The story of Dry Creek Vineyard and the Stare Wallace family isn’t one of fairy tales. There is no tequila mogul writing checks every month, or a day job in the tech industry to fund the winery. Their story is this: one dedicated family working day and night for five decades to turn what many considered an idealistic pipedream, into a reality that revolutionized the California wine industry. Founder David Stare was bitten by the wine bug while working at a steel firm in Germany in the late 1960s, and upon his return to Boston, he packed up his wife and kids in a mint green station wagon to carve out his path in the wine industry. Little did he know that he would make his mark in history!
Dry Creek Vineyard
Sep 15, 2021
Raising Their Own Standards
Their story is this: one dedicated family working day and night for five decades to turn what many considered an idealistic pipe dream, into a reality that revolutionized the California wine industry.
He ended up establishing the first winery in the Dry Creek Valley since Prohibition, planting the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the region, releasing the first Fumé Blanc in Sonoma County and literally drawing the American Viticultural Area boundaries for the Dry Creek Valley at his kitchen table.
In the years leading up to Dave’s retirement in 2006, his daughter 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.
This new direction required a complete re-invention 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 exceptional wines. The “Reserve” program was the first to go, as they scrutinized each varietal and bottling in an effort to increase the quality of every wine that was produced.
They introduced Sauvignon Blanc and The Mariner to highlight 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 holdings to 185 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards. They also made improvements all around the winery such as upgrading the crush pad, bottling line, filtration equipment and barrels. And of course, Kim and Don sought out a person who shared their vision.
“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.”
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 upon. Today, the family-owned winery continues to break barriers with its commitment to transparent labeling and minimal intervention winemaking. Walking down the retail wine aisle, it is getting harder to tell who is making the wine in the bottle, how it is made, and in some cases, even what varietals are in it. Clever marketing has replaced authentic winemaking and the rich histories of the multigenerational wine families. Other items in the grocery store proudly proclaim that they are all-natural, gluten free and vegan, but the wine bottles on the shelves are silent, keeping their stories hidden. Dry Creek Vineyard is bucking this trend and giving the consumers a transparent look at what’s really inside. After all, products are labeled with details about antibiotics in milk and cage conditions for chickens, so why not apply that to wine? This is why Dry Creek Vineyard has moved in a daring direction and included the terms gluten free and vegan, right on the front of their iconic Fumé Blanc and Heritage Vines Zinfandel labels.
Kim and Don firmly believe that phenomenal wines are crafted by Mother Nature, with healthy soil and flourishing vines so there is minimal intervention when the fruit is brought to the winery — just the way it should be! Each and every grape is grown on one of their estate vineyards or by a long-time growing partner with a small, local family farm. Another key to the winery’s minimal intervention is a decades-long commitment to sustainability. Dry Creek Vineyard’s viticultural philosophy is to maximize biodiversity, vineyard longevity and superb wine quality.
So, 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 is firmly committed to a “no compromises” philosophy, producing world class, appellation-focused, varietal-defining wines. They have shifted their winemaking practices and vineyard management to maximize flavors and reflect their home region. To sum it all up, in a world where things are getting bigger and faster, this legacy wine family is taking a smaller and slower approach that ultimately results in more delicious and honest wines. For nearly 50 years they have passionately crafted the best wines in the region from a combination of estate grown and purchased grapes from small local family farms. They are 100% certified sustainable and are constantly looking to raise the bar in all that they do. They don’t cut corners; they go the extra mile. And above all, they care deeply about their wines, their vineyards and their customers. Taste for yourself – the proof is in the bottle!
TASTE FOR YOURSELF
THE PROOF IS IN THE BOTTLE!
The elegant and refined Sauvignon Blanc incorporates small amounts of Sauvignon Musqué and Sauvignon Gris, which adds a layer of depth and a fleshy, full-bodied mouthfeel. On the palate, flavors of grapefruit, passionfruit, guava and white pepper come through with a slightly creamy, but lively finish. 92pts EDITORS’ CHOICE, WINE ENTHUSIAST; 90pts WINE SPECTATOR
Fermented in 100% stainless steel barrels this is their 49th consecutive vintage for the Dry Chenin Blanc, produced in the classic Loire Valley-inspired tradition. A versatile and food-friendly wine, offering lively fruit, a vibrant mouthfeel and refreshing acidity. 92pts THE TASTING PANEL
“A spirited red, with a supple texture and well-layered black cherry, licorice and grilled sage flavors that pick up speed toward fine-grained tannins.” – 91PTS, Wine Spectator