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AVA Spotlight: Dry Creek Valley

Tucked away in a small valley in Northern Sonoma County lies one of the U.S.’s smallest American Viticultural Areas – Dry Creek Valley. Noted author of “The Wine Bible,” Karen MacNeil describes Dry Creek Valley as “perhaps the most charming viticultural area of all in Sonoma County … Time seems to have stood still there.”
Measuring only 16 miles long and two miles wide, the area within the valley that is suitable to planting vineyards measures even smaller, but don’t judge this little gem by its size. Dry Creek Valley has a long history of viticulture dating back to the mid-1800’s, and as early as 1879 was recognized as a region “especially adapted to grape culture.”
While the AVA sits on just 32 square miles, the area’s diverse climates, soils and people give the region the flexibility it needs to support a variety of grapes. Cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc thrive there, although Dry Creek may best be known for its zinfandels, which, thanks to the valley’s diverse conditions, can range from robust and full-bodied to delicate and finely nuanced.
The valley’s soils are often referred to as a “patchwork” of different soils. With names such as Yolo, Manzanita and Cortina, each soil type imparts its own characteristic upon the grapes grown there. While the overall climate in Dry Creek Valley consists of warm days and cool nights, the valley tends to warm up earlier in the day than other parts of Sonoma County.
Additionally, the varied elevation of the valley and the fog’s natural path from San Francisco Bay, nearly 70 miles away, causes the northern valley to be warmer than the south, creating dozens of small “microclimates” suited to different varieties of grapes.
With over 60 wineries and 100 wine-grape growers, Dry Creek Valley is a “must see” for wine lovers. Stretching west/northwest from the charming town of Healdsburg to Lake Sonoma, the Valley’s tasting rooms – mostly family-owned – offer friendly hospitality fitting to its gentle geography. In April, Dry Creek hosts its annual “Passport Weekend,” with vineyard tours and winery open houses featuring special tastings, food and wine pairings, music and entertainment. For more information, visit
Source: Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley and “The Wine Bible” by Karen MacNeil
Photo Courtesy of Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley.

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Idyllic Dry Creek Valley may be small but this Northern Sonoma viticultural area is best known for its zinfandels which can range from robust to delicate.


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