Top Ten Sonoma County Appellations

Top Ten Sonoma County Appellations

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  1. Russian River Valley
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    The Russian River Valley lies adjacent to and west of the city of Santa Rosa and incorporates the southern reach of the Russian River, where the river bends westward and cuts through the Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean. The AVA is characterized by regular cooling fog from the coast. The fog flows through the Petaluma Wind Gap and the channel cut by the river. The fog generally arrives in the evening or early morning and retreats before noon in the day. The appellation was granted AVA status in 1983 and accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. In 2005 the AVA was expanded by 30,200 acres to 126,600 by recognizing previously overlooked portions of the fog regions. Presently the Russian River AVA includes more than 15,000 acres planted to wine grapes. About 80 wineries are present in the Russian River Valley. The area is known for its success with cool climate varietals, notably Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
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  2. Sonoma Valley
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    Sonoma Valley is known for its unique terroir with Sonoma Mountain protecting the area from the wet and cool influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean. The Sonoma Mountains to the west help protect the valley from excessive rainfall. The cool air that does affect the region comes northward from San Pablo Bay through the Carneros region and southward from the Santa Rosa plain. Sonoma Valley has played a significant role in the history of California wine.
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  3. Dry Creek Valley
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    Dry Creek Valley in the Russian River Valley centers around Dry Creek, a tributary of the Russian River, and is approximately 16 miles long and 2 miles wide. The appellation is known particularly for its Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel production. Dry Creek Valley AVA is home to the majority of the Sonoma Gallo vineyards, who established winery facilities in the valley in the early 1990’s.
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  4. Alexander Valley
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    Alexander Valley runs along the Russian River north of Healdsburg to Mendocino County. It is one of the most densely planted vineyards in Sonoma County. Viticulture has existed in the area since the 1850s but the wine industry has only recently experienced success beginning in the 1960s with Simi Winery. Significant purchases of vineyard land by E & J Gallo Winery in 1988 and Kendall-Jackson in 1996 also raised the status of the Alexander Valley. Alexander Valley wines include Cabernet, Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.
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  5. Los Carneros
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    Los Carneros spans the low hills of the Mayacamas Mountains dividing both Napa and Sonoma Valleys just north of San Pablo Bay. The larger portion of the AVA stretches into Sonoma County with grapes grown here also being allowed to use the Sonoma Valley AVA designation. The area’s close proximity to the Bay has made it an ideal location for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production with producers from international Champagne houses such as Moët et Chandon (Domaine Chandon California), Taittinger (Domaine Carneros), and Cava producers planting vineyards or sourcing grapes from the area.
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  6. Sonoma Mountain
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    The Sonoma Mountains, includes the town of Glen Ellen and is bordered on the west by the Sonoma Valley AVA. The area is known for the diverse micro-climates that occur within the crevices and folds of the hillside terrain and as such is home to production for a wide range of varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Zinfandel.
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  7. Rockpile
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    Rockpile is situated at the northwest point of the Dry Creek Valley AVA, past Healdsburg. The area was first planted by Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Many of today’s vineyards were formerly occupied by a reservoir created by the Warm Springs Dam on the Russian River. The area is known for its fruity, ripe Zinfandels.
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  8. Sonoma Coast
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    Sonoma Coast contains more than 500,000 acres, mostly along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. It extends from San Pablo Bay to the border with Mendocino County. The appellation is known for its cool climate and high rainfall relative to other parts of Sonoma County. Pinot Noir grapes grow especially well in this region, where they benefit from slightly cooler day temperatures.
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  9. Knights Valley
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    Knights Valley occupies the boundaries between the southern end of the Alexander Valley AVA and the northern end of Napa Valley. Some of the earliest vineyards in the area were owned by Beringer Vineyards. The area is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon.
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  10. Chalk Hill
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    Chalk Hill is a sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley located near the town of Windsor along the foothills at the southern end of Alexander Valley and along the Santa Rosa plain. The name Chalk Hill comes from the unique volcanic soil of chalky white ash which enhances the planting of white wine varietals like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The majority of the region’s wineries are located on the western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains.
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  11. Fort Ross – Seaview
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    The 27,500-acre Fort Ross-Seaview American viticultural area is located in the western part of Sonoma County and contains 18 commercial vineyards on 506 acres. It lies entirely within the Sonoma Coast AVA and does not overlap other AVAs. Vineyards within this area are generally located on rounded ridges with summits extending above 1,200 feet consisting of steep, mountainous terrain made up of canyons, narrow valleys, ridges, and 800- to 1,800-foot peaks. The climate above 900 feet is influenced by longer periods of sunlight and is warmer than that in the surrounding land below.
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  12. Bennett Valley
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    Bennet Valley is one of Sonoma County’s newest AVAs and is a principal grape supplier to Kendall-Jackson. The AVA is surrounded to the south, east and west by the Sonoma Mountains and to the north by the city of Santa Rosa. The region receives a moderating effect on its climate from the Pacific Ocean through the coastal fogs and breeze that creep into the area from the southwest through Crane Canyon between Sonoma Mountain and Taylor Mountain.
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  13. Green Valley of Russian River Valley
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    Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA was formerly known as the Sonoma County Green Valley AVA. Located at the southwestern corner of the Russian River Valley AVA, its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean makes it one of the coolest appellations within Sonoma County. The climate in the Green Valley is even cooler than other parts of the Russian River Valley, and favors the cultivation of cool climate grape varietals. Seeking to connect the region with the more commercially successful Russian River Valley name, the appellation formally changed its name on April 23, 2007.
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  14. Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak
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    The Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Appellation is one of the highest elevation grape-growing regions in California. The AVA, which rises from 1,600 feet at its lowest point to 3,000 feet at the mountain’s peak, has grapes growing primarily at 1,800 feet and higher. The very high elevation of the mountain affects virtually every climatic element influencing wine grape production which includes fog cover, hours of daylight, daytime and nighttime temperatures, rainfall, and wind.
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  15. Links: Wine, Top Ten Wine Regions, Top Ten US Wine Regions, Top Ten Californian Wine Regions,

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