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Dry Creek Valley—Wine Country
Dry Creek Valley is one of three valleys that converge at Healdsburg, California along with the Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley. Dry Creek is a major tributary of the Russian River.
Napa Valley & Sonoma Wine Tasting Tours
Dry Creek Valley Wine History
European settlers began planting grapes, mostly Zinfandel, in Dry Creek Valley in the 1860’s. Early Dry Creek Valley pioneers include Charles Dunz, a Swiss immigrant and '49er tired of the search for gold, who bought 344 acres in Dry Creek Valley in 1884. His 70,000 gallon capacity cellar was the Valley's largest winery at the time. Charles Dunz transferred his acres to a fellow Swiss, Andrew Frei in 1890.
Thanks to the forward thinking of several growers who planted with phylloxera resistant St. George rootstock in the early 1900s the Dry Creek Valley region is now home to some of the densest concentrations of old Zinfandel vineyards in the world. These 70+ year-old vines have thick, gnarled trunks with open, head-trained vines (no wire trellising). They typically produce a smaller yield per acre and fruit with concentrated flavor.
Dry Creek General Store, established in 1881, is still the place to eat lunch, have a cold beer, purchase local wines and cheese or grab a sandwich to go when you’re visiting the valley. It’s not the Oakville Grocery, but comes close.
Pedroncelli Winery continues to operate on Canyon Road.Prohibition brought an end to wine industry growth in the 1920’s. Just 4 of 16 wineries survived Prohibition and only 2 of those into the 1970’s—The Frei Brothers vineyards and winery were purchased by the Gallo family in the late ”70‘s while
Prunes, plums and pears had become the predominant agricultural crops in Dry Creek Valley in 1972 when David S. Stare founded the first new winery in the valley since Prohibition—Dry Creek Vineyard.
Dry Creek Valley AVA, established in 1983, covers just 32 square miles—16 miles long by 2 miles wide—but diverse climates and soils support a wide variety of grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc introduced to the valley by Stare at Dry Creek Vineyard.
By 2012 seventy wineries were operating in the valley, some — in addition to producing varietals including Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and blends such as Meritage — are growing olives and pressing their own Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Most belong to Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, an association of 60+ wineries and 150 winegrape growers formed in 1989.
Dry Creek Valley really was quite dry until another event in 1983—the completion of Warm Springs Dam, a compacted earth fill dam, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—resulted in the formation of Lake Sonoma at the north end of the valley.
Besides serving as a deterrent to disastrous floods Lake Sonoma stores water for irrigation and municipalities. There is a visitor center and fish hatchery at the dam. Camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities are available.
A lot has changed in Dry Creek Valley since we published our Dry Creek Road Wine Trail article on iNeTours.com over 10 years ago. A couple of the wineries we profiled moved their wineries & tasting rooms out of the valley but the others are still here and many more have arrived. While the earlier article continues to provide useful information we’ve begun a new collection of illustrated winery profiles in the sidebar to the right above.
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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2013 Lee W. Nelson