Russian River Wineries And Wines

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Their are currently over 50 Russian River Wineries and 200 growers in the AVA . The area covers over 150 square miles and over 12,000 acres of vineyards are planted, the majority being either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. The Russian River Valley AVA was established in 1983.

Most Russian River Wineries strive to use sustainable agricultural practices including the minimal use of pesticides. These environmenally sound forms of growing have proven to be ecnomically feasible over the years. There are two sub AVAs within the Russian River Valley named Sonoma County Green Valley, and Chalk Hill.


The first Europeans to settle in the area were Russian immigrants who arrived in the early 1800s. Yegor Chernykh planted the first vineyards in the Russian River Valley in 1836. Many Italian immigrants also contributed to the emerging wine industry. By 1890, a number of Russian River Wineries were in operation and there were several thousand acres planted to vineyards.

Phylloxera, Prohibition, and the Great Depression devastated the region’s wine industry. Like other parts of the state, it began to reemerge in the 1960s.

New vineyards were planted primarily with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which were suited to the foggy, cool weather. The popularity of Chardonnay and the reputation of the Russian River Wineries have increased hand in hand over the past years.

The La Crema 2002 Russian River Chardonnay is an exercise in exquisite simplicity. In my humble opinion, too many Chardonnays try to be too much with excessive oak. This wine stays true to the nature of Chardonnay, and is fruity, and refreshing.

Russian River Wineries And Wines

Until the 1980s, the region was known for agricultural products other than vineyards. Prior to this time, many of these areas were considered to be too cold to produce grapes suitable for jug wine production that the market demanded.


The Russian River Valley is comprised mainly of rolling hills. The 3 major regions of the Russian River Valley AVA are Green Valley, Laguna Ridge & Santa Rosa Plain, and The Middle Reach.

Green Valley is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and the coolest, producing much of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir used by Russian River Wineries to make sparkling wines in the methode champenoise style.

Laguna Ridge & Santa Rosa Plain is still affected by the fog, but it burns off earlier than in Green Valley. The Middle Reach is the furthest inland and the warmest of these climates.

Like most high-quality wine regions, the soil drains well, and fosters low-vigor vines with large root systems and scarce, flavorful grapes. Nights and mornings are cool, as fog creeps up the Russian River and its tributaries during the night.

Because of the prevailing cool temperatures, grapes are usually harvested by Russian River Wineries about two weeks later than nearby regions.

The combination of the high acidity from the cool weather and the ripe fruit development of two extra weeks on the vine produces complex, balanced wines. This is critical for Russian River Wineries that grow the historically fickle Pinot Noir.

Russian River Wineries, Wines, and Varietals

Pinot Noir is grown with considerable success in the cooler parts of Russian River Valley and is one of the few places in the world where this varietal does well consistantly.

Pinot Noirs made by Russian River Wineries are rated by most experts as on par with those from Carneros and the Williamette Valley in Oregon as the best producers of this varietal in the country.

The Hartford Court 2000 Velvet Sisters Vineyard Pinot Noir is an intensely delicate wine. It simultaneously has forward fruit flavors without upseting the balance of this finicky varietal. I personally love a great Pinot Noir because it is so food-friendly.