Monday, December 3, 2012

Russian River Valley Wines

Old World Winery
All wine lovers know Sonoma County for its wine making. However, not many are familiar with the fact that the Russian River Valley is one of 14 separate American Viticulture Areas (AVA) in the County.

 Usually, we think of the Russian River Valley as destination for water sports on the Russian River and hiking in the Redwoods. But,  it also the location of over 200 growers and 80 wineries. Chardonnay, pinot noir, zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, syrah, pinot grigio and gerwurtraminer are all varietals that grow in the Russsian River AVA. Plus, Korbel makes sparkling wine.  As a result, you find what ever  wine pleases you as you meander through the beautiful forests and hills of the Russian River AVA. The presence of the cool coastal fog that is essential to the growing environment of the grapes is a frequent reminder of how close you are to the ocean when you are in the Russian River Valley. As if wine tasting, water sports and redwoods are not enough, a trip to this beautiful area can always include a day walking on the beach and enjoying seafood.  This region truly has an embarrassment of riches to enjoy.

Russian River Winegrowers history
(From Russian River Valley Winegrowers)
Russian River Valley is a region rich in history. Grape growing and winemaking are integral to the story of the land and its past. The valley is named for the first non-natives to settle in Sonoma County. The Russians, who settled along the Sonoma coast at historic Fort Ross from 1812 to 1841, left a significant impact on the area. They found this region optimal to hunt sea otters for their furs and to provide food and staples for Russian colonies in Alaska. Agriculture, including viticulture, was a primary goal in this endeavor and the fertile soils of the Russian River Valley provided a region apt for farming and sustaining their outposts.
(complete story)

 From SF Examiner
Merry Edwards vineyard(photo via through my lens)
The San Francisco Chronicle suggest the following winemakers you should not miss:

 "Porter Bass: 11750 Mays Canyon Road, Guerneville, (707) 869-1475, tasting by appointment This incredibly modest, family-run business is making some of the best wines in the state. There are no bells and whistles, just roosters and ladybugs. Purchased by the Bass family in 1980, Porter Bass supplies fruit to Ted Lemon and others. In 2001, under the direction of son Luke Bass, Porter Bass started making its own wine. Now a fully fledged Demeter-certified producer, Porter Bass truly walks the walk. All of the wines are restrained but still expressive and, above all, balanced. If there is one to try — just one — it is the 2009 Heintz Vineyard chardonnay ($30).

 Porter Creek: 8735 Westside Road, Healdsburg, (707) 433-6321, open daily 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., no tasting fee Porter Creek is a must-stop if for no other reason than the chickens and roosters that greet you on the way to the tasting room. The staff inside are just as friendly and also really know about the wine. Founded by George Davis in the 1970s, his son Alex is now the winemaker, and he converted the estate to organic and biodynamic viticulture. Fruit is sourced from other vineyards as well, but the real standouts here are the two pinot noirs, one from the Fiona Hill Vineyard ($42) and one from the smaller-production Hillside Vineyard ($65) that is made from 44-year-old vines.

 Merry Edwards, 2959 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, (707) 823-7466, open daily 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., no tasting fee Merry Edwards has become a darling of the alternative pinot noir movement (wines that have balance and are not all fruit and alcohol) in the past five years. Prior to this, she had cult status since founding her winery in 1997. It is hard to narrow down one wine to taste. She makes a sauvignon blanc and a chardonnay that are both worthy, in addition to her variety of pinot noir. Go taste for yourself, as several wines are always open.

 Marimar Estate: 11400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, (707) 823-4365, open daily 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., tasting fee $10 to $45 Joseph Swan: 2916 Laguna Road, Forestville, (707) 573-3747, open 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, no tasting fee Littorai: 788 Gold Ridge Road, Sebastopol, (707) 823-9586, tasting by appointment, $30 Balletto Vineyards: 5700 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa, (707) 568-2455, open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., no tasting fee


For a listing of more wineries in the Russian River Valley click the following link:
Russian River Wineries

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