Sonoma County has many government-approved wine areas (appellations). The more well-known are Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley. Some recognize places like Sonoma Coast and Carneros. There are a few others you may not know, but probably should, as they produce some pretty special wines.
A small sub-appellation of Russian River Valley with a cooler micro-climate and soil type making it ideal for growing structured Pinot Noir and crisp Chardonnay. Look for this appellation on wines from Iron Horse, Dutton Estate, Marimar, and a few others.
|From Iron Horse Vineyards in the Green Valley sub-appellation|
It's inland, it's remote, has only a handful of small wineries, and grows exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the "big boys" getting fruit from here are for high-end Cabs are Beringer, Clos du Bois, and Kendall Jackson.
It's a sub-appellation of Sonoma Valley and that's a good thing as it's not part of the valley, but sits in the hills between Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley with some of the vineyards 2,000 above the valley floor. This area is known for it's mountain Cabernet and old vine Zinfandel, but you'll find Pinot Noir from the highly-regarded Hanzell Winery growing on the cooler southern slope of this region. Louis Martini, Repris, and others get fruit from up here. The Monte Rosso Vineyard has been in production since the 1880s.
If there was ever a place ideal for Cabs and Zins then it's right here. The elevation, soil, and proximity to a lake on one side and the Pacific a dozen miles away on the other make this area unique. There are no wineries, but only eight growers in a very remote area of the county. There are about 20 wineries getting fruit from here. If you see a red wine in your local store from Rockpile, buy it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
|Springtime in Rockpile|
It's all about the reds (mostly Cabernet and Zinfandel)
A few other small appellations in Sonoma worth exploring are Bennett Valley, Ft Ross-Seaview, and Sonoma Mountain.
|Morning fog in Bennett Valley |
An area known for Merlot and Syrah