By Charlene S. Mixa
Vineyards and Valleys of Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys
Magnificent vineyards, the captivating Mayacama Mountains and relaxing quality accommodations welcome visitors to the Geyserville Inn in northern Sonoma County. The Geyserville area is a perfect destination for relaxing and experiencing the serenity and charm of the Alexander and Dry Creek Valley wineries, plus, it is just a short drive to the Russian River and other appellations of the noted wine country.
The Geyserville Inn sits on three acres of beautiful gardens, has a welcoming pool and spa and is convenient to the great wine country of northern California. Easily accessible from Route 101, the main highway through Sonoma County’s wine country, the Inn offers hospitality and quality service. Entering the parking lot, the vineyards bordering the property and the view of the nearby Mayacama Mountains is enchanting. Away from the hustle of cities, the Inn offers a warm country charm. The Inn achieves its claim for “Enjoying the elegant comforts and unique experience of home away from home”.
Opening the door to the Merlot Room, our junior suite, this wine country room is well appointed and impressive. The décor is terrific! The room gives the feel of luxury with its featherbed and down comforter. Above the gas fireplace is an HD TV and a cozy sitting area is in the corner. The suite is comfy and refreshing. In the morning, we have breakfast on the patio enjoying the cool air and the breathtaking view of the mountains and vineyards. Touring the property, we quickly see why the Geyserville Inn is voted the Best Wedding Facility in the North Bay. A large outdoor area of beautifully landscaped gardens is ideal for weddings, family reunions, receptions and other events. For us it is fun to roam the grounds admiring the gardens, lawns and vineyards.
The staff is extremely conscientious giving good suggestions for dinner and being sure we receive the complimentary wine tasting coupons for several of the local wineries.
Healdsburg is a few miles south of the Geyserville Inn and offers the quaint charm of a small town with flair. The allure of Healdsburg starts with its tree shaded square surrounded by trendy and down home restaurants, wine tasting rooms and unique shops and boutiques. For dinner Willie’s Seafood and Raw Bar is the perfect recommendation. Offering a tapas menu, we select several plates to share. Lunch the next day is at Ralph’s Bistro on the square. Sitting at the bar, the lady next to us suggests the lunch special, a macaroni casserole. Awesome! A perfect lunch before our next round of wine tasting.
The Wineries: Now to taste some great wines! Using Heaven Condensed, a Wine Road Map of Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley, we easily plan our day for wine tasting. The map shows 150 wineries in the area with information on each winery listed on the reverse side. This has information of hours of operation, tasting fee, picnic facilities and more. Using the map and our complimentary tasting coupons from the hotel, we select the larger well know winemakers already familiar to us.
Ferrari Carano located in the Dry Creek Valley is only a few miles and we arrive as the gates open to the Villa Fiore. As other wine tasters head to the wine center, we detour through the beautiful floral and landscape gardens created by Rhonda Carano. The serenity of the gardens, its many flowering shrubs and lush trees make us feel welcome and at home. Walking to the Villa Fiore this magnificent and elegant villa sits on a landscape of vineyards, hillsides and the gardens. It is like entering an Italian countryside. The hospitality wine center has a dramatic, curved mahogany and black granite tasting bar. Sipping our wines, we look out the arched windows behind the tasting bar seeing the estate winery and surrounding mountain, imagining ourselves in a grand villa in Italy. The wines are all very good; however, the Villa Fiore and Gardens are fantastic. The hospitality center also has a gift shop with excellent ideas for the wine aficionados. Winery tours are by appointment only, so we enjoyed our self tour of the gardens and the wine tasting.
