Two Sonoma AVAs for Can’t Miss Zinfandel

Sonoma County is worlds away from its eastern neighbor, Napa.

The 18 distinct wine growing regions in the county each have their own climate, soil types, preferred grape varietals, and styles. One thing that does thread though the entire county is the focus on smaller and independent wineries which stands in contrast to some of the chateau structures and mega wineries on Highway 29 in Napa.

Russian River Valley

The Russian River Valley was settled in the 1870s and now has almost 16,000 acres of vines planted. Heavily influenced by fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean, the climate is well suited to both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The area is also home to 11 other grape varietals, including some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in the region.

The Russian River Valley is divided into 6 distinct neighborhoods each with their own characteristics. The Santa Rosa Plains are home to Martinelli Winery. This neighborhood is closest to Santa Rosa and is known for old vine Zinfandel.

Another neighborhood is the Eastern Hills where we find Limerick Lane. This is the farthest north area in Russian River Valley and it receives the lowest amount of fog. The area also gets more sun as it is nestled along the western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains.

Alexander Valley

First settled in 1840 by Cyrus Alexander, this area now has 14,000 acres planted with 31 wineries in the AVA. This is the largest AVA in Sonoma County. The first winery appeared in 1889 and like many other American wine regions the area struggled during Prohibition but grape growing was revitalized in the 1960s.

While the area is primarily known for Cabernet Sauvignon, other varietals including Zinfandel do well here. The weather is largely moderate with dry summers, wetter winters, and breezes moving in from the south from the San Pablo Bay. The area is broken up into mountain slopes, the benchlands and the valley floor. Most wine is produced in the benchlands due to the superior soil found there.

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