Sonoma Wine Country: Cheat Sheet

The ducks at the pond in Sonoma Plaza Park. Credit: Cory Sitko, Creative Commons.

Randy and I have just returned from a spontaneous wine trip to Sonoma, which occurred because of a graduation present from my parents (I just got a Master’s degree in special education). I plan on posting plenty of photos and reflections later.

I knew very little about Sonoma beforehand–other than that it was known for producing some of California’s–and the world’s–top wines.  I haven’t drunk much from there because I tend to drink from areas I’ve already been to, and this was our first time there.

So without further ado, here’s my version of a Sonoma cheat sheet, or the most important things to know.

1. The most important varietals are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.

2. The most important AVAs are Russian River Valley (RRV), Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley.

RRV=Pinot and Chardonnay;

Dry Creek Valley=Zinfandel;

Alexander Valley=Cabernet.

3. Sonoma is immediately west of Napa and parallel to it, but extends further north.

4. Sonoma has warm and cool parts, but is overall cooler than Napa, because it’s closer to the coast.  RRV is a cooler/more temperate area for the cool-weather grapes like Pinot and Chardonnay, and Dry Creek and Alexander Valley are warmer for the sturdier red grapes, like Zinfandel and Cabernet.

5. Russian River Valley has some of the best Pinot from California. Some critics claim it’s the best in the state. Tasting notes vary person to person, but I found it had a loamy, coffee quality to it.

And in case you didn’t know (but you’ve probably heard)…

6. Sonoma is considered a good value area.  While it does have some cult wines, it’s not nearly as popular as Napa.  Lots of critics think it’s equal in quality to Napa, however.  I found some great value Chardonnays here, but found that the Pinots and Zinfandels were priced like they know they’re good. :/ But overall, it can’t be nearly as exorbitant as some of the prices in Napa. And everything tasted great.

And those are the basic facts about Sonoma!


2 thoughts on “Sonoma Wine Country: Cheat Sheet

    1. I was almost surprised with the quality. I knew it was supposed to be good, but every winery was hit after hit. Usually there’s some clunky ones in there, but not here.

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