first to the Peterson winery for their Muscat Blanc which offers deep honey golden color with the sweetness and concentrated fruit. On the Red side Peterson offers their “Essence” from their Bradford Mountain Vineyard – are rare wine and another example why Dry Creek Valley is considered a gem of a wine region.
Therefore, if you are new to Dry Creek Valley, we can certainly get you started with great wines. If you can stop by our tasting room, we have them all available to taste. If you are in a different part of the state or country, we will be happy to put together a half or even a full case of wines you can explore at home so this wine area gem and become familiar to you too.