It usually goes without saying that foodies are also winos. For avoiding the hordes of tourists, my favorite off the beaten path wine escape in the Napa and Sonoma area is Dry Creek Valley. A 16 mile long, 2 mile wide strip of land with one of the longest growing seasons in California, DCV is known for its affordable tastings, knowledgeable locals, and some seriously gnarly old vine Zinfandel.
Historians can trace back the first grapes grown in the region to more than 130 years ago. While many of the vineyards started back then perished in Prohibition, some survived through selling grapes to home winemakers and wine to the Catholic Church (not to mention less legal alternatives). That’s how you can taste Zinfandel made from 100+ year old vines!
The region is pretty small and dense, so I’d suggest renting bikes to explore between the vineyards. Be sure to bring backpacks big enough to pack a picnic and carry whatever bottles you may buy.
Some of my Dry Creek favorites:
Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves: The main reason you should stop by Bella is for the caves. There’s something positively medieval about tasting wine in an underground cave lit by wrought iron chandeliers.
Ferrari-Carano: The grounds here are just so darn beautiful, I make a stop every time I’m up this way. The views, from the hills to the fountain to the garden full of statues and cork trees, are amazing. The wines are great too… I’m a big fan of the Fume Blanc and the Tre Terre Chardonnay. Make sure to go downstairs for the premium pours, totally worth the extra $.
Ridge Vineyards at Lytton Springs : I grew up with my parents always ooh-ing and ahh-ing over Ridge’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Ridge specializes in single-vineyard wines, mostly Zinfandel, but my favorite element is that of eco-sustainability. Ridge utilizes solar energy for 75% of its electricity and its buildings are created out of repurposed rice straw, recycled timber, and earthen plaster.
Sbragia Family Vineyard: Situated at the top of a ridge, Sbragia offers some jawdropping dead-gorgeous views of the Dry Creek Valley. The wine is also a huge draw here: Ed Sbragia spent 30 years at Beringer before opening his own venture.
Zichichi Family Vineyards: The Zichichi’s grew and sold grapes for years before deciding to make their own wine. News traveled fast of the ridiculously tasty cabs, Petite Sirah, and Zin… so fast that they sold out of wine before ever opening the tasting room. No worries, though: the last time I visited I took advantage of the opportunity to do a barrel tasting and to buy wine ‘futures’.
Did I miss one of your favorites? Do you have your own go-to off the beaten path region? Leave me a message or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!