One of Sonoma County’s 19 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), the Russian River Valley AVA spans over 150 miles and 15,000 acres. Home to 90+ wineries, the Russian River Valley AVA makes up close to one-sixth of Sonoma County’s total planted vineyard acreage. Within the larger Russian River Valley appellation there are two sub-appellations or sub AVAs: the Chalk Hill AVA and the Green Valley AVA.
The Russian River Valley is best known for pinot noir and chardonnay. It’s really this region that put California (and Sonoma County) on the map as a world-class quality pinot noir and chardonnay producing region, and the wineries below have played no small part in contributing to that reputation.
Pick and choose from the below wineries to craft the perfect Russian River Valley pinot noir itinerary.
Crafting wines sourced from hallmark Russian River Valley pinot noir vineyards, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery was established in 1982. Considered one of a few quintessential Russian River Valley pinot noir and chardonnay producers, the winery is known for producing wines of balance and elegance, made with fruit sourced from some of the most iconic vineyards in the Russian River Valley. The winery’s focus on vineyard sites is evidenced in the large number of single vineyard chardonnays and pinot noirs they produce (more than 10 of each though many are members-only wines).
Gary Farrell made Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 wineries list in 2020 and has won numerous other awards and accolades over the decades, including regularly being awarded with very high scores for their pinot noirs by publications like Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator.Insider Tip: Opt for the Library Tasting (newly added to the winery’s tasting experience menu) to experience wines that have spent a little bit more time in the bottle and learn about how wines age. *This experience is only available Monday through Friday.
Established in 1979 by Burt Williams and Ed Selyem, Williams-Selyem was founded in a garage (and known by another name) as a home winemaking project before growing into one of the most highly regarded wineries and pinot noir producers in the U.S. over the following decades. Williams-Selyem wines have been served at some of the most prestigious events in the U.S. including at the White House. The winery was also the first in U.S history (and in North America) to have a pinot noir awarded a perfect score by a major wine publication in 2009 (for their 2007 Litton Estate Pinot Noir).
Today, the winery and vineyards are home to a state-of-the-art winery and the winery owns prime vineyard sites and vineyards throughout the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.Insider Tip: Tasting appointments at Williams-Selyem are available only to those on their list as the wines are highly allocated. To inquire about a place on the winery’s list, submit an inquiry via the website.
Landmark’s Hop Kiln Estate tasting room is housed inside the winery’s historic stone hop kiln building, a registered California historical landmark. Offering unique indoor and outdoor tasting experiences in their historic stone building or out on the lawn and courtyard, which feature expansive views of the estate, Hop Kiln Estate is recognized for being one of the most unique historic sites in Sonoma County.
Landmark sources fruit from vineyards that each claim a unique microclimate and soil composition, laying the groundwork for great wines that start with stellar fruit that express the terroir of the sites where they were grown. In addition to Landmark’s estate grown Russian River Valley pinot noirs and chardonnays, the winery also offers pinot noirs and chardonnays made with fruit sourced from cool vineyard sites in Santa Barbara County, Monterey County, and the Sonoma Coast.Insider Tip: Not sure if you’ll have time for lunch between tastings? Landmark’s Hop Kiln estate tasting room offers curated cheese and/or charcuterie platters to enjoy with your tasting. Reserving ahead is advised.
Situated on Westside Road just a few miles south of the town of Healdsburg, Bacigalupi Vineyards is a family-owned winery that has been farming grapes in the Russian River since the late 1950’s. The winery is now run by the third and fourth generation Bacigalupis, who are focused on continued stewardship of the land, sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices, and minimal intervention winemaking.
The winery uses native yeast fermentations, bottles wines unfined and unfiltered, and crafts 100% estate grown and produced wines. Among the wines Bacigalupi Vineyards is best known for are their Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs.Insider Tip: Try the Champenoise method Blanc de Noir sparkling (made with pinot noir) if it is available for tasting. Aged 36 months before release, this wine could easily be mistaken for a high-end Champagne.
