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Dry Creek Valley AVA

by Staff Writer - K. Ash | June 30, 2011

It is always fascinating to observe the effect that local growing conditions have on wine. In addition to this is the phenomenon that no two vineyards are exactly the same with respect to growing conditions. Differences in elevation, soil types, geographical landmarks, and latitude position all have a direct effect on the Terroir of a vineyard. It is of course a good thing that growing conditions are so diverse. If conditions were the same between site to site, then the ability to produce a unique and truly wonderful wine would be lost. Sonoma County sports a topography that is conducive to the creation of multiple microclimates. This leads to a diverse set of growing conditions for most of the American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) found within Sonoma County.

The Dry Creek Valley AVA is a part of the AVA system contained within Sonoma County. Specifically speaking, the Dry Creek Valley AVA is located within the central northern region of Sonoma County. Due to the nature of the AVA classification system used in Sonoma County, understanding where the Dry Creek Valley AVA falls within the grand scheme of Sonoma County AVAs can be confusing. With this in mind, the Dry Creek Valley AVA can be considered to be a sub-region of the larger Northern Sonoma AVA. The Northern Sonoma AVA is a large wine region spanning most of the northern parts of Sonoma County. It is also important to mention that the Dry Creek Valley AVA has its share of overlapping. This can be seen with a portion of the small northern Rockpile AVA extending into the Dry Creek Valley AVA.

As mentioned earlier, Sonoma County AVAs can be somewhat confusing. This fact does not however mean that Sonoma County AVAs should be ignored. On the contrary, when reading about Sonoma County it is important to understand the relationships between the various AVAs found within Sonoma County. A good understanding Sonoma County AVAs will help you in gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the wines produced in Sonoma County. Also, if you ever plan to visit Sonoma County, a detailed understanding of the various AVAs will be invaluable. The best way to understand the relationships between the various AVAs of Sonoma County is to view an AVA map of Sonoma County.

Like many of the AVAs found within Sonoma County, the Dry Creek Valley AVA is unique. Formed along a tributary of the famous Russian River, the Dry Creek Valley AVA can be described as somewhat of a constricting box canyon. Traveling further and further into the valley produces terrain that is further and further confining until the end is finally reached and one must turn around.

The climactic protection found within the Dry Creek Valley AVA can be traced to the geographical landmarks found within the area. Specifically, the mountains that are located in central northern Sonoma County help moderate the climate conditions found within the Dry Creek Valley AVA. The mountains effectively prevent all cool breezes and fog from entering the Dry Creek Valley AVA. One climactic condition that seems to be exempt from this rule is rain. This can be seen in Pacific Ocean influenced rain being present in the Dry Creek Valley AVA.

Temperature wise, the Dry Creek Valley AVA is on the warmer side when compared to similar areas in the Sonoma Coast AVA. The temperatures found in the Dry Creek Valley AVA are very similar to temperatures found within the Alexander Valley AVA. The main difference with temperatures can be seen with the southern most point of the Dry Creek Valley AVA being cool with no breeze effects.

The uniqueness of Terroir within the Dry Creek Valley has much to do with the various soil types present. Three main soil types can be found in the valley including Yolo, Cortina and Manzanita. Yolo is a deep fertile soil consisting of well-drained loams. Cortina soils are well drained gravelly and sandy loam based soils. Manzanita is a soil type consisting of gravel loams alongside of clay loams. The soil type of Yolo is the most ideal for agriculture with Cortina and Manzanita requiring work in selecting grape varieties best suited for soil conditions.

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When reviewing grape varieties planted in the Dry Creek Valley AVA, the word "diverse" immediately comes to mind. This description is validated by plantings of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay, Riesling, Barbera, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah to name a few. Finding another AVA within Northern California with the same diversity in such a confining space would be quite a challenge.

Out of all the varieties grown in the Dry Creek Valley AVA, Zinfandel stands out among the crowd. Zinfandels produced in the Dry Creek Valley AVA have a metallic and somewhat thick consistency. Textures present in Dry Creek Valley AVA Zinfandels provide a degree of detail not found in Zinfandels grown elsewhere. In addition to this, wild berry flavors are missing and the wines tend to soften with age. Zinfandel enthusiasts tend to look at the Dry Creek Valley AVA as the finest example of Zinfandel wines, almost to a level of euphoria.

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