Sunday, February 1, 2015

Weekend outing to the Dry Creek Valley wine country

California has many different wine-growing regions. Napa Valley may be the most famous, but depending on your personal preferences, there are regions that make better wine than Napa. I happen to love zinfandel, and Dry Creek Valley in western Sonoma County makes some of the best.

On Saturday I found myself in the town of Healdsburg where three of Northern California most important wine-producing regions meet (Russian Creek, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek). I had some time on my hands so I drove a ways up Dry Creek Road.

It’s early spring in the vineyards, the wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis) almost in full bloom in many spots. To me there are few sights in spring that rival the cheery yellow of wild mustard.

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I only had time for one winery stop. I picked Ferraro-Carano because somebody had told me they had nice gardens. While neither the architecture of Villa Fiore, the hospitality center you see in the photos below, nor the formal nature of the surrounding gardens is my style, I enjoyed the warm weather (low 70s) and the relative solitude (I was the only one in the gardens).

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The bare trees against the blue sky were spectacular.

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The trees with the peeling bark you see above (and in the next photo) are river birch (Betula nigra). The lack of leaves at this time of year enhances the beauty of the bark.

The flowering tree in the next set of photos is a star magnolia (Magnolia stellata). Thank you, Ferrari-Carano, for labeling so many plants in the gardens!

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I couldn’t identify the trees in the next two photos; there was no tag. I’ve seen crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia sp.) with bark that smooth, but I’m not sure that’s what they are.

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The next tree did have a label: Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’). It’s also known as corkscrew hazelnut. The branch structure is just crazy, isn’t it?

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I also liked the mottled bark on these hornbeams (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’). Great winter interest!

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But my favorite sight in the Dry Creek Valley didn’t have anything to do with plants. It was this massive statue in front of Wilson Winery. “Coyote” was originally created by Sonoma County artist Bryan Tedrick for the 2013 Burning Man Festival and later purchased by the owner of Wilson Winery where it now lives. Standing 27 feet tall and weighing 7 tons, it’s just a tad too large for the average garden! This article has more information as well as video about the making of “Coyote.”

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I want a smaller version for my front yard!

13 comments:

  1. Great timing and angle with the last shot Gerhard! You can almost feel the warmth here with those blue skies, yellow blooming fields, and even Italianate architecture and garden.

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    1. I was shocked how warm it was on Saturday. Full-on spring even though it was January 31.

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  2. So many fabulous trees, so little space in the garden...

    So how was the wine?

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    1. Since I was by myself, I didn't have any wine. I would have been too easy to get drowsy on the 2-hr drive back. But Dry Creek Valley wines are easy enough to find in stores in Davis.

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  3. What a lovely day out! Wonderful photos! We got to tour a couple of wineries around there last November, it is such a beautiful part of the world. I will remember Ferraro-Carano for our next trip. I think you might enjoy visiting Quivira Vineyards and Winery it has a lovely working garden and they are organic and using biodynamic principles. Here is a link to my blog about it http://ravenscourtgardens.com/2014/12/22/touring-a-biodynamic-vineyard/ for a bit more info : )

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    1. Laurin, I'd read about Quivira on your blog and I almost went but I knew I didn't have enough time to do it justice. I'll go back when I can spend a few hours there. I toured a biodynamic vineyard in Napa Valley years ago and have some idea of what it's all about it, but I most admit I forgot many of the details.

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  4. I love visiting HB and environs..Donatiello Vineyards has a fabulous Gary Ratway designed garden, but I see they have moved their tasting to the HB square.The tasting venue at the winery used to be on a deck overlooking the gardens. I did blog post on it a couple years ago.
    http://gardenbook-ks.blogspot.com/2010/11/donatiello.html

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    1. The Donatiello looks great. I'd love to visit it in the fall. Do you know if it's still open, seeing how they've moved their tasting room?

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    2. I don't know Gerhard, but there isn't a word on their website about visiting the winery..not a good sign !~

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  5. It's so nice to see spring somewhere. That mustard is beautiful, especially with the dark, gnarled grapes. I really don't think that is Magnolia stellata, though. The petals are too wide. I could be wrong, but I really think it's a hybrid.

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    1. It's always spring somewhere. Hey, that could my motto :-).

      I must admit I'm not a magnolia expert. Magnolia stellata is what the plant tag said, but there's no guarantee it's correct. A very pretty tree, whatever it is exactly.

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