Sonoma County may have it all when it comes to scenery – a beautiful coastline, lush forests, mountains, and rural farmlands – but when we think of California Wine Country, we can’t help but picture miles of hillside vineyards and winding roads. That’s just what you’ll get when you visit the north end of Sonoma County, especially within the rural wine region of Dry Creek Valley. Here, surrounding the must-visit city of Healdsburg, you’ll find plenty of family-owned wineries offering intimate tasting experiences and award-winning wine. If you love zinfandel, there’s no better place to be!
The Dry Creek Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) was established in 1983, though the area has a grape growing history dating back almost 150 years; the region’s first vineyard was planted in the 1870s! And, although it’s one of the most compact regions in Sonoma at only 16 miles long and two miles wide, it’s packed with over 9,000 acres of vineyards and 70 wineries – many of which produce some of Sonoma County’s best wines.
Over 30 grapes are planted here, but this region’s heart lies with zinfandel. Blocks of old vine zinfandel produce distinctive wines that garner lots of recognition, and with good reason. From elegant and concentrated to robust and structured, we can’t get enough of the impressive zinfandels of Dry Creek Valley, and these wineries are a few of our favorites for tasting California’s Heritage grape!
The family-owned Dry Creek Vineyard has been a fixture in the valley for over 45 years and recognized as the first new winery established after prohibition in 1972. Though they produce a wide variety of tasty wines, including chenin blanc and cabernet sauvignon, the winery is most known for its signature zinfandels – eight to be exact! They also produce a Zinfandel Rosé and Late Harvest Zinfandel. Modeled after a French chateau, the tasting room is charming and welcoming, but if you want to make a day of it, be sure to reserve a spot in advance for the outdoor bocce court.
3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-1000
Located just a few blocks from downtown Healdsburg, Seghesio is a fifth generation family-owned and operated winery deeply rooted in Sonoma County. Founder Edoardo Seghesio planted his first zinfandel vines in neighboring Alexander Valley in 1895. Today, you can taste their selection of structured yet balanced zinfandels in their Dry Creek Valley tasting room, which is open daily. Enjoy one of three unique tasting experiences, such as a sit down cheese and charcuterie pairing or the Chef’s Table experience, offering a four-course meal paired with an exclusive selection of library wines.
700 Grove Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-3579
We love the casual, laid-back vibe at Bella Vineyards, where Adirondack chairs, picnic tables, and lawn games beckon for a more relaxed pace. Tastings at this small, family-owned winery take place in their wine cave, where you’ll sample a selection of hand-crafted, organically farmed zinfandel wines – many produced from their own 100-year-old vineyards. While no reservations are needed for a regular tasting, we’d suggest making an appointment for their ‘Mixing It Up’ Blending Tour, which includes a 90-minute tour and barrel tasting, as well as a personal blending experience to make your own signature wine.
9711 W Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 473-9171
Nestled amongst redwood trees and rolling hills, family-owned Lambert Bridge Winery specializes in small-lot wines including their alluring zinfandels that display dark fruit, chocolate, and peppery notes. Drop by for a tasting in the vaulted redwood tasting room or sign up for one of the many seminars, cooking classes, or wine and food pairings offered at the winery. You can’t go wrong with a visit to this Dry Creek Valley hidden gem.
4085 W Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 431-9600
Since the early 1900s, four generations of the Rafanelli family have been growing grapes and making wine, priding themselves on their limited-production selection. Their Zinfandel, which is layered with notes of bright cherry and spice, is not to be missed but don’t disregard their sought-after cabernet sauvignon and merlot, too. The wines can only be tasted and purchased from the winery, and a reservation is required in advance, but after a visit here, you’ll likely leave feeling like part of the family.
4685 W Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-1385
Surrounded by impressive 115-year-old vines, Ridge Lytton Springs is the winery’s only zin-focused branch, where various bottlings of single-vineyard zinfandel can be enjoyed in the environmentally friendly, sustainable winery. Here, you can sample styles of zinfandel ranging from bright and feminine to more expressive and full-bodied, but there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Various tours are offered, too, including one specific to their highly coveted library wines.
650 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (408) 867-3233
Zinfandel is king at this family-run Dry Creek Valley winery that specializes in a variety of luscious, earthy, and fruit-laden zinfandels. The historic restored barn serves as the winery’s state-of-the-art facility with a view of the valley from their patio that’s hard to beat. Sit, relax, and enjoy a tasting or bottle of wine along with one of the many picnic and charcuterie plates available for purchase.
1960 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-4355
If you love zinfandel, you can’t miss visiting California’s Dry Creek Valley, where it’s not uncommon to taste zinfandel made from century old vines. From casual tastings to elaborate wine and food pairing experiences, these Dry Creek Valley wineries offer something for everyone – whether you’re already a zin-lover or have yet to discover what makes this grape so special!
Cover image courtesy of Seghesio Family Vineyards