By Katie Fonsen Young
The 2014 Harvest Fair is pleased to honor David Stare, founder and owner of Dry Creek Vineyard, for his Lifetime Contribution to the Sonoma County Wine Industry. Few people have had as significant an impact on the quality and variety of the wines produced in Sonoma County as David Stare. And few have been as vocal and persistent in spreading the word about the wines being made in the county, putting the region on the global map for world-class wines.
“I was the first who started beating the bushes,” says David Stare, “talking about how great Sonoma County wines are and raising awareness of our wines throughout the States and in Europe.”
In many ways, Stare is a pioneer. He came west in the late 1960s with little more than a dream, a solid work ethic and determination. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked for the B&O Railroad for several years but quickly realized that his true calling was in the wine industry. Inspired by his trips to the Loire Valley in France, Stare’s original plan was to move to France to build his own French chateau. However, after reading about the burgeoning wine industry in California, he knew that coming west to start his winery was the right move to make.
“It was 1971 and I was studying winemaking at UC Davis during the week and searching for vineyard property on the weekends. It was on one of those visits that I discovered the Dry Creek area and immediately fell in love,” he says.
Stare set his sights on an old prune orchard across the street from the Dry Creek General Store and promptly ripped out the fruit trees and began planting grapes. He says he liked the area “because it was undiscovered and affordable, yet it seemed to have everything needed to produce excellent wines.”
“In Sonoma County in the 1950s and ‘60s a lot of people were producing great, old fashioned country reds and whites. It wasn’t until the 1970s that we realized we could grow high quality grapes and produce world-class wines.”
Because Stare’s inspiration was the Loire Valley, Sauvignon Blanc figured to be a prominent wine in his initial Dry Creek Vineyard portfolio. However, after consulting with several famed vineyard managers, he was advised against planting it. Hearing Stare tell the story is a bit like listening to a gun slinger recounting a shootout.
“They told me Sauvignon Blanc would never grow in the Dry Creek Valley. I appreciated their advice but I knew I had to stick to what I knew was right. I was going to plant this varietal come hell or high water.”
It turned out to be one of his best decisions and one of many notable firsts, including:
First new winery in Dry Creek Valley since Prohibition
First to plant Sauvignon Blanc in the Dry Creek Valley
First to produce a Fumé Blanc in Sonoma County
Initiated the Dry Creek Valley appellation and released the first label
Ranked among California’s first proponents of Bordeaux-style blending
First to release a wine using the descriptor ‘Meritage’ on the label
First to champion Zinfandel among world-class vintners
First to consistently use the term “Old Vines” Zinfandel
First to release a Zinfandel from the “Heritage” clone selection
Today, Dry Creek Vineyard is the standard bearer for Fumé Blanc in Northern Sonoma County. Over the last 40 years, the winery has also developed an international reputation for its Dry Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandels and Bordeaux varietals, and Stare has created a legacy as one of Sonoma County’s founding and foremost vintners. His daughter Kim Stare Wallace now runs the family business and the winery is flourishing.
The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is proud to honor David Stare for his lifetime contribution and long-lasting impact on the Sonoma County wine industry and will celebrate him during the annual awards ceremony and dinner to be held September 28 at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. The celebration will be open to the public with tickets available at harvestfair.org starting August 18.
The 2014 Sonoma County Harvest Fair will be October 3-5 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. For more information, visit harvestfair.org or call (707) 545-4203. You can also find “Sonoma County Harvest Fair” on Facebook.
Dry Creek wines are available in Hong Kong at fine dining establishments and online at CellarmasterWines.com.