The Best Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Wineries

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Itineraries

The Best Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Wineries

By Brooke Herron April 5, 2024

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 weekend itinerary.

Landmark Vineyards
Photo courtesy of Landmark Vineyards

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.

6050 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 833-0053

Bacigalupi Vineyards
Photo courtesy of Bacigalupi Vineyards

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.

4353 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 473-0115

MacRostie Winery
Photo courtesy of MacRostie Winery

Founded by pioneering winemaker Steve Rostie, MacRostie Winery & Vineyards continues its tradition of honoring the nuances of Sonoma County through its range of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, now made by winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen. MacRostie sources its Pinot Noirs grapes from 15 different sites around Sonoma, including in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. This process leads to a diverse expression of wine, created in small-batch fermentations.

With its picturesque views, welcoming tasting spaces, and excellent wines, a visit to MacRostie is a must for Pinot fans, inviting you to slow down and savor the sights and flavors of Sonoma Wine Country.

Insider Tip: Have you always wanted to sip Pinot Noir steps from where the grapes are grown? This is a place to do so, as the MacRostie Estate House is surrounded by their 14-acre Pinot Noir plot called Thale’s Vineyard.

4605 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 473-9303

Iron Horse Vineyards | Taylor Eason
Photo courtesy of Iron Horse Vineyards | Taylor Eason

Although Iron Horse Vineyards describes their Pinot Noir as a “rising star,” the proof is in the pudding…or should we say soil? With 160 acres, planted exclusively with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, Iron Horse prides itself on having the perfect sandy terroir to produce exceptional Pinot Noir. Techniques like cold soaking and aging in French Oak barrels further refine their excellent wines. These very vineyards are the setting for your wine tasting, of which only one experience is offered. At just $35 a tasting, a trip to Iron Horse Vineyards seems like a steal. You’ll have sweeping views of the vineyards and several delicious Pinot Noirs to sample.

Insider Tip: If Pinot Noir is Iron Horse Vineyards’ up-and-comer then sparkling wine is their mainstay. Don’t miss the chance to sample at least one glass of their signature bubbly. It was served in the White House for six consecutive presidential terms, after all.

9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, CA 95448, (707) 887-1507

Gary Farrell Vineyards
Photo courtesy of Gary Farrell Vineyards

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: The Exploration Tour & Tasting offers a unique, behind-the-scenes look at how Gary Farrell Vineyards produces their wines. The experience begins with a guided tour of the winemaking facilities and grounds before the star of the show—a tasting of five wines paired with artisan cheese.

10701 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 473-2909

Williams-Selyem
Photo courtesy of Williams-Selyem

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, Williams-Selyem is home to a state-of-the-art winery and vineyards throughout the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.

Insider Tip: Tasting appointments at Williams-Selyem are exclusive to those on their “list” as the wines are highly allocated. Getting on said list requires purchasing wine from their twice-yearly allocations. There’s always a chance that non-list visitors can sneak in to a tasting reservation if you call or use the contact form on their website 48 hours in advance.

7227 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-6425

Pellegrini-Olivet Lane
Photo courtesy of Pellegrini-Olivet Lane

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.

4055 West Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401, (707) 545-8680

Dutton-Goldfield Winery
Photo courtesy of Dutton-Goldfield Winery

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.

3100 Gravenstein Highway N, Sebastopol, CA 95472, (707) 823-3887

Merry Edwards Winery
Photo courtesy of Merry Edwards Winery

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.

2959 Gravenstein Highway N, Sebastopol, CA 95472, (707) 823-7466