Dry Creek Valley: Drinkwell Zinfandel

“Some look at the hills from far away and see only the barren lands; some travel amongst the hills and find the most beautiful valleys!” 

― Mehmet Murat Ildan

One of the most beautiful valleys in the world is Dry Creek Valley in Healdsburg, California.  I have had the honor of visiting several times and have enjoyed both the natural beauty and the wines grown here, some of the best in California. Less well known than its fancy cousin Napa, the wines produced are just as world class in my opinion. The people are laid back, very knowledgeable and friendly, but a major reason the area won my heart may have been the beautiful Zinfandel they produce here.  

Kevin and I spent a spring weekend in Dry Creek Valley, tasting from one end the other with our family (including our newest grandson and Elphie the pug!).  And this may be kismet, but while on our way to California I was invited to participate in a lunch sponsored by Dry Creek Valley Wines, just a couple days after our return to Seattle. I couldn’t believe my luck! First, I was going to spend the weekend in one of my favorite valleys tasting the amazing wines, and then upon returning home, I got to spend time with more wine makers (and their wines) from the region. 

While visiting the valley, we tasted at a handful of wineries along the valley, enjoying their amazing vistas and tasting their delicious juice. In my next post I will share about the wineries we visited, all of which are dog friendly (or should I say Pug friendly).  For today, I will focus on the wineries we tasted at the Seattle event. 

The Drinkwell: Zinfandel event, sponsored by Dry Creek Valley Wines, was held at Seattle’s Bourbon Steak downtown, an Award-Winning Chef Michael Mina resturant. As you know, Kevin and I don’t go out to eat often so this was our first time at this venue. The bright and welcoming space felt like an old-fashioned steak house with modern, casual elegance fitting Seattle.  We were invited to attend the social media influencer luncheon which showcased how food-friendly Zinfandel can be.  You didn’t have to sell me; I love Zinfandel on its own and with many foods. I have paired Zin with Moroccan, burgers, blackened salmon, homegrown tomato dishes and pairs beautifully with a lazy afternoon. 

Lunch was four courses with six wine pairings.  Zinfandel can be made into sparkling or rosé, so it wasn’t all red wine pairings. Let me relive the afternoon as I share the menu and pairings:

  • Starter: savory biscuit topped with caviar and whipped crème fraiche. The biscuit was simple but topped with the caviar it made for an elegant starter.
    • Paired with CAST sparkling Rosé of Zinfandel.  The proprietors Jack & Ann Seifrick poured and shared their love of the region and Zinfandel. This week was the tenth anniversary of them buying the land that would become CAST winery. They produce about 5000 cases a year but still make seven different sparkling wines including a White Zinfandel.  Kevin and I had the opportunity to try more of their wines after lunch, and Jack and Ann were lovely and engaging.  Their Zinfandel Dessert Wine “LATE” was my last tasting and any day finished with that wine would be a great day. We will make sure to visit CAST on our next trip and look forward to tasting their new offerings.  
  • First Course: Phyllo wrapped scallop with pea espuma, smoked trout roe and melted leeks, aka Phyllo wrapped scallop with pea foam! This was my favorite dish of the day, perfectly cooked with bold flavors and delicious while being delicate. There were two wines paired with this dish.  I would have preferred more of the Sparkling Zinfandel, especially as the wine that was supposed to be paired was lost in transit!  
    • The first wine planned was Dry Creek Valley Vineyard’s Petite Zin Rosé.  I got to taste this after lunch and it was a perfect rosé: great color, full of strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon and with a crisp finish.  The addition of Petite Sirah gives a bold, bright color.  This would have paired delightfully with the scallop. But needs must and the wine they had enough to pair was the Historic Blocks Zinfandel.  This Zin contains grapes from many historically significant vineyards in the Dry Creek AVA. A beautiful wine made of 81% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 9% Alicante Bouschet, but wasn’t the right pairing for this dish. 
    • The other wine featured was the 2013 Finch’s Crest Zinfandel from F. Teldeschi Winery. This older vintage demonstrated how the wines hold up and was a truly delicious wine. A family winery and grape growers since the 1940’s, the stories Dan Teldeschi regaled us with were funny and delightful. The history this family has in the Dry Creek Valley is impressive and spans lifetimes. 
  • Second Course: Yemenite Spiced Wagyu Striploin with saffron poached potato, and matbucha sauce. It was a MOUTHFUL, literally and figuratively! Let me break it down to words and flavors we can all appreciate. Yemenite Spice: think cumin, coriander, caraway, cardamom, and cloves, which shows that Zinfandel works wonderfully with spices. Matucha is a Moroccan tomato sauce, again demonstrating how Zinfandel pairs with tomato dishes.
    • Paired with the Orsi Family Vineyards 2019 Primitivo, the first bite danced in my mouth. Primitivo is the Italian word for Zinfandel; to demonstrate the Orsi Family’s pride in their Italian roots, they call their Zin by this name. Primitivo primarily comes from the Puglia region of Italy. (How can’t I love the fact that Zin is from PUGlia.) More on this winery further down. 
    • The second wine paired with this course was Ridge Vineyards 2019 Lytton Springs Zinfandel. Ridge is a classic California winery. Founded 60 years ago, Ridge started in the Santa Cruz Mountains and then bought their Lytton Springs Estate in the Dry Creek Valley.  The Lytton Spring Estate is full of 115-year-old vines, and this Zinfandel is 73% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 2% Mataro. I would love to revisit this wine on an upcoming trip to Dry Creek; I was so enamored with the Primitivo that I didn’t focus on this wine as much as I should. 
  • Final Course: Dessert!  I felt like this Chocolate Molten Cake was in disguise. Billed as “24K Dark Chocolate Molten Cake Sundae with Luxardo cherries, crunchy wafer pearls and whipped cream,” this dish was as luxurious as traditional molten cake without leaving you feeling weighed down. I absolutely will try to replicate this at home!  
    • The Zinfandel paired with this dessert was a powerhouse of its own, a robust, rich 2019 Selby Bobcat Zinfandel. The grapes are picked at maximum sugar level which produces a spectacularly complex wine. Susie Selby presented her wine and really shared her love of Dry Creek Valley and for all the other producers that came to Seattle with her. 
Photo courtesy of Drink In Nature Photography

