Truett-Hurst along Dry Creek

On Dry Creek Road

On Dry Creek Road

Truett-Hurst along Dry Creek – Biodynamic vineyards and gardens

Several years ago we visited the Truett-Hurst winery just after they had purchased the old Martin Winery on Dry Creek Road. Today the winery is vastly different in more ways than one. Make no mistake, the estate on Dry Creek Road is a delight to visit and the wines are very good. No wine is made at this venue, but the tasting room is nestled in among vineyards, gardens of wildflowers and vegetables, and the serenity of the Dry Creek stream flowing along the property.

The tasting fee is $5 and you can choose five wines from a list of eight. The Rosé, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Red Rooster Zinfandel were among our favorite wines. All the estate vineyards are biodynamically farmed and any additional grapes that are purchased are from organically-farmed vineyards in the Russian River Valley. The most notable among the principal owners is Paul Dolan. His name is synonymous with Fetzer Vineyards and the Fetzer Family. Paul Dolan and the Fetzers were one of the first to farm biodynamically and were a great influence on other wineries to become biodynamic.

The standout feature of this winery is the outdoor area, which is the perfect paradise for a relaxing picnic lunch in the vineyards. Just outside the tasting room are several tables where guests can enjoy tasting wine or munching on lunch. However, if you stroll just 500 feet beyond the tasting room, there lies Dry Creek on its way to empty into the Russian River. The winery has placed seating areas along the banks of the creek and it is the most wonderful spot to enjoy lunch or just the tranquility. We visited on a Tuesday around lunchtime and this area was occupied quickly. We imagine the area is very busy on weekends. We sat for a full hour just enjoying the musical sounds of nature. With a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, things cannot get much better.

Along the edge of Dry Creek

Along the edge of Dry Creek

The winery makes 7000 cases of wine each year. The wines are made at their VML winery, located on Westside Road. Most of the wines are sold directly from the tasting room and a few others can be found at the Total Wine stores around the Sacramento area. The wines are very good and priced reasonably.

Following our visit and preparing for this article, I went to the Truett-Hurst Website and was very surprised to discover that Truett-Hurst is a public company trading on the NASDAQ. The symbol is THST. In the “About Us” menu item of their Investment section I grabbed this snippet of information: “Truett-Hurst is an innovative and growing super-premium and ultra-premium wine sales, marketing and production company based in the acclaimed Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys of Sonoma County, California. The core of our business is a combination of direct to consumer sales, traditional brand sales and “retail exclusive label” partnerships with major retailers, such as Trader Joe’s and Safeway. “

It sort of takes the fun out of the concept of what we thought was a Family winery. Nonetheless, for now we highly recommend a visit to this winery for a tasting and, if not a picnic lunch, a walk around the amazing and beautiful grounds of Truett-Hurst.

To get to Truett-Hurst, take the Dry Creek Exit off Highway 101 in north Healdsburg. Go west for about five miles. The Truett-Hurst tasting room is open daily 10 am to 5 pm. There are several other wineries along this stretch. Check our Dry Creek and West Dry Creek Wine Trails for our suggested wineries to visit.

The gardens and tasting room

The gardens and tasting room

Wente Vineyards: A tour de force in Livermore

It has been a long time since we last visited Wente Vineyards. So long in fact that it was then called Wente Bros. When fouth generation family member Carolyn Wente became the CEO, the winery’s name changed to reflect the fact the Wente woman were fully involved with winery operations. Wente boasts that they are the oldest continuously family-run winery in California, with a starting date of 1883. I will have to dig into that. I was under the impression that Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma Valley (1868) had that distinction. Wente certainly has one important claim to distinction. They were the first to plant Chardonnay in California. In fact, the Wente Clone Chardonnay flourishes today in many California vineyards. Wente’s Website has a complete timeline of its history of introducing and working with Chardonnay.

Tasting at Wente Vineyards

If you head out to Livermore wine country and explore the area you will discover that Wente Vineyards has two tourist destinations. On Tesla Road is the winemaking facility, a very busy tasting room called the Estate Tasting Room, an outdoor area and garden, and a Bocce Court. Over on Arroyo Road is another tasting room called the Vineyard Tasting Room. In addition, this venue has a golf course, a wedding site, a gourmet restaurant and a concert center. We took a look at both places last Saturday afternoon and each venue was packed. A steady stream of wine country tourists was so large that we had to wait to get up to the tasting bar. The tastings are very reasonable, including a $5 tasting and a more elaborate $10 tasting.

wente-tesla

We opted for the $5 tasting and found all the five wines we tasted to be very enjoyable. We tasted a Pinot Noir Rose that was absolutely delicious. Only 300 cases are made and within a few months of release the wine is sold out. We also enjoyed the Reliz Creek Pinot Noir, a very tasty Pinot Noir from Wente’s Arroyo Seco vineyard in Monterey County. We also recommend the Rivas Chardonnay from Arroyo Seco. It is a very popular Chardonnay, nice on the oak, but with enough fruit to be a moderate Chardonnay and very food friendly. 90,000 cases of the Rivas are made and the wine is distributed widely. It’s $22 at the winery, but Costco and Trader Joe’s carry the wine for much less. By the way, all the vineyards at Wente’s Livermore and Arroyo Seco locations are sustainably farmed.

At the Wente Tesla center, soon to open on May 15th, will be the Winemakers’ Studio. It will be a cooking school and a wine-blending center. The blending activity will be by appointment only and promises to be very enjoyable. Guests will have seven different red wines they can experiment with and make into their own blend. In other words, each guest can be a winemaker for the day.

There are many other wineries to visit in the area. The Spring and Fall are the best times to visit; the Valley is usually cool and comfortable during these seasons. Check our Livermore wine section for wine trails, lodging, restaurants, and things to do in the Livermore area.

The two Wente Vineyards tasting rooms are open daily 11 to 5 pm. The Estate Tasting room on Tesla has free tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. One can also arrange for a private cave tour. Check the Wente Website for compete visitor information.

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