Norton Safeweb

Monday, December 19, 2016

Where to Go for Zinfandel in Sonoma County

Ah Zinfandel. It's been called America's grape. Sonoma County arguably is the birthplace of America's grape as a premium varietal. Within Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley is Zin Central so we'll go there for our Zinfandel tasting.  You will also find great Zinfandel from Alexander Valley, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, and Sonoma Valley within the county, but Zin sampling will be more concentrated in Dry Creek.

Image from
Dry Creek Valley

DCV is in northern Sonoma County to the west of the main thoroughfare, US 101. To the north is Lake Sonoma, to the South is the Russian River with mountains on both the east and west creating the 15 mile long valley that is about one or two miles wide. There are about 75 wineries, one busy deli so not much food offerings, and no stop lights.

They've been growing wine grapes here for a long time. There are a number of vineyards, mostly Zinfandel, over 100 years old. You'll find many other varieties of grapes planted in DCV like Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Syrah. There's an Italian heritage to the region (you can tell by the names of vineyards and wineries) so you can find Barbera and  Sangiovese, too. The locals like to say it has the same climate as Bordeaux, France.

Characteristics of Dry Creek Zinfandel

Classic Dry Creek Zin has its own unique flavors often called brambly and briary -- sort of a wild berry taste. Of course, styles are all over the place with softer, elegant wines from some winemakers to big, jammy, fruit-forward ones from others. The list of suggested tasting rooms below covers them all so you can decide what you like. There are many, many more excellent Zin producers in the area so don't stop exploring with these suggestions.

Spend enough time in Dry Creek Valley drinking their Zinfandel and you will fall in love with the valley and the wines.

Where to Go in Dry Creek Valley

These example winery tasting rooms cover the different styles of Zin available from DCV. All are open daily, unless otherwise noted, with no reservations required.

Dry Creek Vineyard - Where the modern version of DCV began. Lots of Zinfandels available in what I'd call the "old style" (if you consider the 1970s and 80s old).

Bella - Caves, crowds, and big Zins. The winery is down a narrow, winding road (drive slowly)!

Dashe - More of a subtle style. Tasting is with a group of small producers called the Family Wineries of Dry Creek where you will find some other nice Zins.

Mauritson - They are unique on this list because their specialty is wines from the Rockpile appellation just north of Dry Creek. They also make a couple DCV Zins, but try some Rockpile reds while you're there.

Mazzocco - Jammy! They make about a zillion different Zins. Owned by the Wilsons (see Wilson Winery below).

Nalle - Made for food in a softer, elegant style. Tasting room open Saturday afternoon only.

Pedroncelli - Underrated and value are the words I use to describe this small family operation.

Ridge / Lytton Springs - Home of the classic structured, ageable Zins. If you love Cabernet you will love their style.

Seghesio - Their tasting room is in Healdsburg, but you can't talk about Zinfandel and not mention Seghesio.

Wilson - Fruity, jammy, award-winning.

Outside of Dry Creek try Trentadue (Alexander Vly), Deloach (Russian River Vly), and Ravenswood (Sonoma Vly).

After you get home with your collection of Zinfandel fire up the grill or make a big pot of spaghetti and meatballs!
This is about it for eats in Dry Creek Vly