Back in September, while on holiday in San Francisco, Alison and myself took a wine tour around Dry Creek Valley. These are our tasting notes.
On the reccomendation of our friend, Jared Spool, we booked two nights at the Old Crocker Inn near Cloverdale. Driving along empty lanes flanked with vinyards, it felt like driving through rural France. Stopping briefly (and making sure we weren't observed), we snatched a handful of fresh grapes ripened by the Californian sun. Delicious!
The dusty road wound slowly up the side of a hill and as the light turned to dusk, the sound of bullfrogs could be heard from a nearby rivelet. As we drove through the entrabce to the Inn, long disused farm equopment sat rusting by the wayside. The Inn felt like a classic American Motel, the kind you see in holywood movies (although thankfully not the ones featuring serial killers). The crotchety owner showed us to our room and left us to be. We opened a bottle of red we'd bought for the trip and then settled in for an early night.
The first stop on our wine tour was an unscheduled visit to the Ferrari-Carano Vineyards. We were actually heading for another vinyard up the road but we were a little early and wanted to kill time. We hadn't heard of this vinyard before, but the sign looked promising so we thought we'd give it a try. Driving through the ornate gates it was obvious that this was a very opulant vinyard, styled in the mannor of a French Villa. The views over the vinyard were breathtaking but sadly the wine didn't live up to the opulent surroundings. All but one of the wines we tried were undrnkable so we quickly moved on.
The first proper destination on our friend Dan Saffer's list was Dutcher Crossing Winery. Unlike the opulent and slightly uncomfortable surroundings of the previous vineyard, Dutcher Crossing was a breath of fresh air. It was relaxed, un-pretentious and served some of the best wines we had that day. They also had the best branding, which for design snob like me, made all the difference. We ended up tasting 7 wines and liked all but one of them. Sadly this winery didn't ship overseas and as we were flying back to the UK there was a limit to the number of bottles we could buy. Also, as this was out first proper stop we didn't want to go overboard. So in the end we bought 3 bottles of wine from here including the Maple Vineyard Zinfandel and the Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc.
Next up was an organic vinyard and farm called Preston Vineyards & Winery. This spot was on a dusty single track road, over a small rickety bridge off the main drag. As you drive into the vinyard you're flanked on one side by organic vines and the other by organic livestock; pigs, goats and chickens. The setting was beautiful, but sadly the wines were overpriced and not especially palatable. So we made a quick exit and headed for our next vinyard.
We were starting to get a little pekkish so decided to pick up some provisions from the general store. This turned out to be an excellent decision as the place had a fantastic deli counter serving some great sanwiches, chips and salads. They also served what Alison described as the best coffee she'd had on the trip. An impressive claim considering the fact that we'd spent the previous 5 days sampling all the famous coffee joints in SF.
We stopped off here on the reccomendation of a customer we met at Dutcher Crossing. Sitting outside in the sun, we ate our picnic lunch and watched as various characters came and went around the tasting rooms. Weren't especially impressed with the wine's here so were just about to pay when our server told us that the somebody at the end of the bar had "comped" our tasting. It turns out that was the fellow we met at Dutcher Crossing who'd reccomended the place and obviously felt responsible for our being there. We were very surprised by this act of generosity, and increadibly thankful.
This winery had a nice looking brand so we were hopeful that the wine would stand up to our expectations. Sadly the tasting room itself was a little odd and felt more like a shed than a winery. The wines were plesant enough and we did consider buying a couple, however none of them quite met our expectations and warranted dragging them back to the UK. So close, but no cigar.
The last few vinyards had been of variable quality so I called up Yelp to see what the higest rated winery in the area was and it suggested this place. So we hopped in the car and managed to get there about 20 minutes before closing. The estate was vast and it was obvious that this was a big, commercial operation unlike the smaller producers of Dry Creek. However the wine was of a good quality and we ended up picking up a bottle of their classic Chardonnay and a bottle of their very drinkable Pinot Gris. So a great end to a lovely day.