Healdsburg, located in the wine country of Sonoma County, overflows with world-class wine, food and everything that goes along with it. It is home to the three of the most important wine-producing regions in Northern California, the Russian River Valley, the Dry Creek Valley, and the Alexander Valley AVAs. AVA is an abbreviation for American Viticultural Area, a grape-growing region with specific geographic and climatic attributes playing an important role in how the grapes are grown and how they taste. Sonoma County is known for its many ‘microclimates’ that have different growing attributes in terms of temperature, elevation, soil type and more, and are separated by just a few minutes.
Russian River Valley AVA
The Russian River Valley is responsible for roughly one-sixth of the planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. It was granted AVA status in 1983 and was enlarged in 2005. This particular area is popularly known for its success in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 42 percent of the grapes harvested are Chardonnay and 29 percent of them are Pinot Noir.
With some parts of the river located just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the climate often consists of a cool, thick layer of fog in the morning, which often disperses throughout the day. This cooler climate leads to the grapes being higher in acidity, tending to be more balanced. During the winter, the Russian River expands, providing vital irrigation to the region’s vineyards during the late spring months. During the summer months, the warmth combined with the fog makes for a prolonged ripening period, helping to ensure that the grapes won’t over ripen, which can cause the flavors to change. Due to the long process, the harvest in the Russian River Valley tends to take place after its neighboring regions.
Millions of years ago, tectonic plates collided and a volcano erupted causing ash to cover layers of eroded bedrock. This created a sandstone of loam, also known as ‘Goldridge soil.’ Sub-AVAs include Chalk Hill and Sonoma Green Valley, which are located furthest from the ocean.
Some of the more recognized wineries in Russian River Valley are Twomey Russian River, Rodney Strong, J Vineyards, and J Rochioli Vineyards & Winery. During your visit, you can explore many wineries for delightful tastings, take bike tours to see the beautiful scenery, book horseback riding, and so much more. To find out more information about the Russian River Valley AVA and what to do when visiting, please visit here.
Dry Creek Valley AVA
Located just northwest of Healdsburg, Dry Creek Valley is formed by Dry Creek which is a tributary of the Russian River. Dry Creek flows for about 16 miles long and is 2 miles wide. Due to its proximity to Lake Sonoma reservoir, the climate tends to be a drier area.
Dry Creek Valley is widely known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, becoming one of the state’s highest Zinfandel producers. The most important white grape produced is Sauvignon Blanc. More than 50 wineries reside in Dry Creek and over 160 wineries produce wines that are sourced from Dry Creek AVA. Dry Creek’s climate is warmer and sunnier than its neighbor of Russian River Valley, hence why it can produce some bolder wines like Cabernet and Zinfandel, which require this type of climate.
If you are planning to visit Dry Creek Valley, here are some things to add to your itinerary! For those who are looking for more intimate settings and personalized wine tastings to those who are looking to simply sip on delicious wine and take in the scenery, there are wineries for everyone here. Visit Dry Creek Vineyards and taste test some of their award-winning Zinfandels and Sauvignon Blanc. You can also make a pit stop at the famous Dry Creek General Store to pick up some of your favorite picnic items at the corner of Dry Creek Road and Lambert Bridge Road For more information on what to do while visiting, visit here.
Alexander Valley AVA
Alexander Valley is located just north of Healdsburg, housing many wineries and vineyards. It is also the largest and most fully planted singular wine region in Sonoma County (Northern Sonoma is a combination of a few AVAs)! Highway 101 passes through the valley, along with the Russian River, which is surrounded by vineyards on both sides. The name comes from Cyrus Alexander, who was part-owner of the Rancho Sotoyome Mexican land grant. Alexander Valley was granted AVA status in 1984.
The climate in this valley is often characterized by fog in the early morning in the lower vineyard areas, burning off under the sun in the afternoon. Throughout the day, the Alexander Valley is one of the warmest areas in Northern California, following the common trend of dropping in temperature at night. Due to the warmer weather, the grapes are sufficiently ripened, while the skin remains hardened by cool night temperatures, leading to wines having rich and voluptuous notes. In recent years, Alexander Valley has been recognized for its quality of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, while Chardonnay, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese have been growing in popularity. Alexander Valley is where many wineries call home, some include Chateau Souverain and Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley Winery and Carpenter Wine.
While visiting Alexander Valley, you can be sure to find a vast variety of wines to taste, learn about and purchase. If you are looking for a quiet date spot or want to host a larger party, they have you covered. Alexander Valley Vineyards offer vineyard hikes, where you can walk through the vineyards, taste wines and enjoy a wine country boxed lunch for just $60 per person. This hike is offered daily, leaving at 10:30 a.m. Complimentary to visiting, you can join in a cave tour, taking you to the 25,000 square foot underground wine cave. These tours occur daily at noon and 2:30 p.m. For more information, please visit here. Home to many boutique wineries, Alexander Valley is more of an undiscovered and idyllic place to visit, proud of its small-town roots, and big-time Cabernet.
From wine-connoisseurs to those who are more novice and just looking to explore a new beautiful destination, Healdsburg is the perfect place for you! With rolling hills of lush greenery, historic landmarks, exquisite restaurants and beautiful places to stay, choose Healdsburg for your next getaway. Start planning today!