From ocean current to inland heat, the prolific area cossets diverse climate varieties
Sonoma County stretches from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Mayacamas Mountains in the east, and is home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 425 wineries. Within the borders are 17 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs, or appellations), each with its own distinctive characteristics.
The warmth of the Sonoma Valley cradles rich Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons, while the cool, crisp Carneros nurtures juicy Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and sparkling wines. The Russian River has created a vast valley floor in both the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley AVAs. Maritime breezes and fog are dominant influences for grape growing with cool-weather varieties such as Pinot Noir to the south and west, and warm-weather varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel to the north and east.
The Russian River Valley accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County, with 17,000 vineyard acres and 50 wineries, and is mostly dedicated to cool climate grape varieties. The confluence of well-drained, soils, maritime and river influences providing cooling fog, and warm summer afternoons are ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The moderate temperatures ensure that fruit maturity is achieved without loss of depth and suppleness, resulting in wines that are uniquely ripe and elegant.
Being tagged as one of the "hottest" new regions in the county, Sonoma Coast is, in fact, its coolest. A place so close to the Pacific, with more than twice the annual rainfall of its inland neighbors, can still be warm enough to ripen wine grapes to their fullest flavour potential. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay shine, along with cool-climate Syrah. The area counts 5,000 vineyard acres and 7 wineries (and a few more that overlap with other AVAs).