It seems that when most folks talk about Northern California Wine Country, Napa Valley (and County… and City) is brought up in casual discussion more often than her sister Sonoma (Valley…County… City). T3 is taking Northern California by storm, and while our highly popular (and often sold out) Wine Tour Experiences were born in the Napa area, but we’ve been learning that our good friends in the Sonoma Area want some of the action too! We figure we should share some interesting information about Sonoma County for our fans:
Sonoma County Fun Facts: Before jumping into the details, let’s look at some quick facts on the region.
- Located directly north of San Francisco and borders the Pacific Ocean
- Consists of 1 million acres of land (two times bigger than Napa Valley)
- The first vineyards in Sonoma were planted in the early 1800s, initially by Russian fisherman
- Made up of 12 “American Viticulture Areas” (AVAs). What’s an AVA, you ask? Well, upon an initial glance, we think we need a whole post just on this topic. But in summary, AVAs are wine regions based on geographical/climate differences.
Sonoma County’s American Viticulture Areas (AVAs): Because Sonoma County is so big, it has quite the landscape variety – mountains, valleys, rivers, plains, etc. And all of these climate differences change the way vines grow… and therefore, the make-up of the grapes… and ultimately, how the wine will taste.
While Sonoma County has 12 AVAs, there are four key regions.
Alexander Valley: 15,000 vineyard acres, 42 wineries
This area is located on the northern end of Sonoma County, and has warm days, relative to the area, and cool nights due to coastal fogs. Because of the warm days, it best grows grapes that do better in warm climates, including Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Wine says: “Alexander Valley is noteworthy among other Sonoma county appellations for the fleshy voluptuousness of its wines.” Voila! Been looking for a fleshy voluptuous wine? The Wine Bible notes that Alexander Valley Cabs are “agreeable with notes of chocolate warmth”. Chardonnays from this area are more bold, full-bodied that Chardonnays from cooler climates.
Russian River Valley: 15,000 vineyard acres, 70 wineries
The Russian River Valley is much cooler than the Alexander Valley as much of it is only 10 miles from the ocean. Naturally, this results in the production of more wines from grapes that grow best in cooler climates. This primarily includes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Chardonnays from the Russian River Valley will be less full-bodied than those of Alexander Valley, but more well-balanced. Pinots from here will have a lovely richness and and complexity to them. Grapes from this region are also used for Sonoma sparkling wines.
Dry Creek Valley: 10,000 vineyard acres, 50 wineries
This region is one of the oldest in Sonoma County, where one can see lots of old gnarled vines (indicative of old age). The climate is warm during the day with night/morning fog. This leads to a balance between typical maritime and inland climates. The warm days result in the region being known for producing Zinfandels and Cabernets. “Some Dry Creek zinfandels are big and meaty; others, soft and graceful. What the rest of them share is a sensual richness of flavor that can be irresistible.” (The Wine Bible) As far as white wines go, look for Sauvignon Blancs from Dry Creek.
Sonoma Valley: 14,000 vineyard acres, 55 wineries
Sonoma Valley has a variety of geography and climate as it sits at the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountans. This variability allows for a large variety of grapes to be grown in the region. This includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandels, Pinot Noirs, and Chardonnays.
What are some of your favorite Sonoma County Wines?
We’re proud to announce that our All-Star Marketing team has been diligently developing some amazing Experiences of Sonoma County, with plenty of help from our new relationships at some of Sonoma County’s finest Wineries, Vineyards, and Tasting Rooms! Stay tuned for news and updates!