What you need to know about the dry creek wineries and wines?

Dry Creek Wineries are most renowned for producing tremendous Zinfandels. There are just under 6000 acres of vineyards planted in the Dry Creek Valley AVA . Most of these vineyards are planted adjacent to the creek and in the nearby hillsides. The vast majority of these vines are planted in the central and southern parts of the AVA.

There are many great examples of Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley that are also quite affordable. The Chateau Souverain 2001 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is a fruit-driven wine with enough tannins and acidity for structure. This is a serious wine that is affordable enough to drink on any occasion.


Early Italian immigrants planted hillside Zinfandel vineyards beginning in the 1870s. Charles Dunz was an early arrival, planting his first vineyards and building the first Dry Creek Winery in 1883. In 1890, he sold the land and 70,000 gallon-a-year production facility to Andrew Frei. E. Everett Wise was another early pioneer and invested a significant money and effort in the region.

Dry Creek Wineries were devastated by Phylloxera and Prohibition. The 1950s and 1960s saw a slow increase of investment in the wine industry. Much of the renewed interest was due to the value of the ancient Zinfandel vineyards that were originally planted by Italian immigrants. This varietal has consistantly been the valley’s hallmark, although there have been some ambitious successes with other varietals recently. The region was granted AVA status in 1983.


The narrow Dry Creek AVA is about 14 miles long and is never more than two miles wide. The creek itself runs the length of the AVA until it meets the Russian River in the south.

What you need to know about the dry creek wineries and wines?

Steep mountains rise about 1500 feet on the west side. The eastern side is separated from the more inland Alexander Valley AVA by mountains that rise to 600 feet. The southern part of the region is the coolest, as it is influenced by fog from the Russian River.

Dry Creek Wineries located in the warmer, central part of the AVA produce the majority of the region’s prized Zinfandel. Clos Du Bois makes a critically acclaimed Reserve Zinfandel from the region. Their 2000 Dry Creek Reserve Zinfandel is reminiscent of the well-drained, low-yielding vineyards that it is derived from. This wine is also a great value.

The “Dry Creek Conglomerate” is a term that describes the coarse, gravelly soil found in the best vineyard sites. It is situated in a similar fashion as the Rutherford Bench above the valley floor, but relatively low in the mountains. Extremely well-drained, it induces scarce, high-quality grapes.

The northern part of the valley is the warmest, and mainly produces Rhone and Italian varietals. Lake Sonoma is located in this part of the AVA and provides irrigation for vineyards owned by Dry Creek Wineries.

Dry Creek Wineries, Wines, and Varietals

As alluded to earlier, the Dry Creek AVA has historically been best known for Zinfandel. The Dry Creek 1999 Reserve Zinfandel is my favorite example of this varietal from the region. Dominated by flavors of spicy berries, this wine is everything you would expect a premier California Zinfandel to be.

The floor of the valley is primarily planted with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Syrah and Sangiovese from the warmest parts of the region are produced by Dry Creek Wineries. For additional information on Dry Creek Wineries the region’s Winegrowers Association has a great website. It contains extensive information on Dry Creek Wineries including Rafanelli, and Lytton Springs amongst others.