Russian River Valley
Centered around the Russian River, the Russian River Valley AVA accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. The appellation was granted AVA status in 1983 and enlarged in 2005. The area generally lies between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa in the south, and Forestville and Healdsburg in the north.
The Russian River Valley has a characteristically cool climate, heavily affected by fog generated by the valley’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The area is known for its success with cool climate varietals, notably Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Russian River is a rain-fed waterway that swells in the wintertime and provides vital irrigation to the region’s vineyards during the dry season in late spring. In the summertime, the warmth of the season is tempered by the maritime influence of fog that facilitates a long, slow ripening period and limits the risk of over ripeness or “baked” flavors in the grapes. Harvest in this area often takes place at later dates than in its neighboring regions.
Russian River Valley is an area rich in history. Grape growing and winemaking are integral part to the story of the land and its past. The Russians, who first settled along the Sonoma coast at historic Fort Ross from 1812 to 1841, planted the very first grape vines in this area. By 1876 viticulture was well established in the Russian River Valley, and then after prohibition winemaking began again in the 1960’s when Bob Sisson, the University of California Farm Advisor for Sonoma County, began urging local growers to turn their focus toward cool climate grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the rest is history.
Vineyards in the Russian River Valley vary in size from small family-owned farms to larger ranches. The combination of the winegrower’s passion and experience blend with this perfect grape-growing region to produce the unique fruit character found in exceptional Russian River Valley wines.