Food & Wine, Travel

Hidden Gems

Hidden Gems of Dry Creek Valley Healdsburg

Finding hidden treasure can often become an explorer’s crown jewel. A trove of boutique wineries, Dry Creek Valley is a geographical gem. Discovering quaint wineries in the valley evoke nostalgia like beholding the unique brilliance of your favorite gemstone. These small lot spots offer intimacy immense wineries can’t emulate, so spend some quality time quarrying for these little jewels. Your reward will be a surprising authentic Wine Country experience.

At boutique wineries, novice tasters are greeted like family and aren’t expected to be wine experts; a relief when delving into the unknown. The best bit, your quest could stem a new friend.

Wine is better with friends

Select boutique wineries have been known to acquire cult-like status. Their wines are rarely found in retail grocery stores. However, they are available for purchase online or through the wineries’ wine club. These wineries are small-lot venues and produce less than 10,000 wine cases per year. They typically sell 100 percent of the wine produced each year, so becoming a wine club member is a good way to secure your favorite gem.

Up Highway 101, just north of Healdsburg, lies an enclave of hidden gems beckoning to be discovered. Snug in an ancient creek bed, cradled between two mountain ridges, Dry Creek Valley is a glorious grove of boutique wineries. Its 16 mile-long-two-mile wide corridor is currently home to over 50 artisan wineries. Part of Dry Creek Valley’s allure for grape growers and winemakers is its unique enclosed ravine. The vast valley cultivates over 30 different grape varietals. Soil diversity within the fissure lends itself to a blend of thriving varietals like Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Barbera.

Three boutique wineries make the novelty cut. Each niche features its own cultivated precious stone. Kokomo with its Harvest Fair Gold Metal Sparkling Wine, Papapietro Perry with its precious crimson Zinfandel and Preston with its brilliant Barbera.

Kokomo is a little nook tucked away in Dry Creek Valley on a knoll just off the beaten path. Not far from the 101 Dry Creek exit. There is nothing fancy about the tasting room’s curb appeal.

Kokomo Tasting Room Dry Creek Valley

Stunning vineyard views are captured in the rearview mirror as you drive up the hill to the modest tasting room.

Dry Creek in Rear View Mirror

But it’s not the tasting room you are there for. You are there to experience Kokomo’s incredible wine style. Kokomo’s premier 2012 Sparkling Wine is the princess cut of diamonds and the perfect accessory for any dinner party or celebration. It’s so good that Kokomo won a gold medal at the Sonoma County Harvest Festival in 2015. Created in the traditional French champagne style, the end result is lots of extra tiny bubbles rendering a more effervescent experience. It sparkles with perfect clarity. “Sipping wine is like viewing art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Kokomo tasting room manager, Ross James said. “Kokomo wine is liquid consumable art, constantly changing; getting better as times passes.”

“Sipping wine is like viewing art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Kokomo tasting room manager, Ross James said. “Kokomo wine is liquid consumable art, constantly changing, getting better as time passes.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

A hop, skip and a jump from Kokomo is Papapietro Perry; a crimson solitaire. It’s an elusive discovery. Papapietro Perry gets the unique name from the gentlemen who founded the boutique winery. “The two last names of the guys who founded it,” tasting room host Jim May said. “They worked together in the city (San Francisco) for 40 years in the newspaper industry and started making wine in their garage in 1980.” Take Manhattan and give me that countryside. Pauline’s Zinfandel is crafted with grapes from Pauline’s vineyard which is located directly across the street from the winery. “It’s a Zinfandel made for pinot lovers,” May said with a grin. “The winemaker calls it a Zino.” Papapietro Perry’s Zinfandel is made with a Burgundian yeast. Its fruit is punched down in small bins by hand every four hours and french neutral oak is used allowing the wine to breathe while it ferments. This Zinfandel is loaded with layers of berries and cherries with a little bit of spice in between. Excellent with a barbecued pulled pork. Expect to be greeted by Lola, the winery’s canine mascot.

“It’s a Zinfandel made for pinot lovers,” May said with a grin. “The winemaker calls it a Zino.”

Via vistas between Dry Creek and Westside Road, Preston Winery sits snug in an intimate enclave all it’s own. Unearthing this hidden gem is a spectacular find. Driving slowly along a pebble dirt road with age-old olive trees is a surreal experience; a notion of what Tuscany is like comes to mind. A bit of Italy in our own backyard.

Unearth the crown jewel

Experiencing Preston is the epitome of life on a vineyard farm. The winery and farm are completely organic. They grow their own fruits, vegetables and wheat. A farm-to-market grocery is perched behind the tasting room where fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables and bread are available for purchase.

Preston Winery Farm Store

Another Preston perk; purchase a jug, yes, a jug of wine for $48. The jug is equivalent to five bottles of wine and is usually a table wine blend. To make the deal more brilliant, return any Sunday (or even EVERY Sunday) with an empty jug for a refill. Yep, a refill. Refill price is $45 when you bring the jug. It’s an outstanding deal for holidays or dinner parties.

Feels like coming home at Preston Farmhouse

Currently, Preston’s Barbera 2016 is available for purchase at the winery or on their website for $29.99

Hidden gems of Dry Creek Valley

Intrigue is waiting for you just around the corner. Head north from a foggy gray city to the sun glistening rays of Sonoma County and meander through secluded country roads concealed by hills veiled in vineyards. Indulge your treasure hunt curiosity and unearth Dry Creek Valley’s hidden gems.

 – by Courtney Paige