Founded in the ‘90s, Siduri’s focus has always been on pinot noir, made from fruit grown in cool coastal regions or sites. The winery works with vineyards up and down the West Coast from Santa Barbara County to the Willamette Valley, but home for the winery has always been Sonoma County. The winery makes a few different vineyard designate Russian River Valley pinot noirs and is located in Healdsburg (where the Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley meet).Insider Tip: Make reservations for lunch at the newly opened Lo & Behold restaurant just across the street from Siduri before or after your tasting.
Founded in the late ‘90s by Rick Moshin (a math teacher at the time), Moshin Vineyards is still completely family owned and operated. The winery specializes in estate grown, terroir-driven Russian River Valley pinot noirs, for which they regularly win awards and gold medals, and practices sustainable farming and natural winemaking processes. The winery practices minimal intervention winemaking – fermenting wines in small lots with native yeasts, no additives, and utilizing gravity flow versus pumping to move wines from the tank to the barrel to the bottling line.
Moshin hosts or offers a number of different events and experiences throughout the year including seasonal art shows, annual Summer Vineyard Walk & BBQ Luncheons at the crush pad, and Winemaker Meet and Greet tastings. Founder Rick Moshin and his family (both his wife and his sister assist in the running and administration of the winery) love to share their property and wines with guests.Insider Tip: Moshin is only open for tasting appointments Thursday through Monday.
The Pellegrini family, having worked with grapes and wine since the 1920s in San Francisco, arrived on their Olivet Lane property (then a plum and apple orchard) in the 1970s. They were among the first in the Russian River to plant pinot noir and chardonnay using heirloom clones. Fifty years later, the winery has some of the oldest pinot noir vines in the Valley and enjoys a reputation for both crafting iconic Russian River pinot noirs and farming grapes that are used by many of Sonoma County’s most prestigious pinot noir producers (Williams-Selyem, Merry Edwards, etc.).
Guests can reserve a casual tasting in Pellegrini’s tasting barn or opt for a catered lunch tasting to enjoy five wines served alongside a cheese and charcuterie lunch board catered.Insider tip: Keep an eye out for the winery’s friendly pet sheep, Nello, who thinks he’s a dog (loves to be petted and to be near people who have food) and roams around with a bell around his neck.
Located on the west side of the Russian River Valley, Dutton-Goldfield Winery started as a partnership between local grapegrower and fifth generation farmer Steve Dutton and winemaker Dan Goldfield in the late ‘90s. The winery is still independently owned and operated (something that is becoming increasingly rare in Sonoma County).
The focus at Dutton-Goldfield is on crafting wines made with fruit grown in cool, coastal vineyards that reflect the characters of these unique sites. The winery’s pinot noirs and chardonnays are made from fruit grown on sites within the Sonoma Coast, Petaluma Gap, Russian River Valley, and Green Valley AVAs.Insider Tip: Try the Dutton-Goldfield Riesling and/or Pinot Blanc if they are available to sample. These are wines produced in very small amounts and that are less common to find in the Russian River Valley, but are wonderful examples of what the appellation is capable of.
While Merry Edwards Winery only opened its doors in the Russian River Valley in 2008, the Merry Edwards brand was established more than a decade earlier and the winery’s vineyards in the Russian River Valley were purchased in the late ‘90s. Since the advent of the Merry Edwards brand, the winery has been lauded as one of the most iconic Russian River Valley producers in the history of Sonoma County.
The success of the brand can be credited to the dedication, passion, and talent of founder and winemaker Merry Edwards (one of the first female winemakers in California that graduated from the U.C. Davis winemaking program) who spent decades making wines (primarily pinot noirs) and consulting for other wineries while slowly building her own brand. The wines that Merry Edwards has been best known for (and that have graced wine lists of many of the most prestigious restaurants in the country for decades) are their Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noirs.Insider Tip: While in Sebastopol, we recommend visiting The Barlow (just 10 minutes from Merry Edwards Winery), for craft cocktails at Fern Bar or dinner at Blue Ridge Kitchen.