After our luncheon, the venue was opened to the public; all the wineries from lunch poured tastings, along with more wineries from Dry Creek Valley that came to share in Seattle. We lingered with the goal of trying as many of the Dry Creek Valley Wines as we could. It was fun to try other varieties from these wineries and see (taste!) that their skills extend past Zinfandel.  The conviviality and joy of the winemakers made for several delightful and lovely tastings:

Our first stop had to be our new friends from Orsi Family Vineyards, Mark & Saasha Orsi who had been our table mates at the luncheon. It was so fun getting to know them and learn about the winery. We hit it off immediately when we found out they too have a Labrador retriever, and you know when people start talking about their furry children, the phones come out and photos were being shared. Saasha quickly was telling we must go to Italy – sign me up!  I learned that we had just driven past their winery when we were in Dry Creek Valley, as it’s practically across the street from BACA (who also attended this event, and my love of them is well documented as we are members). 

Orsi has been in the grape growing business for 30 years but started making wine 10 years ago and opened their tasting room just last year. They focus on Italian varietals to showcase their Italian roots. We tasted their white wine, Biancolella.  Never heard of it? Neither had I. “It’s native to the island of Ischia, the birthplace of Filomena the matriarch of the Orsi family to whom this wine is dedicated, flourishes on our hillside vineyard producing balanced, food-friendly wines.” I will say I need to buy a case of this wine as it was delightful and it’s always fun to try a new grape. 

Another winery we tried was Nalle, where I started with their 2021 ZinRosé, which has beautiful color. The acid provides great balance with flavors and aromas of cotton candy, peach, lemon, cherry, and rose petal. This would be a phenomenal patio sipper or pair deliciously with my veggie burgers. A young family run winery, they hope the kids will produce their first vintage when they hit the right age in 2042! I can’t wait to visit next time we’re in town. 

We enjoyed talking with Michael Scorsone of Emmitt-Scorsone Winegrowers and tasting his wines, including a Grenache and a Cabernet. The quality and value of his wines is superb.  They explore many varieties including Italian varietals to honor his Sicilian Grandmother (Picture it Sicily, oops sorry for my Sophia moment). 

Lastly, we tasted the other wines brought by Dry Creek Valley Vineyards. As stated above, we sampled the Rosé planned the first course, but we also tried the other samples on offer. What I found interesting was how sustainability focused they are at Dry Creek Valley Vineyards, down to their corks! Each cork has species information, age, and harvest date. Wineries go to such lengths to inform you of wine vintage info, but this was my first time seeing a winery go to these lengths to share this much detail about the bottle itself and as I’ve said before I can’t wait to visit in person! 

Between my many visits to Dry Creek Valley and this experience tasting wines in Seattle, I absolutely feel that Dry Creek Valley is world class; we are lucky to have them on the West Coast. I have yet to taste a Dry Creek Valley wine that wasn’t delicious and of great quality – did I mention the prices are a fraction of those found in Napa or further south in Sonoma.  Dry Creek Valley is perennially on my must visit itinerary and since we have met more friends and tasted more delicious wines, we will continue to visit for years to come. 

how good is that

Below are all the wineries that participated in the Drinkwell: Zinfandel event, sad that I didn’t get the opportunity to taste more and if you’re in Denver they are coming to see you this Fall!

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