There used to be so much drama involved in trying to attend the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley’s annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley® event. Enter the lottery, cross your fingers, keep checking the mail to see if you were selected or not, call your friends to find out who won the lottery and then coordinate how many tickets each of you needed to buy, respond to the lottery-winning letter and hope you would get to start at the winery you asked for, and then wait for the official notice of admission and the list of participating wineries and their planned activities so you could then start arranging your itinerary for the weekend.
Luckily, that time has passed. For the 2012 event you could just purchase your tickets online, instantly confirm your starting winery, and easily coordinate ticket purchases with your friends if needed. In a few days from now, all that is left to do is drive around on April 28 and 29, 2012 between 11:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. each day and have an excellent time enjoying the wineries, vineyards and exceptional beauty of Dry Creek Valley.
Planning your weekend itinerary is still a challenge, though. After all, the 2012 Passport to Dry Creek Valley® has 50 participating wineries offering food, wine, music, barrel samples, discounts, and/or swag to their happy visitors. If you want some advice on how to select amongst the 50 wineries, organize your days, and have some of the best food and wine available in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, we’re here to help.
Strategy for the 2012 Passport to Dry Creek Valley
1. Buy your ticket. Hopefully you’ve already done that, as tickets went on sale in February and they recently sold out.
2. Review the Passport Activity Brochure and Map available here. Based on what sounds good to you, pre-select only 4-5 wineries each day to aim for. Then, pick another 2 backup wineries per day in case you finish a winery sooner than expected, can’t find parking, or see your annoying ex and you need to alter your plans quickly.
3. In selecting your targeted wineries, try to organize them so you are spending one day in northern Dry Creek Valley, and one day in southern Dry Creek Valley. Or, focus one day more on the western Dry Creek wineries (West Dry Creek Road, Wine Creek Road) and one day more on the eastern side (Dry Creek Road, Canyon Road, and downtown Healdsburg).
4. Have a substantial breakfast in the morning, and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Drive carefully and/or have a designated driver. Be polite to the other attendees. Say “Thank You” to the winery staff. Basically, do everything your Mother would tell you to do.
5. If you are interested in maximizing your exposure to Dry Creek Valley wineries this weekend, you should know that 26 of the wineries that are participating on April 28 and 29 will also be open to the general public on Friday, April 27 serving the same wines they will be pouring during the Passport event with special Passport pricing.
Favorite Wineries at the Passport to Dry Creek Valley Event
Need help selecting wineries? Based on the 2012 Passport Activity Brochure and our years of experience at this event these are the places we suggest based on the food and wine offerings:
Amista Vineyards – Mediterranean Artichoke Aioli with Grilled Crostini with Chardonnay, and Roasted Lemon-Parsley Lamb over Red Pepper Potatoes with Syrah
Kachina Vineyards – Smoked Salmon with Chardonnay, “Elk Sliders” with Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chocolate Truffles with Zinfandel Port
Mazzocco Sonoma – Pizza with Zinfandels
Raymond Burr Vineyards – Seared Ahi, Roasted Pepper Brochette, Beef Filet with Jalapeno Cream Cheese and Cucumber, Glazed Pork and Fig with several wines including QUARTET, their new Bordeaux-style blend
Ridge Vineyards – Lamb Osso Bucco on top of Silky Mascarpone Polenta with Zinfandels and Rhone Blends
Talty Vineyards and Winery – Zinfandel Cherry Chipotle Lamb Tacos with Zinfandels
Wilson Winery – Tri-Tip and other delectables with Zinfandels and other wines
Need more ideas? The 2012 Passport Activity Brochure doesn’t say what food will be available at many wineries, but we have historically enjoyed the food and wine at Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves, Frick Winery, Fritz Underground Winery, Kokomo Winery, Mauritson Wines, Martorana Family Winery, Mounts Family Winery, A. Rafanelli Winery, Sbragia Family Vineyards, and Seghesio Family Vineyards.
If you have never been to Passport to Dry Creek Valley® before you should know that the grounds and gardens at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery are absolutely beautiful this time of year. If you have attended Passport in the past but are looking for a new place, this is the first year Chateau Diana is participating in the event (we’ve not actually been there yet – let us know what you think).
Other Recommendations for the Dry Creek Area
If you are coming to Sonoma County for the Passport to Dry Creek Valley weekend and are looking for tasting rooms and food stops outside of the event, we can help with that too. Click here to be taken to our list of favorite places in Dry Creek Valley, including our go-to place for coffee. Or, you can click here for our suggestions in the Russian River area or click here for our recommendations in Alexander Valley. Or, you can just go to the navigation bar near the top of the page, click on “Favorites By Wine Region,” and then follow the drop-down menus to the place you want to learn more about.
Have a great weekend on April 28th and 29th, and remember your sunscreen. Like we said, it’s a good weekend to do everything your Mother would tell you to do.