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Dry Creek Kitchen & Healdsburg Wineries

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I'm traveling to Sonoma with my girlfriend on Saturday. Tragically, we're only able to spend a single afternoon and evening there (from noon onward), and while that's a mighty limitation, I'd like the experience to be as great as possible. To that end, although I know there are a lot of old posts on these topics, I've got two questions. I should mention that I was planning on visiting Healdsburg (though that can change, depending on the answers to the below questions).

First: Can you recommend a good place to taste sparkling wine? We've got two or three wineries already picked out, but find it really fun to try sparking every once in a while.
Research has turned up Gloria Ferrer and J, but the former is in Sonoma and doesn't really offer tastings, and I'm not sure if the latter is still worth visiting now that they've done away with wine/food pairings outside the Bubble Bar. (If it is, please let me know!)

Second: I made dinner reservations at Dry Creek Kitchen, but there are a lot of posts on this board that give the restaurant remarkably poor reviews. All of the posts I saw, however, were over a year old. Has anybody eaten there fairly recently? If so, would you recommend it? If not, is there another restaurant of roughly comparable price that you *would* recommend?

Also; I discovered this website a week ago and have spent much of my time since then exploring reams of old posts. I'm excited - this community is definitely going to improve my eating for the better.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. One tip. If you only have one afternoon for wineries, and are staying/eating dinner in the Healdsburg area, stay in that area for your wineries or you'll spend all of your time driving back and forth. The Healdsburg greater area includes Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley, so you're not deprived. I don't know about champagne/sparkling wine up there, but others will know more. Many very good reds, especially Zins, there. I'm sure you've found many postings about those wineries.

    1. j is still fun but i would skip DCK. I had dinner two weeks ago, not good. They say Charlie is in the kitchen now but I son't think so. Try Cyrus or Madrona Manor in Healdsburg or Syrah in Santa Rosa.

      1. Don't miss Iron Horse for sparkling wines. They are fantastic, and their tasting "room" is really an outdoor bar overlooking the vineyard/rolling hills. It's gorgeous. $10 tasting fee (for about 5 pours), no rezzies required. FYI: they close at 3:30.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mbaldauf

          Iron Horse is your best bet for Sparkling.

          Addendum: Ooops...I forgot to check the date, and see now that adk posted a trip report below.

        2. Joseph Swan in Forestville is worth a visit and they're open without appointments on Saturday.
          http://www.swanwinery.com/

          1. We went to DCK back in July when we were too late to get into Willi's Seafood Bar. Given some of the reports on this board and others, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the meal was. The foie gras (with vanilla salt) was perfect, the duck excellent, and the popcorn sherbet with the dessert was amazing. I was also impressed by how gracious the staff was, given that we barely squeezed before the kitchen closed. While I would definitely go to Cyrus as a first choice (which was where we had dinner the night before), DCK was a good back-up option.