California’s Sonoma County is home to world-class wines and wineries, great restaurants, and many small family-run surrounded by stunning natural beauty. This important wine growing region has over a million total acres of vines, 190+ wineries, a rich history spanning for over 150 years in winemaking and 13 diverse winegrowing regions with every varietal of grape grown in California.
Key appellations within Sonoma County include:
Los Carneros is at the southern end of Sonoma County and straddles the borders of Napa and Sonoma. Cool winds, thin soils and little rainfall combined with a warm daytime climate moderated and cooled by the fog from San Pablo Bay makes Carneros ideal for Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay for both still and sparkling wines.
Sonoma Valley is the birthplace of the California wine industry. The Valley of the Moon is home to some of the earliest vineyards and wineries in the state starting with the vineyards of the Sonoma mission in 1823 and progressing in 1857 when Count Agoston Haraszthy, the father of the California wine industry established Buena Vista Winery, launching the commercial wine industry. The Sonoma Mountains block off the Pacific cooling influence but cool air does penetrate from the south, off the San Pablo Bay.
Russian River Valley is the largest area in Sonoma County, encompassing one sixth of Sonoma County’s vineyard acreage. This area has grown tremendously in the past 20 years as old apple orchards are replaced by grapevines. The cool climate yields highly expressive Pinot Noir and lean, restrained Chardonnay.
Sonoma Coast – with over 500,000 acres of which only 7, 000 are planted in grapes, Sonoma Coast has a cool climate and heavy rainfall. These factors contribute to slow grape maturation with optimum ripeness near the end of the growing season.
Dry Creek Valley, located north of Santa Rosa, still remains a rural setting with many family wineries along both sides of the river. Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc are important here with acreage in Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah growing.
Alexander Valley in the far northern region of Sonoma County covers an area east of the Russian River, consisting mostly of alluvial soils. The area has some of the highest daytime temperatures but a wide swing of nighttime temperatures. The primary varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The soils tend to impart a rich chocolate note to the Cabernet Sauvignon.