Passport to Dry Creek Valley
Passport to Dry Creek Valley is an annual event, sponsored by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) and attracting more people every year to our hospitable Wine Country.
On the Passport weekend, the Dutcher Crossing Winery, my starting point, seemed to be set to never let its visitors go. Rose bushes and sunlit vineyards surrounded a large outdoor tent where crisp 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was paired with coconut prawns in mango chili sauce; excellent 2008 Stuhlmuller Vineyard Chardonnay – with honey-roasted apricots over Cowgirl Creamery fromage blanc; 2007 Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – with lamb and cumin onion chutney on rosemary focaccia, and 2006 port – with frozen chocolate port ice-cream pies.
When I finally hit the road, my next stop was at the gorgeous Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, with its majestic Italianate villa and lavish gardens with ponds, bridges, waterfalls, and gazebos surrounded by cascading greenery and blossoming flower beds. The beauty of nature at the winery was only rivaled by a feast of food and wine pairings in its tank room and cellars. 2010 Bella Luce white-wine blend was matched with Meyer Lemon goat-cheese mousse; 2008 Fiorella Chardonnay with orecchiette pasta with ham and peas; 2008 Merlot with chicken cacciatore; 2007 Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon with prosciutto-wrapped dates; and 2007 Eldorado Gold with panna cotta topped with apricot and pistachio compote. Once again, leaving the premises was a tough call.
Another great venue on my way that couldn’t have been missed was Truett Hurst Winery, with its inviting tasting room, a shady creek, and a picturesque kitchen garden. I enjoyed some time just walking around, listening to the Adam Lieb and his band, and inhaling the aroma of flowering sweet peas.
An asphalt-jungle kid, I welcomed an opportunity to finally discover how my favorite artichokes grow in this fertile soil, opening up to the sun like tough and thorny green roses. Wildflowers were placed on every outdoor table for the food- and wine-tasting, and it couldn’t have been more delicious. Jimtown Store prepared beef brisket with cherry-chipotle sauce on a crusty baguette, spring slaw, and dates stuffed with mascarpone and pistachio. Out of all the great wines (and there were at least seven of them to try) I liked the 2010 Salmon Run Zinfandel Rose the most.
My next stop was at a cozy and friendly Amista Vineyards, true to its name, which means “making friends.” Owned by Michael and Vicky Farrow, Amista produces small-lot award-winning wines from single vineyards. Delicious estate-grown 2009 Rose of Syrah was most elegantly paired with Chef John Franchetti’s truffled sausage sliders and mac and cheese with arugula and prosciutto.
I only had time for one more stop, and it had to be Mauritson Family Winery, of course, where winemaker Clay Mauritson joined forces with celebrity chef Charlie Palmer to wow the Passport crowd. A new-release 2010 Sauvignon Blanc made a great pair with panko and sesame-crusted shrimp dabbed with citrus aioli. 2009 Zinfandel found its soulmate in zin-braised short rib sliders with red wine-braised cabbage. A rich blend of 2008 Rockpile reds (cab sauv, cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) was a match made in heaven with chocolate caramel tartlets – dark chocolate shell and sea salt caramel.
By the closing time, my passport was barely stamped, but I wouldn’t be able to take another sip, or eat another bite anyway. It felt like I just happened to pick the best of the best – or I just couldn’t go wrong choosing my Passport to Dry Creek Valley destinations. One thing I know for sure: I’ll have to keep that passport renewed year after year to explore them all. For more info go to see the Dry Creek Valley Passport website.