Gems from Dry Creek Valley

Dry Creek Valley
has always been one of my favorite appellations in Sonoma County. I
love the intensity and variety of the Sauvignon Blancs and the juicy,
chewy depths of its Zinfandels.
Last month I had the opportunity to explore Dry Creek Valley and meet
with several grape growers and winemakers. Tasting their wines, I made a
few discoveries and got reacquainted with some old friends. Here are
some labels to look for:
RUED: Fifth-generation growers,
the Rued family took the plunge into winemaking a few years ago when the
‚€œgrape glut‚€ pushed prices low. They now boast a spanking new
winery on Dry Creek Road just in time for the harvest and of course to
welcome visitors. Their 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
is fantastic – just grassy enough to show the varietal‚€™s character,
with apricot and passion fruit flavors, great body and a long finish.
Classic Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Their 2003 Zinfandel
is almost as good – creamy in texture and flavor, low on the spice –
think raspberry gratin in a glass. Fill in your own pun here, but you
will not rue the day you purchase these wines.
DUTCHER CROSSING: The 2005 Sauvignon Blanc from
this new winery a little further up the road could not be more
different than the Rued. Blended with 10% Semillon, 8% Viognier and 2%
Roussanne, this version bursts with tropical fruit flavors and aromas.
Think of it as a ‚€œnew California‚€ style. The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Proprietor‚€™s Reserve, which is 25% Syrah, features soft berry flavors, vanillin, and cassis on a medium finish.
UNTI VINEYARDS: This young winery is making a serious stab at the leadership mantle of California‚€™s Rhone Rangers. The 2004 Grenache had me thinking of the best of the Southern Rhone, empowered by California exuberance. Then I tasted the 2003 Syrah
and my imagination soared to the Northern Rhone. These are not
knockoffs of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage, for they have the
California emphasis on fruit flavors, with terroir secondary. (Oooh,
I‚€™m gonna get it for that …) These are California expressions of two
wonderful grapes, and they make delicious wines. [Note to readers in
the D.C. area – these Unti wines are available at The Vineyard in
McLean, Va., for about $29 each.]
ALDERBROOK/TERLATO FAMILY VINEYARDS:
This winery began in the early 1980s as a specialist in white wines.
Within the last few years, however, a majority share was purchased by
the Terlato family of Paterno Imports fame. They have steered the winery
toward red wines from its property near Healdsburg, at the confluence
of the Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley
appellations. The 2003 Dry Creek Valley Syrah
is surprisingly elegant for the grape, and for the grape in California.
It features bright, high-toned blueberry and coffee notes, with soft
tannins and a surprisingly long, fruity finish that does not want to
quit. I would normally say this is the type of wine that will stand out
at dinner but not in a group tasting against bigger, brawnier wines,
except that it won a Gold Medal at the Orange County fair. So there are
some good judges out there … Future vintages may be under the Terlato
name but will still be made in the same way by winemaker Brian Parker;
either way, keep it in mind, this is a delicious wine.

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