When it comes to wine, the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County in Calif., has what it takes. 

Located northwest of Healdsburg, the fertile valley of 16 miles long by 2 miles wide is formed by Dry Creek, a tributary of the Russian River. The valley’s terroir encompasses the right soils, microclimates and terrain that creates the conditions for growing excellent wine grapes. The valley is also blessed with a coterie of skilled winemakers who call Dry Creek Valley home. 

More than 50 wineries are located in the Dry Creek Valley AVA, and over 160 wineries produce wines that bear a Dry Creek Valley AVA designation.

Since 1989, the valley’s wine grower association has hosted the Passport To Dry Creek Valley Wine and Food Festival, drawing wine lovers from around the world to taste the valley’s latest vintages, enjoy great food pairings and hear live music. 

The 2019 festival lived up to its billing as a memorable 30th anniversary celebration of the Dry Creek Passport event. 41 wineries were open to Passport holders and each had great wine samples, food and drink, and spectacular vistas.

While it is almost impossible to visit all 41 wineries during the two-day event, we visited 16 over the two days.

Next year’s event will be April 25-26. If you love wine and wineries, it is not too early to set aside the date. Tickets will be available in 2020 and they sell fast.

If those dates are not good for you, the valley’s wineries and tasting rooms are open year-round. It is definitely worth the trip.

Before you visit

Getting there

  • Dry Creek Valley can be reached via U.S. 101. Start in Healdsburg, 62 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge and explore the backroads 
  • Charles Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS) is 10 miles from Healdsburg, while San Francisco International (SFO) and Oakland International (OAK) are about 82 miles away
  • Cruise port in San Francisco is about 69 miles away
  • Amtrak station in Martinez is 72 miles away, with connecting buses to Santa Rosa and Healdsburg 
  • Santa Rosa and Charles Schulz airport are served by the SMART Train, which connects to San Francisco via rail, direct bus and ferry

For a short trip

  • Enjoy wine-tasting excursions
  • Enjoying eateries, tasting rooms, shops in Healdsburg, Guerneville and Geyserville

For a longer trip

  • Visit nearby Napa Valley for more wineries and restaurants
  • Ride Napa Valley Wine Train (reservations necessary)
  • Explore Santa Rosa
  • Take a day trip to the Pacific Coast at Jenner (mouth of the Russian River) or Bodega Bay
  • Explore San Francisco.
  • Visit Oakland cultural and cuisine scene.

At a glance

  • Mobility level: Moderately high. While some wineries are accessible, gravel walks and hills and steps are common. 
  • When to go: The Passport Festival in 2020 will be April 25 and 26. Visit year-round for the region. Fall and spring are great, winter can be rainy. 
  • Where to stay: There are scores of B&Bs, guest houses and hotels in the region, many with winery views. Lodging can be pricy, but a web search can unearth affordable places. 

Jeffrey Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein are publishers of Living on the Suncoast Magazine. They can be reached at jorenstein@simplysmarttravel.com.

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