As a newbie to the area, I relied on my experiences tasting wines from local producers at events such as Family Winemakers of California, recommendations from Twitter followers and fellow winemakers, as well as the Wine Road - Northern Sonoma County, Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley Winegrowers.
These resources helped me plan a memorable two day trip through Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. Visitors to northern Sonoma County should also indulge in the wines and magnificent landscape of the Alexander Valley, home to more than 40 wineries. And its all within an hour and a half drive north of San Francisco. In 2012, I am looking forward to flying or driving north to sip and savor the rest of Sonoma County. There is so much more to experience!
The fog was thick and the cloud cover was low on a crisp fall weekday morning in the Russian River Valley. As you peer down the narrow roads surrounded by sloping rows of vineyards covered with the glow of red, orange and yellow colors, the Russian River Valley comes into focus in one dramatic landscape as the sun peers through the fog and clouds.
On a porch overlooking the vineyard, I enjoyed a full tasting of the newest releases from Benovia Winery. Earlier in 2011 during the Family Winemakers Pasadena Trade Tasting, I fell in love with the wines of Benovia. It's almost impossible to enjoy a lineup of wines from a single winery, but Benovia hit it out the park with some spectacular Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wines from the Russian River Valley. Recommendations: Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, Sonoma County Zinfandel, Cohn Vineyard Pinot Noir.
While the sun, clouds and fog played hooky throughout the morning, I focused on the next stop: Inman Family Wines. Kathleen Inman is true to her craft as a winemaker should be, with a spin or screwcap on the competition. Located at the junction of Olivet and Piner Road, Inman Family Wines produces Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rosé and Sparkling wines from Russian River Valley vineyards such as Thorn Ridge Ranch and their own Olivet Grange Vineyard. Recommendations: Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Olivet Grange Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Have you ever trekked through a new area not knowing what to expect on the other side of the ridge? On a rain soaked morning, I encountered the "wow" factor in the Dry Creek Valley just on the other side of the hill from Healdsburg. It is almost as if you are being warped into another time zone studded by small and medium-sized vineyard plots in a stunning landscape in northern Sonoma County.
Located on Dry Creek Road, north of Healdsburg, is one of the highlights from my trip in this renowned wine producing region - Unti Vineyards. Established in 1997, Unit Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery producing small lots of estate grown Zinfandel, Rhône and Italian varietals. Recommendations: Rosé, Barbera, Segromigno, Zinfandel.
As W. Dry Creek Road road narrows and ends at its northern point, a dirt path off the main road winds through the vineyards of Preston of Dry Creek. Preston is a family operated farm winery worth the visit, especially for Rhône wine lovers. Recommendations: Mourvèdre, Syrah~Sirah.
If you are looking for the true wine garagiste experience, look no further than Frick Winery. These hand-crafted, small lot wines are produced largely from estate fruit, as well as Carignane from 100 year old vines in Mendocino County.
|Russian River Valley|
|Dry Creek Valley|
Davis Family Vineyards
52 Front Street, Healdsburg (707) 569-0171
Open Thursday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
36 North Street, Healdsburg (707) 473-9500
Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
DRY CREEK VALLEY
4202 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg (707) 433-5590
Open daily by appointment, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Preston of Dry Creek
9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Collier Falls Winery
4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg (707) 433-7373
Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
23072 Walling Road, Geyserville (707) 857-1980
Open Fri-Sun 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Summer); Sat & Sun 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Winter)
Ridge Vineyards (Lytton Springs Winery)
650 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg (707) 433-7721
Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
3339 Hartman Road, Santa Rosa (707) 526-4441
Open daily by appointment, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Inman Family Wines
3900 Piner Road, Santa Rosa (707) 293-9576
Open Thursday-Monday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Joseph Swan Vineyards
2916 Laguna Road, Santa Rosa (Winery entrance on Trenton Road) (707) 573-3747
Open Saturday & Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Fog Crest Vineyard
7602 Occidental Road, Sebastapol (800) 931-2906
Open by appointment only
5700 River Road, Santa Rosa (707) 887-2703
Open Thursday-Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
WHERE TO EAT
21047 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville (707) 857-3471. Lunch and Dinner
21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville (707) 814-0111. Lunch and Dinner
213 Center Street, Healdsburg (707) 431-0100. Lunch and Dinner
109A Plaza Street, Healdsburg (707) 433-5282. Dinner
Costeaux French Bakery
417 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg (707) 433-1913. Breakfast and Lunch
22 Matheson Street, Healdsburg (707) 395-0214. Lunch and Dinner
Moustache Baked Goods
381 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg (707) 395-4111. Cupcakes
WHERE TO STAY
Best Western Plus Dry Creek Valley Inn (Economy)
198 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg (800) 222-5784
Healdsburg Inn (Historic)
112 Matheson Street, Healdsburg (800) 431-8663
Hotel Healdsburg (Luxury)
25 Matheson Street, Healdsburg (800) 889-7188
|Benovia Wines, Russian River Valley|
|Entrance to Benovia Winery, Russian River Valley|
|Inman Family Wines, Russian River Valley|
|Woodenhead Vintners, Russian River Valley|
|Davis Family Vineyards, Healdsburg|
|Unti Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley|
|Preston of Dry Creek Winery & Vineyard|