Discover the Russian River Valley Wine Country
The Land of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
The story of small wine growers with big dreams”
Are you looking for the perfect getaway and outdoor adventure to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? Look no more and visit the Russian River Valley to enjoy world class attractions and explore an authentic wine country.
Why should you visit The Russian River Valley wine country? The Russian River is a premier wine region with a distinguished terroir, one of the finest terroirs in North America. Russian River Valley is a laid-back wine region with unmatched tranquility and serenity, where wine makers and winery staff are welcoming and hospitable. The Russian River Valley redwoods and wine country is an awesome destination that has a lot to offer – you can savor local organic cuisine, cruise along the riverbanks, enjoy breathtaking sights, sunshine and picturesque beaches or go kayaking or canoeing.
The Russian River Valley wine trail is filled with natural wonders, small and hidden off-the-beaten-path wineries, which you would never know about without your tour guide.
Top wine regions and wineries to visit in the Russian River Valley
The Russian River Valley was one of the first appellations to receive an American Viticultural Area designation in Sonoma County Wine Country in 1983. Home to 70+ wineries and over 15,000 acres of grapevines, the region is world renowned for superb Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wines. This is due to the cooling fog from the Pacific Ocean that blankets the area overnight, especially during summertime. However, the cool climate and longer growing season also produces a broad range of aromatic, fruit-focused, rich wines including Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.
The region is named after the Russian sea otter hunters who settled on the coast at Fort Ross and moved inland to establish farms in the 1830s. Grapes were planted initially at the coast then later in Freestone, Graton and Sebastopol, although prunes, cherries and apple orchards dominated these areas up until the 1970s. The Russian settlers abandoned the area in the early 1840s and vines remained untended until European immigrants arrived prior to the Gold Rush in 1849. By the late 1800s, the Russian River Valley had become more of a viticultural area and a number of wineries had been established, including Korbel Champagne Cellars (1882) and Foppiano (1896), both of which survived Prohibition from 1920-1933 and are still in operation today.
Much of the Russian River Valley has a wild and bohemian feel to it, with sparsely traveled country roads shaded by redwoods, manzanita, fir and oak trees, making small wineries and hidden gems extremely hard to find on your own – this is where our tour guides shine as they have developed privileged relationships with wineries and wine growers.
The historic Korbel Winery, for example, offers a Champagne Cellar Tour where you can learn about the step-by-step process of making champagne in the French tradition, as well as a Garden Tour featuring 250 rose varietals along with other plants and shrubs. There is also a gourmet delicatessen, should you wish to have an outdoor lunch here.
For spectacular views across the rolling hills of Sonoma County, a visit to Iron Horse winery is a must. This highly acclaimed winery offers an informal, down to earth, fun experience. At the rustic, outdoor tasting room, take your pick of Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and their signature sparkling wines. In addition to special Cuvées produced for top chefs, Iron Horse sparkling wines have graced the dining tables at the White House for several presidential dinners, including the historic Reagan/Gorbachev summit meeting. Tour and tasting by appointment Monday-Friday at 10:00 for $25 per person. Tasting is offered daily from 10:00 to 16:30 for $20.
Korbel Winery offers daily a 50-minute guided tour every hour from 11:00 to 15:00 through their historic champagne cellars and museum. If you wish to taste wines made by a renowned female winemaker, then be sure to visit Merry Edwards Winery. Merry was one of the first female winemakers in California, and a founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek in Sonoma County. Merry Edwards Winery was founded in 1997 with a focus on Pinot Noirs from Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations and, over the years, Merry has added Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs to her repertoire. In her 40-year career as a winemaker, Merry has received many awards and, in 2013, was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame and won the James Beard Award for Best Wine Beer or Spirits Professional in the US.
Additional wineries you may enjoy visiting in the Russian River Valley include Gary Farrell, Russian Hill Estate, Copain, Hartford Family Winery, Moshin Vineyards, Arista Winery, Corks Restaurant tasting room at Russian River Vineyards, Emeritus Vineyards, Woodenhead tasting room, Porter Creek Vineyards, Thomas George Estates and Sonoma-Cutrer among others. If you have special requests or have had wine from this region that you enjoyed and would like to visit a particular winery, please let us know.
