Why Zinfandel isn't the only exciting grape in Dry Creek Valley

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There are people in this world who defy reason, spurn logic and ridicule pragmatists. They’re called leaders.

Dave Stare found his way to Sonoma County by way of the Loire Valley in France in the 1960s. That’s when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-educated engineer crossed paths with a prune orchard across the street from the Dry Creek General Store and found his version of nirvana. He knew the prunes were a misguided crop and after buying the orchard, he set out to reconfigure the property by planting vines.

When the experts told Stare Dry Creek Valley wouldn’t be hospitable to the sauvignon blanc grape, Stare refused to listen. He had a vision and he held to it, the first to plant the grape in the appellation in 1972. Today his vision tastes remarkable. The Dry Creek Vineyard 2018 DCV3 Estate Sauvignon Blanc is impressive with high-toned fruit, crisp acidity and great minerality.

There are people who roam through Dry Creek Valley and believe zinfandel is the only exciting grape in the region. But then there are those of us who know the Loire Valley of France lurks among those ample zinfandel vines.

A recent visit to Dry Creek Vineyard revealed the winery’s entire lineup, which is quite expansive with whites and reds. The zinfandels and the Bordeaux blends were lovely, naturally. But the whites were showing particularly well. The warm day no doubt had something to do with it, but the chenin blanc, the fume blanc and the sauvignon blanc were particularly fetching.

Tasting at the winery gives you an opportunity to try the wines made in small quantities that are only available at the winery. Darren Abel, CSW, was our guide, and after showing us the grounds, he treated us to a sampling of these wines in limited supply. They were paired with an assortment of cheeses, salami and dark chocolate.

Of all the wines we tasted, Stare’s sauvignon blanc remains a favorite. It was off the charts good. If you think Dry Creek Valley is nothing more than zin-country, you might want to taste Stare’s renegade grape.

You can reach Wine Writer Peg Melnik at or 707-521-5310.

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