The Russian River Valley, located in Sonoma County, California, has been home to winemaking since the mid-1800s. It’s one of the most established wine regions in California and features some of the most highly acclaimed wineries globally. Russian Valley AVA, centered around Russian Valley, makes up roughly one-sixth of Sonoma County’s total planted vineyard land.

In 1983, the appellation was given AVA designation, and in 2005, it was expanded. The region is roughly bounded on the south by Sebastopol and Santa Rosa and on the north by Forestville and Healdsburg. Russian Valley has a cool temperature, exacerbated by the fog created by the Pacific Ocean. The region’s cool-climate varieties, notably Pinot noir and Chardonnay, are well-known.

Climate And Geography

The Russian Valley AVA doesn’t include the entire Russian Valley, extending north into Mendocino County and southwest to the Pacific Ocean. The land in the areas was impacted by the North American and Pacific structural plates and ejections by volcanic vents that accumulated volcanic debris over layers of disintegrated bedrock, building unique geology over the years.

This brought about the development of “Goldridge soil,” a sandstone of topsoil. Goldridge soil is home to a portion of the area’s most renowned Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape plantations. Because of its ability to hold less water than Goldridge soil, Sebastopol soil has performed well with Pinot Noir.

The environment of the Russian Valley AVA is epitomized by a cool morning haze that streams in from the sea through the Petaluma Gap and wears off during the day. The wide temperature range is because of the cooling impact of the mist, with evening temperatures decreasing as much as 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit from daytime highs.

The mist directs the late spring heat, which allows for a long maturing stage and decreases the chance of overripe grapes. The coldest pieces within the AVA are the center and western areas, where Pinot noir and Chardonnay are planted.


The Russian Valley district’s viticulture started in the nineteenth century when outsiders from Mediterranean countries showed up and started developing grape plantations. While most grape plantations were for individual use, roughly 200 wineries emerged by the turn of the century.

The few grape plantations that stayed open after Prohibition offered their grapes to mass container wine producers. Grape plantations in the area didn’t start to focus on quality until the 1970s. In the late 20th century, the winery behemoths E and J Gallo and Kendall Jackson had a massive interest in the area.

Gallo bought the enormous Laguna Ranch grape plantation in 1970. The area was assigned AVA status in 1983. After some time, the region acquired a standing for delivering excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for both still and sparkling wine.

Did you know?

The Russian River Valley is one of the most highly regarded regions in the world for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Grape Varieties

According to the trade association Russian Valley Winegrowers, Chardonnay accounts for 42% of the grapes produced in the region, while Pinot Noir accounts for 29%.

Many microclimates inside the AVA are appropriate for Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Petite Sirah, Merlot plantings, and Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon has been established effectively in the hotter areas of Chalk Hill.

Indeed, even with non-Burgundian varietals, the crisp climate of Russian Valley is evident in the wine. Russian River Merlots, for instance, have a solid tea-like smell, and Dry Creek Zinfandels have more acidic red organic products than Russian River Zinfandels. For more articles, click here

On This Day

  • 1983: AVA status was awarded to the appellation.

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