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Russian River Valley
ON THE ROAD WITH DAN
RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY -
What makes this appellation perfect for cool climate grapes is the daily interplay between marine air, coastal hills, and warmer protected valleys. The Russian River is an official AVA (American Viticultural Appellation) with very specific boundaries. The area includes the region defined by the Russian River and its tributaries, and also the area dominated by the cool coastal climate.
The other pages in this site include a short historical sketch, a discussion of vineyards, a focus on one of our favorite areas within the valley, and a description and illustration of how the climate and topography of this area work to create the unique growing conditions.
Russian fur trappers, from whom the area gets its name, settled the area, following the paths of the Indians from the Pacific Ocean and coming inland far enough to settle Sebastopol. Russians could not hang on to their distant outposts, however, in the face of the mass migration of Americans in the middle 1800s. Railroads were run into the redwood forests for lumbering, which brought a large influx of European immigrants.
With prime land exposed, the new settlers knew what to do, and began planting. The cool climate was ideally suited to apples, which became the dominant crop - supplemented by fruits and vegetables that made the new world feel like the old. Naturally, wine grapes found their way into the ground - for family use, of course.
For many years, the only wine industry in the area was a mass-market sparkling wine. Premium wines were not attempted as the area was thought too cool. After all, Napa Valley was believed to be the best wine growing area in California, and it was far hotter than the Russian River Valley.
The Superpremium Era