Dry Creek: The Zin Tour

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The Dry Creek Appellation of Sonoma County, California produces outstanding Zinfandel worth seeking out. Take a tour of some regional favorites from this picturesque Northern California wine growing region.

If any grape could truly be called Californian, it is the bold and wily Zinfandel. Though its roots harken back to sunny Italy (say most, though its heritage remains a bit murky), Zinfandel has become synonymous with the bright, fruit-forward, come-as-you-are attitude of many California wines.

The Dry Creek Valley, located about 90 minutes north of San Francisco in Sonoma County is a major producer of Zinfandel, with warm, dry summers and just enough of a cooling ocean influence from the nearby Pacific to keep the grapes happy. Nearly all of the valley's wine 50-plus wineries produce Zinfandel, many stemming from some of the oldest vines (often over 80 years old) in the region. Here are several worth visiting:

Healdsburg

Start your visit in the town of Healdsburg, about 15 minutes north of Santa Rosa. You'll find tasting rooms around every corner, along with great restaurants--including one aptly named Zin (344 Center St., Healdsburg, California, 707.473.0946).

Pezzi King: This family-run winery takes advantage of volcanic soils and the valley's warm weather to produce some outstanding Zins. Old Roma Station, 412 Hudson Street, Healdsburg,  California, 707.431.9388

Seghesio: Another favorite local producer, Seghesio is one of the oldest continuously operating wineries in the region, begun by the family's Italian immigrant relatives in the late 1800s. 14730 Grove St., Healdsburg , California, 707.433.7764.

Go north on Highway 101, exiting at Lytton Spring Road

Ridge: Award-winning Zinfandels make this a required stop for devotees of winemaker Paul Draper. Though the home vineyards are further south (near Santa Cruz) the recent acquisition of the Lytton Springs Ranch in Dry Creek and the subsequent construction of  a eco-friendly tasting room makes it a great early stop on your wine tour. 650 Lytton Springs Rd., Healdsburg, California, 707.433.7721.

Teldeschi: Zinfandel with lots of Italian flare. A family-run winery with deep roots in the community. 3555 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, California

Papapietro Perry: New to the scene, Papietro has only been producing wine commercially since the late 1990's but is quickly becoming a favorite Pinot Noir of the region. It's worth a stop on your Zin tour, however, to try their Pinot-style Zin, which is lighter and easy on the tannins--a nice change of pace. 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, California.

Preston: Everybody knows Lou Preston. More people should know his wines. A local character revered for his bread-baking almost as much as his Rhone-style wines, Preston is a charismatic advocate for organic farming and sustainable agricultural practices. Stop by, pet the cat and play bocce ball while sipping some of Dry Creek's most fascinating wines.  9282 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, California, 707.433.3372.

Bella: Take a tour through the wine caves of this up-and-coming young winery.  9711 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, California, 707.473.9171.

Quivira: Another favorite, Quivira makes a variety of Zinfandels from on-site Zinfandel vines, as well as those from ranches from around the Dry Creek Valley. Be sure to try their Steelhead Red, made from Grenache and Zinfandel--the wine honors their commitment to the land and the wild salmon spawned in the rivers near the winery. 4900 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, California, 707.431.8333.

Armida: A fun finish to your Zinfandel tour, be sure to try all the Zinfandels of Armida--including the reserve Poizin, packaged in a mini-coffin. Decadent! 2201 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, California, 707.433.2222.

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