The Green Valley: The Green Valley is the coolest and foggiest appellation and one of the smallest in Sonoma County, lies in the southwest corner of the Russian River AVA. While still famous for its Gravenstein apples, high demand and prices have led to an increase in viticulture in the valley, and there are now over 100 growers producing exceptional grapes. Due to its fine sandy loam soil, cool climate and lingering fog, Pinot Noirs from Green Valley are especially sought after for its fruity, lively acidity and beautiful structure. Wineries such as DeLoach Vineyards, Dutton Estate, Dutton-Goldfield, Emeritus Vineyards, Hartford Family Winery, Iron Horse Vineyards, Miramar Estate and Orogeny, offer visitors exceptional wines and a relaxing experience in this off-the-beaten-path wine region.
Heading north from the Russian River Valley, the drive along Westside Road towards Dry Creek Valley offers a scenic rural route lined with redwood, oak, eucalyptus, and bay trees, as well as rolling hills, and vineyards with beautiful panoramas of the distant Mount St Helena. Wineries along this route range from small family owned to large production facilities including Moshin, Porter Creek, Thomas George, VML, Arista, Matrix, and Armida.
Dry Creek Valley: At the end of Westside Road, you will reach the Dry Creek Valley appellation, renowned for its world-class Zinfandels. The Zinfandel grape is grown exclusively in California, and many of the vines in the Dry Creek region are over 100 years old. The route along West Dry Creek road is one of the prettiest in Wine Country with vineyards and wineries dotting the hillsides and valley floor. It is easy to wish one could stay here forever, ambling from winery to winery where winemaking traditions from the past blend with commitment to sustainable farming practices. With over 70 wineries to choose from, most still family-owned, you will have a chance to taste a range of Zinfandels from fresh and fruity to big, concentrated and intensely fruity. Sauvignon Blanc is the signature white grape of Dry Creek Valley, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc from this region have also been gaining recognition. Wineries worth a visit along West Dry Creek Road include, Wilson, Lambert Bridge, Martorana, Quivara, Preston, Bella and Ferrari-Carano.
For lunch and dining , there are several options
Healdsburg – The southern end of the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek appellations, has grown from a country town to an upscale, sophisticated, yet still very relaxed destination. If you wish to do a mix of dining, sipping, strolling and shopping, you will find a wide variety of restaurants, many of them award-winning, as well chic boutiques, art galleries, and wine tasting rooms across a few blocks.
Sebastopol – The southern end of the Green Valley and Russian River appellations, offers small-town rural charm, with a liberal, progressive, artsy, vibe that is often compared to Berkeley. Like many towns in Wine Country, Sebastopol has seen many changes in the form of an increase in new restaurants (reflecting the farm to table trend), shops and live music venues. It is now considered the arts and culture hub of western Sonoma. While the town still hosts an Annual Blossom Festival and Gravenstein Apple Fair the decline of the apple business, which began in the 1970s, has led to the surrounding orchards being replaced with vineyards.
Forestville – Located in the northern part of the Green Valley appellation, Forestville is known as the town where the redwoods meet the wine country. It retains its western town vibe and architecture, and many of the old buildings have been restored. Dining options here have expanded due to the emphasis on locally sourced organic produce, so you will find a variety of menus offering increasingly creative food combinations.
Guerneville is the largest of the lower Russian River towns, located mid-way between Monte Rio, Occidental, Forestville and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Picnic at a Winery – Several wineries offer salads and sandwiches onsite, while others welcome you to bring your own picnic (which can be purchased in towns along the wine trails and the Russian River towns) and enjoy it with a glass or a bottle of wine at the winery.
Graton Casino – Opened in November 2013, this gaming resort also offers a choice of upscale and dining options at four restaurants. So, if you would like to try your luck on the casino floor as well as dine, this is the place to visit.