Russian River Valley/Chalk Hill/Green Valley

Russian River Valley, as seen from Benovia

Russian River Valley, as seen from Benovia

West of Highway 101, ranging from Santa Rosa and Windsor out to Occidental and Freestone, the Russian River Valley and Green Valley regions has a special affinity for growing Zinfandel grapes, while the closer you get to the Pacific Coast the better the conditions get for Pinot Noir.  The roads are easy to navigate, and the tasting room staffs are welcoming.  To the east, Chalk Hill is one of the newer appellations in Sonoma County.

Favorite Tasting Rooms in Russian River Valley

Balletto Vineyards – Originally, John Balletto grew the family business into the largest vegetable farm in Northern California, growing more than 70 different vegetables on 700-plus acres. Later, John and his wife Terri converted their land to vineyards and started selling fruit to well-known wine producers in Sonoma County.  They currently save about 10% of their grapes to produce premium wines under the “Balletto Vineyards” name.  Our favorite wines include their Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and their Sexton Hill, BCD Vineyard and Burnside Pinot Noirs.  5700 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa  (707) 568-2455

Benovia – Named after the winery founders’ fathers, this is a great find with several delicious Pinot Noirs.  Unfortunately for us, we always think of The Princess Diaries thanks to a silly remark from a friend (Genovia, Genovia, Forever will your banner wave!)  Aim for the La Pommeraie Chardonnay, and the Savoy and Bella Una Pinot Noirs at the very least.  3339 Hartman Road, Santa Rosa  (707) 526-4441  [reservation required]

Chalk Hill Estate – Chalk Hill is one of 13 appellations in Sonoma County, whose location between the cool Russian River appellation and the warm Alexander Valley helps it take advantage of the benefits afforded both areas. The spectacular 1300-acre winery property features 300 acres of vineyards, a hospitality center, a culinary garden, fishing and swimming ponds and more.  We are very fond of their Estate Chardonnay, Clara’s Vineyard Red Wine blend, and Chairman’s Club Cabernet Sauvignon.  10300 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg (707) 657-4837 

Copain Wines – Small winery focusing on stellar vineyard-designated wines.  Our favorites here were the Monument Tree and Tous Ensemble Pinot Noirs.  7800 Eastside Road, Healdsburg  (707) 836-8822

Dutton-Goldfield – A small-lot focused winery with great customer service in the tasting room.  The wines are crafted to express the personalities of their cool-climate vineyards.  A variety of excellent Pinot Noirs and several Chardonnays comprise most of the wine portfolio for Dutton-Goldfield, but they also produce wines made from Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel and Syrah. While here, we recommend you try as many of the wines as you can, including some of our favorites:  the Freestone Hill, Dutton Ranch, Angel Camp and Devil’s Gulch Pinot Noirs as well as the Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.  3100 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol  (707) 827-3600

Fog Crest Vineyard – If you come here for a visit, the winery has a lovely back patio overlooking the vineyards which makes a very enjoyable setting for a wine tasting.  The sun exposure, soil drainage, and soils combine to create a classic Burgundian terroir in the Russian River Valley and we are impressed by the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs here.  Our favorite wines include the Estate Chardonnay, Rosé and Estate Pinot Noir.  7602 Occidental Road, Sebastopol  (800) 931-2906

Freeman Winery – Elegant, cool-climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are made here in the Burgundian style.  If you come, everything is worth trying and buying, but the Keefer Ranch and Akiko’s Cuvee Pinot Noirs and the Chardonnay stand out for us.  1300 Montgomery Road, Sebastopol  (707) 823-6937  [reservation required]

Inman Family Wines – Small family winery focused on Pinot Noirs and grapes from the Russian River Valley.  We like the Thorn Ridge and Olivet OGV Pinot Noirs here.  3900 Piner Road, Santa Rosa  (707) 293-9576

Lynmar Estate – Lovely, relaxed tasting experience here at this beautiful property with great owners and staff.   Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are the focus here.  All of the Russian River designated wines are great, as well as the many single-vineyard wines such as Quail Hill.  There is a special place in our heart for the La Sereinité Chardonnay and the Bliss Block and Freestone Pinot Noirs.  In addition, Lynmar has some food options by appointment, utilizing organically grown produce from the beautiful adjacent garden. A separate “Bar” menu of small snacks is available without an appointment.  3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol  (707) 829-3374

Marimar Estate – Certified organic winery in Russian River Valley with a Spanish heritage.  We like the Chardonnay/Albariño blend, the Acero and Dobles Lías Chardonnays, and the La Masía and Mas Cavalls Pinot Noirs.  11400 Graton Road, Sebastopol  (707) 823-4365 and they also have a tasting room now at The Barlow, 6780 McKinley Street, Sebastopol (707) 823-9910 

Merry Edwards – Phenomenal Pinot Noirs are the focus here, each carefully coaxed into portraying the nuances of their individual terriors.  We buy almost everything made here, but particularly love the Olivet Lane, Klopp, and Coopersmith Pinot Noirs.  And the Sauvignon Blanc here may be the best you can find anywhere.  2959 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol  (888) 388-9050

Siduri – Ultra premium, single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from grapes sourced in California and Oregon are made here, although “here” isn’t that glamorous or scenic.  The Cargasacchi, Clos Pepe, Keefer Ranch, and Santa Lucia Pinots have been our favorites recently.  981 Airway Court, Suites E and F, Santa Rosa  (707) 578-3882  [reservation required]

Sonoma-Cutrer – Here you fill find a wide range of well-made Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  Only recently opened to the public regularly, this is a tasting room worth driving to, especially if you like Chardonnays (try the Les Pierres).  4401 Slusser Road, Windsor  (877) 797-3489

Favorite Food Stops in Russian River Valley

Ca´ Bianca – Comforting italian food with stellar homemade pasta in a quaint old building.  835 2nd Street, Santa Rosa  (707) 542-5800

Mom’s Apple Pie – Pies, pies, and more pies.  Also, not a bad place for a sandwich if you are in the area and need something quick.  4550 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol  (707) 823-8330

Rosso – Excellent Pizzeria and Wine Bar in the Creekside Center that draws a local, loyal crowd for their great pizzas.   Their salads are a great way to start, too. 53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa (707) 544-3221

Screamin’ Mimi’s – Freaking delicous ice cream at this center-of-Sebastopol spot where 12 and 116 cross.  6902 Sebastopol Avenue, Sebastopol  (707) 823-5902  

Wild Flour Bread – This small but popular bakery in a very small village makes their delicious products in a wood-fired oven.  Sticky buns, the Bohemian (apricot, orange, pecan) and their Cocoa Scone (with sour cherry, almond, and ginger) are among our favorites.   140 Bohemian Hwy, Freestone  (707) 874-2938

Willow Wood Market Cafe – Funky, quirky restaurant (and mini-store) in the heart of Graton serving delicious food.  9020 Graton Road, Graton (707) 823-0233

Other Links

Russian River Valley Winegrowers – Association promoting the Russian River Valley

Wine Road – Association of wineries and lodgings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys



Ca Bianca Italian Restaurant on UrbanspoonRosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar on UrbanspoonWillow Wood Market Cafe on Urbanspoon
Wild Flour Bread on UrbanspoonScreamin' Mimi's on UrbanspoonMom's Apple Pie on Urbanspoon


Russian River Valley/Chalk Hill/Green Valley — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Wine Tasting Ideas from Santa Rosa | Two Guys From Napa

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