Russian River Valley
Bubbles, and Pinot Noir, oh my!
Explored by the Russians based at Fort Ross in the 1840s, the Russian River Valley is much less compact than either Sonoma or Napa valleys. Cool-climate loving grapes—which produce opulent wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris—thrive in this large region which is remarkably diverse with sandy river beaches, apple orchards, rolling hills covered in vineyards and prime redwood country. More than 50 wineries producing a wide array of varietals are spread out in many directions, and there is no one wine route to follow; instead, a network of small country roads connects the smaller valleys and appellations of this wine region. This makes for great exploration, as it is less congested, so you can make impromptu stops at stellar wineries, big or boutique.
The charming town of Healdsburg is at the heart of the Russian River Valley and is a good jumping off point for winery exploration. One such wine route from there would be popular Westside Road. On this curvy forest-shaded two-lane road, you’ll find numerous wineries such as Arista, C. Donatiello, Rocchioli or the spectacular new Williams Selyem tasting room. Another choice would be to head out Eastside Road toward the Old Redwood Highway and hit Limerick Lane Cellars, Rodney Strong and J Vineyards (for bubbles!). Optionally, if you take River Road heading toward the Pacific Ocean, expect to find the sprawling chateau-like Kendall Jackson near Windsor; you can also stumble upon Benovia, Martinelli or Korbel in this area, to name just a few. For specific winery driving trails and detailed directions, check out: www.rrvw.org, the Russian River Valley website.