Best Wineries

Dry Creek Vineyard in Healdsburg, Sonoma County

By Published On: June 7th, 2024

Family. Heritage. Authenticity.

For more than 50 years, Dry Creek Vineyard has produced exceptional wines from the Dry Creek Valley with a commitment to quality and sustainability. Founded in 1972 by David S. Stare, the winery is today run by his daughter, Kim Stare Wallace, who carries the family heritage forward by overseeing 185 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards.

Kim Stare Wallace, 2nd Generation Owner & President. Photo Courtesy: Dry Creek Vineyard.

Director of Winemaking, Tim Bell joined this family-owned winery in 2011 and continues Dry Creek Vineyard’s mission to deliver appellation-driven, terroir-focused wines. We interview Bell to learn more.

What makes your wine unique?

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking at Dry Creek Vineyard: Dry Creek Vineyard is the flagship winery in the Dry Creek Valley. We have a unique sense of balance in our wines: full, richly flavored wines that pair well with food in a way that makes both the food and the wine more appealing. With our minimal intervention approach, our wine truly carries a sense of place from the vineyards where they were created.

2022 Dry Chenin Blanc. Photo Courtesy: Dry Creek Vineyard.

What type of wine do you specialize in?

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: Dry Creek Vineyard specializes in Dry Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tasting Room. Photo Courtesy: Dry Creek Vineyard.

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: Our Dry Creek Vineyard Tour & Tasting is a great way to learn from a knowledgeable wine guide about our family winery’s history, sustainable vineyard and winery practices, winemaking techniques, and much more. Along the way, guests enjoy an intimate tasting of our limited production and single-vineyard wines.

$55 per guest; offered daily

Dry Creek Vineyard Insectary Garden seen on tour. Photo Courtesy: Dry Creek Vineyard.

What is one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: Dry Creek Vineyard is part of the “Class of 72” – a group of mostly Napa Valley wineries that were founded in 1972 and helped elevate the perception of California wine.

We are unique in being one of the only Sonoma County wineries on the list that is making wines that receive as much critical acclaim as the other members of our class. We are also one of the few wineries on that list that still remains in the hands of the family that created the winery over 50 years ago.

Dry Creek Valley Terroir. Photo Courtesy: Dry Creek Vineyard.

Describe your winemaking approach. 

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: It all starts in the vineyard.  If we can help the vineyard be its best, set it up to produce the best possible fruit, then as a winemaker I become like a shepherd. I just have to protect the wine from danger, gently nudge it in the right direction and use my experience to showcase what is already there: a beautiful, expressive wine with a distinct personality.

Heritage Vines Zinfandel. Photo Courtesy: Dry Creek Vineyard.

How did you get started in the wine industry?

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: My first exposure to fine wine came as a young adult, working for the Liquor Barn wine and spirits stores in Southern California.  I didn’t know much about wine except it was made with grapes, but soon found out it carried amazing amalgam of history, old world romance, science, and farming.  I was hooked!  

One important moment for me was reading an article in which winemakers Zelma Long, Dick Arrowood, and Bill Bonetti all told of their journey to winemaking. It made me think, “I could do that, too!”  And I did.

Director of Winemaking Tim Bell. Photo Courtesy: Dry Creek Vineyard.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the winemaking process?

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: Nature bats last!  More seriously, the vintage dictates what it wants to be. If I try to make a wine from a particular vintage be something it is not, it loses its individual character. So, I’ve learned I have to respect what the wine wants to be.

Guests enjoying wine on patio. Photo Courtesy: Dry Creek Vineyard.d

Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: When I was in my early 20’s, a friend and I spent a month in Europe with backpacks, a tent, and Eurail passes. We were set up to visit some great French wineries. Among them was the Burgundy wine producer Labouré-Roi. I remember going down into an old cellar with wrought iron gates covered in cobwebs and tasting wine from barrel. When our guide dipped the wine thief into one of only two barrels of Chevalier-Montrachet in the cellar, it was like the heavens opened and angels started singing! That wine was so fresh, so beautiful, so amazing! I’ve never forgotten it.

Do you have a favorite story about working at your winery?

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: I will fudge and share two stories. One of my favorite moments was in 2013 when we were picking a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes right at the winery for a late harvest white dessert wine. Picking only the right grapes, affected by the “noble rot” of botrytis cinerea is needed to create a wine that is liquid ambrosia. I brought our cellar crew to the vineyard to do a slow careful pick. It made a pretty memorable wine! 

Tim Bell Director of Winemaking in the vineyard.

My second story is about a day when our President and second-generation owner, Kim Stare Wallace, took the entire winery team on a sail in San Francisco Bay. It was an amazing experience. And then on the way home we pulled the bus into the In-N-Out Burger parking lot and Kim bought us about 40 burgers!  It was a great team experience.

What do you love about winemaking? 

Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking: I love working with the growers to get things right in the vineyard. I like to hear their stories and their insights about their land that they know so well. I’ve had one grower dig excitedly down into the soil to show me how it is still holding on to moisture under the surface and why he knows the vines will hang on in a heat spell and do well.

And then we get to take this fruit, and fermentation is the magic alchemy that makes fruit juice into something more sublime. That transformation can be described scientifically, but it remains a mystery that never gets old.

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