45 Years of Family Winemaking

Jul 17, 2017

45 Years of Family Winemaking

“Heritage. Authenticity.

These are the words that define our family owned winery.”

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ESTABLISHED IN 1972

Dry Creek Vineyard is Dry Creek Valley’s flagship winery located in the heart of Sonoma County, California. As the region’s first new winery following Prohibition, founder David Stare paved the way for a viticultural rebirth in this vibrant winegrowing appellation. In 2017, our premier, family-owned winery is celebrating 45 years of winemaking and is led by the second generation. Dave’s daughter, Kim Stare Wallace, serves as President overseeing a successful family winemaking and grape growing business that includes 185 acres of 100% Certified Sustainable vineyards. We proudly produce delicious Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Meritage blends.

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SECOND GENERATION RE-INVENTION

In the years leading up to Dave’s retirement in 2006, second generation owners Kim and her husband Don began to put into place their vision for the future of the winery. They saw the writing on the wall as other mid-size, family-owned wineries were being gobbled up by massive corporations. Instead of selling out or radically growing production by sourcing fruit from lesser appellations, in effect “dumbing down” the wines, they went back to the basics. Their shift in philosophy led to dramatically reducing production while increasing quality and sharpening the focus on appellation-driven, terroir-focused wines that rival the best in California.

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This new direction required a complete reinvention from the inside out as Kim and Don set their sights on taking Dry Creek Vineyard from a good winery making good wines, to a great winery making great wines. The “Reserve” program was the first to go, as every varietal and bottling was scrutinized. Sauvignon Blanc and The Mariner were introduced to highlight the sharpened focus on distinctive sites within the Dry Creek Valley. Vineyards from outside of the appellation were sold off, and additional Dry Creek Valley properties were purchased to increase the estate holding to 185 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards. Improvements around the winery were made as well, upgrading the crush pad, bottling line, filtration equipment, barrels, etc. And of course, Kim and Don sought out a person who shared their vision, so they hired renowned and critically acclaimed winemaker Tim Bell in 2011. Bit by bit, the pieces fell into place, all without an oil well or trust fund to rely on.

Dry Creel vineyard 2

FOCUS ON BORDEAUX VARIETALS

The Dry Creek Valley is an undiscovered gem, producing some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in California. Primarily known for Zinfandel, the valley has nearly as many acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. Much of the Cabernet grown in our appellation is planted on sharply terraced hillside vineyards on the western slopes and eastern benchlands of the valley. The iron rich soils of the western hills are rocky and low in vigor, creating a stressed environment that produces small berries with thick skins. A perfect microclimate with long days of vibrant sunshine and cool foggy evenings allows for exquisitely ripened Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In order to cultivate the absolute best fruit possible, we have converted the Bordeaux varietals in our estate vineyards to a “Double Guyot” method of pruning. This system is widely used in Bordeaux, with each vine pruned to leave two canes, trained in opposite directions, and two spurs. Other strategies have been employed as well, including increased shoot thinning to improve quality and minimize drought impact, and variable vine spacing to balance the nutrient draw of the grapes with the level of fertility in the soil.

dry creek vineyard cellar

Our winemaking techniques for the Bordeaux varietals have shifted as well. Large puncheons are utilized for Cabernet Sauvignon from our estate Endeavour Vineyard, allowing for hand punchdowns which leads to more gentle extraction. These puncheons are 132 gallons, which is the equivalent to just over two traditional barrels. Tim is also co-fermenting select lots of Cabernet Sauvignon with Petit Verdot for added structure and color intensity. Incorporation of micronized air during fermentation helps soften tannins and reduce any bitterness in our red varietals as well.

Dry Creek Saun Blanc

ENHANCED SAUVIGNON BLANC PROGRAM

For 45 years, Dry Creek Vineyard has been a leader in the Sauvignon Blanc category in California. The winery’s first vintage in 1972 included a dry style Fumé Blanc that helped to pave the way for a rebirth of the Dry Creek Valley appellation. Dave was the first person to plant the Sauvignon Blanc varietal in the Dry Creek Valley against the advice of agricultural advisors. Today, it is the most planted white varietal in the appellation and Kim and Don have elevated our Sauvignon Blanc program to new heights. Tim continues to innovate by using new and exciting clone selections such as Sauvignon Gris (Clone 917) and Sauvignon Musqué (Clone 30). He has also incorporated a small percentage of custom French-coopered Chestnut and Acacia wood barrels to benefit mouthfeel and texture without toasty flavors.

Dry Creek Heritage Vines Zinfandel

ZINFANDEL DEVELOPMENT

Zinfandel holds a special place in the heart of our family winery. We were the first winery to coin the term “Old Vine Zinfandel” back in 1986 and we continue to advocate for the preservation of these vineyard treasures. Our Heritage Vines Zinfandel comes from an experimental project initiated in 1982 to preserve the tradition and “heritage” of old Zinfandel vineyards. Never satisfied to rest on our laurels, we have recently grafted over 1.4 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards on our winery property to Alicante Bouschet (Clone 2) and cutting-edge Petite Sirah clones (Durif 4 from the St. Helena Library old vine heritage vineyard and Durif 6, a Stag’s Leap Winery heritage clone) for added nuance and dimension when creating our final Zinfandel blends.

Dry Creek Barrel Close up

Back at the winery, Tim is bringing co-fermentation of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah into the fold for added intensity and structure, as well as extended maceration of Zinfandel wine on Petite Sirah skins. He has also designed barrels specifically for our Zinfandel program for deeper fruit expression. These ‘fusion’ barrels are composed of French oak heads with 75% of the staves coming from European oak and 25% American oak.

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WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Dry Creek Vineyard is one of the last truly private, family-owned iconic wineries consistently producing 90-point wines. The second generation of the family is firmly committed to a “no compromises” philosophy producing world class,  appellation-focused,  varietal-defining wines. We have shifted our winemaking practices and vineyard management to maximize flavors and reflect our home region. Basically, in a world where things are getting faster and bigger, we are taking a smaller and slower approach. To learn more about what we are up to, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for all of the latest news and behind-the-scenes action at the winery. We are posting videos, giving vineyard updates and telling stories about the people that make Dry Creek Vineyard the ‘real deal’.