Healdsburg is at the southern end of Dry Creek. During the summer expect live music, dancing, food, or art in the plaza. You’ll find a huge number of tasting rooms downtown, many pouring wines from the smaller Dry Creek wineries that are off the beaten path. Now, tear yourself away from the plaza and get into the rustic charm and long views of Dry Creek. Even the air smells different there… The northern end of the valley is hot, but Lake Sonoma is just up the hill and it’s a great place to cool off. As you wander through the valley to the lake, you’ll pass funky barns, lovely vineyards, and small wineries. Some are run by fairly eccentric characters… Enjoy yourself!
The wine’s not the only thing that’s organic at Ridge Vineyards—the entire building is eco-friendly. The barrel and tasting rooms were constructed using only sustainable materials, and it is absolutely solid. The thick walls are rice straw-bale covered with natural plaster, providing terrific insulation. (It is one of the largest commercial straw-bale buildings ever constructed.) Recycled lumber was used for the flooring and siding, and the tasting room bar is built of old oak from fermentation tanks. The topper? 400 solar panels on the roof provide most of the winery’s power. And, of course, there is wine, 13 versions of award-winning Zin!
Wine Creek Canyon is a small road that leads to Michel-Schlumberger. This winery is housed in a beautiful Mission-revival building that hugs a peaceful courtyard. It is surrounded by 100 acres of rolling, benchland vineyards that support a myriad of growing conditions in the relatively small area of the vineyards. This is land that’s put to thoughtful use. Come for the vistas of Wine Creek Canyon, and stay for their signature cabernet.
Healdsburg’s local theater, the Raven, is fiercely independent. The theater is owned by a performing arts coop. Though the historic theater is small, there are four stages, and the ownership ensures a combination of mainstream, indie and documentary films at reasonable rates. There are also live performances, mostly music, that include show tunes, jazz, classical, and rock. Their calendar of events has something that will please all. The Raven is a testament to what creativity and ingenuity can do when you think outside the box, even when you’re right in the center of town.
Healdsburg is an antique lover’s paradise. The barnlike Antique Harvest is stuffed to the gills with one person’s junk and another person’s treasures. Walk across the street to the antiques cooperative, Healdsburg Classics. More than 20 small dealers are featured here, and you’re more than welcome to rummage around. Another cooperative, the Mill Street Antique Mall is close by. With over 20,000 square feet of floor space, it’s home not only to local dealers, but also to local craftsmen. So, grab a glass of wine on the plaza, maybe two, and peruse.
The Lake Sonoma Recreation Area was created by the Army Corps of Engineers at the northern end of Dry Creek Valley in 1983. There are 17,000 acres of golden hills dotted with oaks in the park, and more than 40 miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and riders. The bass fishing is supreme, and there’s plenty of open water—2,700 surface acres—for swimming and boating. Temperatures may top 100 degrees in the summer, so take plenty of drinking water! And keep your eyes open. The rare peregrine falcon loves Lake Sonoma.
Dry Creek General Store
Once you leave Healdsburg, and you’re tooling around Dry Creek Valley, you pretty much have one choice when it comes to buying food or beverages, and that’s the Dry Creek General Store. It’s been in Dry Creek since 1881, supplying sandwiches and groceries. Stop in next door at the Dry Creek Bar. You can have a cold beer here, and you may run into a few of the winery owners tossing back a beer, and talking about the ups and downs of their wine business. The bar opens at 3 p.m. It usually closes when the management is tired or when the last customer falls off a stool.