This article focuses on the best wineries and tasting rooms in and around Healdsburg, California - from a tourist's perspective. They may have great wines, but most of all, they're really fun to visit and offer something besides the usual stand-at-the-bar and sip experience. You'll find plenty of wineries to choose from just in this small area, in the official wine growing "appellations" called Dry Creek and Alexander Valley.
The Dry Creek area is west of US Hwy 101 only 15 miles long and about 2 miles wide. It's best known for Zinfandel wines. On the other side of the highway is the Alexander Valley, dominated by Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon with respectable amounts of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and old vine Zinfandel.
Within each category, the top Healdsburg area wineries are in alphabetical order. While you don't need reservations to visit these tasting rooms, some of the tours require them.
Best Dry Creek and Alexander Valley Wineries: Tasting Rooms and Tours
Many Healdsburg area wineries have tasting rooms, and in some you're lucky to get enough attention to have your glass filled. By contrast, these top places offer a chance to relax in beautiful surroundings and get personal attention. Some of them also have a picnic area - if you use it, be polite and buy a bottle of wine from them.
A note to help you keep from getting lost: West Dry Creek Road isn't just the west end of Dry Creek Road, but a separate route that runs parallel to it. Pay attention to addresses and you can avoid getting as confused as we were the first time we visited.
If you're new to wine tasting, these tips can help you get the most out of your day.
- Francis Ford Coppola Winery takes a new perspective on the winery visit experience, offering not only some fine wines to try, but also a restaurant and a lovely outdoor swimming pool.
- Bella Winery specializes in old vine Zinfandels and offers tastings in their cave, but the really fun thing here is the Ultimate vineyard tour, which takes you through the vineyards in a World War II military vehicle. They're located on West Dry Creek.
- Bubble Room at J Vineyards is a step up from the traditional tasting room at this sparkling wine-maker located a few miles south of Healdsburg, with wine and food pairings and tasting of library and small-production wines.
- Raymond Burr Vineyards (West Dry Creek) has small and homey tasting room. Besides the award-winning wines, they also have a greenhouse full of orchids, the collection of former owner and actor Raymond Burr. The tasting room also has a small collection of Burr memorabilia from his television shows Perry Mason and Ironsides.
- Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs is a must-visit spot for true wine lovers. On the weekend, you need an advance reservation and they charge for tasting, but Ridge is multi-award-winning winery with a fine reputation.
- Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery is one of the area's prettiest. If you've come to Dry Creek to get away from the big, fancy Napa wineries, this one may not be for you. However, its Italian-style villa, cypress-lined vineyard views - and pretty, peaceful garden - would make a good end-of-day stop and place to relax.
Wineries With Free TastingFree tasting is much easier to find in the Healdsburg area than in Sonoma Valley or Napa. In fact, the area has too many wineries offering free tasting for us to list here. You can find some of them by browsing through this listing.
If you're looking for something to take to a winery for a picnic, the Jimtown Store on CA Hwy 128 serves sandwiches and sells other food items, including their specialty olive and fig spreads. They also stock a fun assortment of very old-fashioned toys - and in season, they might even have some Mexican jumping beans for sale.
The Dry Creek General Store on Dry Creek Road also serves a selection of items that make great picnic fare.