Sonoma County Wineries: Dry Creek Valley Winery Guide: Healdsburg, California
From Healdsburg, take Mill Street west to West Dry Creek Road, and turn north, following the road to a mile past the Yoakim Bridge. Return to the bridge and go east to Dry Creek Road, turning north to Lake Sonoma. Return south to Healdsburg on Dry Creek Road.
Where the Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek valleys meet, the picture-perfect, small town of Healdsburg was laid out in the mid-1800s by Harmond Healds, an Ohioan who traveled west by wagon train in search of gold. He built the first home in the area and sold goods to local Native Americans and settlers. As more pioneering farm families, mostly Italian immigrants, arrived, Healds prospered. In 1867, he purchased a large tract of land, laid out lots in a network around a Spanish-style plaza, and sold them for $15 each, to a population of 300.
Today, under a canopy of tall redwoods, palms and magnolia, the plaza is still the heart of the town. Visitors take slow strolls around the block-square greensward, enjoying the shops and cafes. As if in a Norman Rockwell scene, wide, tree-shaded streets are lined with a precious trove of vintage homes––Queen Anne cottages, Craftsman bungalows, and Gothic Revival Victorian mansions.
Bordering the south side of town is the wide, slow Russian River, where canoers and kayakers glide from here to beaches on the Pacific shore.
From Healdsburg, a two-lane country road loops through the sixteen-mile-long Dry Creek Valley. Along the main road and side-roads, endless vineyards run rampant up the up the hillsides and the alluvial fans toward a dark forest barrier. On the north end, the Warm Springs Dam has created skinny, many-fingered Lake Sonoma, where water sports and fishing are popular every month of the year in this mild climate.
Separated from the Pacific Ocean by about thirty miles and a narrow, rugged coastal mountain range, the valley is warm and dry most days––in the mid-80s in the growing season––and cool and often foggy at night, perfect weather for growing the robust Italian grape varieties and zesty zinfandels for which the valley is famous. More than forty wineries and nearly 150 grape growers hold forth in their wooden sheds, old barns and farmhouses scattered in the picturesque countryside.
The article on this page is adapted from the book, Backroads of the California Wine Country by Karen Misuraca (www.karenmisuraca.com), published by Voyageur Press.