The Impact of Terroir in Russian River Wine Country

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The Russian River Wine Region encompasses over 150 square miles. Because of the AVA’s large size, it contains many microclimates with specific characteristics. Nonetheless, there are some general facts that can be claimed about the majority of the viticultural area.

The most defining of the valley’s terroir is fog. The Russian River winds through the rolling hills of the AVA and acts as a gateway for coastal fog. Nights and mornings are cool, as the fog creeps up the river and its tributaries.

Because of the prevailing cool temperatures, grapes are usually harvested 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. Hartford Court Winery makes several great wines that do the AVA justice.

Most of the soils contain significant clay and are suited for Chardonnay. Soils adjacent to the river are composed of sand and pebbles. They drain well and are usually planted with Pinot Noir. The hills are loamy and volcanic.

The many nuances of the Russian River Valley’s terroir has led to more specific AVA designations. The Sonoma County Green Valley AVA and the Chalk Hill AVA are located entirely within the broader Russian River Valley. These two sub-AVAs have distinct terroir characteristics.

The Impact of Terroir in Russian River Wine Country

Sonoma County Green Valley is very close to the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the coolest AVAs in California and produces much of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir used for sparkling wines from the Russian River Valley.

The Chalk Hill AVA is located entirely within the eastern part of the Russian River Wine Region. It is defined by higher elevation, warmer temperatures and volcanic rather than the primarily alluvial soils of the valley floor. This sub-AVA has heterogenous terroir within its own borders and grows many different varietals.