One of the most exciting wine country regions in the world is the Russian River Valley. The Russian River Valley is the land of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and other cool-climate grape varieties. If you like these wines, you must visit the Russian River Valley. You will be in some of the most beautiful wine country in less than an hour’s drive from the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.
About the Russian River Valley AVA
Before we make suggestions for wineries to visit, let us talk about the region’s characteristics. Two bodies of water influence the climate of the region. First, the Pacific Ocean is just a few miles away from the Russian River Valley. The winds from the Pacific Ocean commonly pick up in the afternoons bringing a swift cool-down. The second body of water is the Russian River. The Russian River snakes its way from the north and turns west to empty into the Pacific Ocean. The soils in the region are a mix of sand and clay, which provide the vines with excellent drainage and promote the growth of healthy roots.
In the growing season, the Pacific Ocean and the river waters bring daily fog to the area. Morning fog means cold temperatures. However, by noon much of the fog burns off, and the vines enjoy the warm temperatures.
Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grape varietals in the Russian River Valley and is known for producing wine with rich, buttery, and tropical fruit flavors. The wines are often fermented in oak barrels, which gives them a signature vanilla and spice flavor. Some of the best Chardonnays from the region are known for their balanced acidity, making them a perfect complement to seafood dishes.
Pinot Noir is another popular varietal in the Russian River Valley, and it is known for producing wine with delicate, nuanced flavors and aromas. The grapes thrive in the cool climate, producing wine with bright cherry and raspberry notes. The Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley are often described as elegant and complex, with a silky texture and soft tannins. These wines are perfect to pair with roasted meats and rich sauces.
In addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Russian River Valley also produces excellent Zinfandel, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc. The region has a long history of winemaking, dating back to the 1800s when Italian immigrants first began planting grape vines. Today, the Russian River Valley is known for its sustainable winemaking practices and its commitment to preserving the natural beauty of the region.
Wineries we like in the Russian River Valley
Merry Edwards Winery
Merry Edwards is one of California’s great winemakers. She is famous for Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. In 2018, she sold the winery and retired from winemaking to enjoy the beauty of the Russian River Valley. The Merry Edwards winery is now in the hands of the famous French Champagne house, Louis Roederer.
The Merry Edward Pinot Noir wine along with other wineries nearby show beautiful black fruit, especially black cherry. The wines have soft tannins giving the Pinot Noir a beautiful mouthfeel.
The Merry Edwards tasting room near Sebastopol is currently open to visitors and curbside pickup. See more here.
Balletto Vineyards & Winery
The Balletto Family is an enjoyable story. At the ripe old age of 17, John Balletto began farming his parent’s vegetable farm. Later, when the Russian River Valley became a hotbed of Pinot Noir wine, John decided it was time to turn his vegetable farm into vineyards. Today blah sells most of the grapes to other wineries. However, he reserves a small amount, perhaps the best for the Balletto label.
Besides the Balletto Vineyards Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the winery has several other delicious offerings. We love the Pinot Gris, the Pinot Noir Rose, and the Sauvignon Blanc.
For a one-two tasting punch, you can visit both Merry Edwards and Balletto in one day. The wineries are very close. Check the map below to see the locations. Sebastopol has a terrific dining scene and some good choices for lodging. More about Balletto.
Lynmar is also a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay winery. This a beautiful hidden winery nestled on Frei Road. Lynmar Estate is a step above in entertaining visitors and guests. Two full-time chefs and an extensive hospitality staff provide a luxury experience for wine lovers. Reservations are required for any of the tasting and dining options. Lynmar is a fantastic experience. More about Lynmar.
Map of Wineries
Check out the wineries in the Green Valley AVA
The Green Valley AVA is a sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley. See the Green Valley Wine Trail