Dry Creek Vineyard is a wine we enjoy and is only a few miles down the road. As we enter the area of Dry Creek Vineyards, the first thing we notice is the beautiful tree shaded picnic area. What a perfect place for having an impromptu lunch of cheese, fruit and wine. The building is that of a French Chateau style. Inside is a relaxed setting with a tasting bar, where C. J., wearing a tee shirt, quickly and warmly greets us. A big difference between the opulent tasting room at Ferrari Carano and its “spick and span” wine host. Turning in our complimentary wine tasting coupons, C. J. shares the story of how Dry Creek Vineyard came to be and its logo of the sailing ship. The founder always had a passion for sailing and decided to have it on their logo in the 1980’s, which also distinguished it from the traditional wine labels. The tasting is for four wines, we sample the whites and a zinfandel. All are very good and we especially liked the 2006 Tre Terre Chardonnay of Russian River Valley.
Clos du Bois Winery located in the Alexander Valley is just east of the Dry Creek Valley. Since I love a glass of wine with dinner and preferably Chardonnay, my husband often buys it by the case. Clos du Bois has a good everyday Chardonnay, so it is one we purchase often. The winery overlooks beautiful vineyards with the tasting room located in a large building that the outside has a barn-like appearance. Inside a U-shaped tasting bar and rustic setting give a country charm. Taking out our handy tasting coupon, Maribeth explains the tasting coupon is for two people and includes complimentary “Clos du Bois” wine glasses. These are the large wine glasses, perfect for white wines. As she wraps the glasses, we sample the wines and select a special bottle of the 2006 Calcaire Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, for celebrating our upcoming anniversary.
La Crema Tasting Room is in Healdsburg. After our scrumptious lunch at Ralph’s Bistro, we walk the square checking out the shops, when we stop by the La Crema Tasting Room. Glad we did as they do not have a tasting room at the winery located in the Russian River. The tasting is complimentary and we sample the white wines especially liking the rich flavors of the Chardonnays.
Kendall Jackson Tasting Room is off the Square in Healsdburg. Entering the tasting room, the host recommends we go to the winery for the 3:00 PM Garden Tour. Arriving a few minutes later at the winery’s impressive chateau, we are the only two for the tour. Turning in the tasting coupon, we get a glass of wine to sip while on the tour. Guiding us into the gardens the concept is explained. The entry garden was created with the Blooms of Bressingham and has flowering plants and a beautiful cool fountain. The next area is the Wine Sensory Gardens with the plants that match tasting descriptions of the red wines or the white wines. The concept is to join the wines with their “sensor” descriptor such as strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon plants in an area of the Sensory Gardens designated for white wines. The Culinary Gardens include an International Cuisine Garden, Vegetable Trial Garden and Culinary Herb & Edible Flower Garden. KJ grows all their vegetables for their catering events. Munching on an edible flower, we return to the Tasting Room to sample the wines. KJ is well known to us for its Chardonnay, which is always a traditional standby.
Windsor Golf Club is our destination for a morning of golf while in northern Sonoma County. Having hosted many PGA Nike Tour events, we look forward to experience the course. The day is overcast with a comfortable temperature as we arrive for our early morning tee time. We are paired with another couple and star on the back nine. Lucky for us our partners are locals and provide great guidance and advice during our round as there are many blind shots and landing areas. The Windsor Golf course is dynamic and challenging. With its parallel fairways it winds aroun d lakes and has numerous shots over hazard areas created by its meandering creek. Some holes pass along the Club’s signature “Silos.” This is a fun course for golfers as it is challenging, yet golfer friendly. After our game we enjoy a tasty lunch at Charlie’s the lakeside bar and restaurant at Windsor Golf Club.
If you go:
Geyserville Inn, 21714 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville, CA 95441; (877) 857-4343; www.geyservilleinn.com
Windsor Golf Club & Charlie’s Restaurant, 1340 19th Hole Drive, Windsor, CA 95492; (707) 838-7888; www.windsorgolf.com
Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, 420 Aviation Blvd., #106, Santa Rosa, CA 95403; (707) 522-5818;www.sonomacounty.com
Heaven Condensed The Wine Road Map – a free wine road map with over 150 wineries and lodgings within a 30 mile radius including the Wine Road Map of Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. We found this very helpful for finding our way around