Summer is just around the corner, and we love our wine country weekends for enjoying the long, warm days and mild evenings. One of our all-time favorite wine regions in Northern California for a weekend getaway is the Healdsburg area. Home to Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and the Russian River Valley, the region is abundant with wineries that showcase a different perspective of this glorious part of the world, and downtown Healdsburg is just about as charming as it gets, with a bevy of boutique hotels and restaurants fit for foodies. Here are five wineries along a stretch of 14 miles to put on your itinerary.
A peaceful rural setting, complete with farm animals
Visit Truett-Hurst. On weekends, they typically have live music and open the doors of the tasting room to usher in the fresh air from the wide patio. The friendly staff are happy to let you take your glass or a bottle out with you to walk through the vegetable gardens, greet the animals, and stroll down to the Russian River, where you can grab a bright red Adirondack chair and chill. And, before you head outside, make sure to grab a round of Cowgirl Creamery Mount Tam cheese from the cold box. It’s decadent. As far as wines are concerned, I love the winery’s portfolio of Dry Creek Zinfandels, Burning Man Petite Sirah, and its two aptly named Pinot Noirs, White Sheep and Black Sheep.
Rich Family Tradition
Visit Mauritson. The photos in the tasting room tell the story of the Mauritson Family, who has been growing grapes in the Dry Creek Valley since the 1860s. Clay Mauritson extended the family’s operation of grape growing and selling to winemaking in the late 1990s, when he produced the winery’s first Zinfandel. Since then, Clay has grown his portfolio into multiple magnificent collections. I had the opportunity to sample wines from his special LOAM collection a couple of years ago, which features wines that exemplify the soil type from which they hail. The largest grower and producer of wine from the prized Rockpile AVA, Mauritson hosts wine dinners in the Rockpile vineyards for its club members (Clay is pictured in the vineyards above), which are always a complete sell out.
Summer concerts in the vineyard
Visit Rodney Strong. Sure, most everyone knows Rodney Strong. But two things you may not know is that the winery offers a a great outdoor concert series, and it has some outstanding winery exclusive, small production wines that you won’t find anywhere else. Throughout the summer months, Rodney Strong features a varied list of entertainers. This year, get your 80s on with Huey Lewis and the News or wind down with jazz musician, Dave Koz. In its 26th year, the series features food from local purveyors and, of course, Rodney Strong wines. Check out the schedule and if you can’t fit a concert into your itinerary, visit the tasting room or make a reservation for the outdoor seated wine flight. Rodney Strong’s beautiful collection of winery exclusive offerings includ three single vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernets we love—Alexander Crown, Brothers, and Rockaway.
Visit Cast. A new addition to our list, we discovered Cast while staying at a local Healdsburg hotel a couple of years ago. Sitting outside and sipping a glass of wine on the hotel patio, we struck up conversation with the owner of Cast, Jack Seifrick. He graciously invited us to visit the winery, which had recently opened its tasting room. Upon arriving, we followed a short winding road around the vineyards and up to the winery, where the views are breathtaking. Cast maximizes its location, treating visitors to an alfresco tasting on the terrace. As we settled into the Adirondack chairs, we were handed glasses of chilled, sparkling Blanc de Noir, which couldn’t have been a more perfect beginning to a one-of-a-kind experience. As the views and aromatic air lifted our spirits, we slowly savored the outstanding Cast wines, to include the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. (Photos courtesty of Cast).
Beautiful manicured gardens
Visit Ferrari-Carano. On the most northern side of our tour, Ferrari-Carano boasts acres of beautiful gardens. Although spring is the most colorful, when more than 10,000 tulips and daffodils create a dramatic backdrop, each season has its own flair. One of our favorite everyday whites is the Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc, but we particularly enjoy the Limited Release and Reserve collections only available at the winery. To exerience these, such as the PreVail collection, visit the winery’s Enoteca, an underground cellar.
Visit the winery web sites: