Dry Creek Valley: Last of the Red Hot Peaches
Road Journals Blog—Surveying the endless acres of vineyards around Healdsburg these days, it’s hard to imagine that the area used to be known as the “buckle on the prune belt”—a rich fruit valley that bloomed every spring with things other than the grapes that today drive the local economy.
Ironically, it was only as far back as 1915 that one Ebenezer Bliss Watson of the United States Bureau of Soils reported that “in Dry Creek Valley, the grape-growing industry is decidedly on the wane.”
Valley soils, said Ebenezer, were found to be “more profitably planted to other fruits, notably the prune.” He also said that the then-ubiquitous peach trees were rapidly being replaced by more profitable fruits, notably plums, apples, and pears.
Needless to say, the grape crop made a bit of a comeback, but the peaches—not so much. In fact, by the time the husband-and-wife team of Brian and Gayle Sullivan bought Dry Creek Peach & Produce on Yoakim Bridge Road in 2000, it was the last remaining fruit farm in Dry Creek Valley, and the last peach orchard in all of Sonoma County.
The Sullivans knew nothing about peach farming (he’s a bonds trader, she’s a marketing exec), but concluded that saving the farm was a matter not just of principle, but of historic preservation.
They spent the next few years planting, pruning, and experimenting with dozens of varieties, and today, with the help of farm manager Eusevio Sayago, produce more than 30 tons of all-organic peaches, along with smaller quantities of nectarines, plums, pluots, figs, persimmons, lemons, and homemade jams.
In the summer months when the rural farm stand is open, people line up to sample rare and unusual yellow and white peach varieties that include Red Haven, Suncrest, Arctic Gem, and Autumn Flame. One bite of these juicy, peach-tacular marvels has completely spoiled me for the hockey pucks that usually pass for the stone fruit in my local supermarket.
For an additional bonus, head over to the bar at Hotel Healdsburg and sample one of Gayle’s fresh peach bellinis (composed of sparkling wine and peach puree)—a wildly popular item on the summer cocktail menu that will have you smacking your lips.
Do you know any great farm stands that are a must-stop?
This blog post was first published in August 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.