Russian River Valley
The first non-native settlers of Sonoma County -- the Russians -- settled in the area from around 1812-1841. Finding the region perfect for agriculture, they cultivated the land, sending food and other necessities to their colonies in Alaska. No one knows exactly when the Russians first decided to plant grape vines, though historians believe the early plantings at Fort Ross were the first in Sonoma County -- cultivated long before the Gold Rush of 1849. The Russians abandoned their outpost in Northern California in 1841, but settlers from wine-producing European countries continued to develop the viticulture of the area.
According to historic reports from the period, by 1876 the Russian River Valley area produced an excess of 500,000 gallons of wine from about 7,000 planted acres of vineyard. The name Russian River Valley was first used on a bottled wine in 1970, and the region became an official American Viticultural Area in 1983.
The Russian River Valley climate is influenced primarily by the regular intrusion of cooling fog from the Pacific Ocean a few miles to the west. Much like the tide, it ebbs and flows through the Petaluma Wind Gap and the channel cut by the Russian River through the coastal hills. The fog usually arrives in the evening, often dropping the temperature 35 to 40 degrees from its daytime high, and retreats to the ocean the following morning. This natural air-conditioning allows the grapes to develop full flavor maturity over an extended growing season, often 15 to 20 percent longer than neighboring areas, while retaining their all-important natural acidity.
Sustainable farming means we engage in practices that meet the wine-growing needs of the present without threatening the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It differs from organic and biodynamic farming in several ways, most importantly in that it requires continuous improvement versus simply meeting certain standards.
We are always striving to improve our strategies to conserve energy, water, materials and other resources, along with our practices to prevent pollution and waste. We believe it’s important to do our part for our community today, and for generations to come.
The geologic history of the Russian River Valley is both active and recent. Several different events, some of which are ongoing, have shaped our topography and given rise to the multitude of soil types that occur in the region. The western-most portion of our county is bisected by the San Andreas Fault, a boundary between two tectonic plates, the Pacific and the North American. As the Pacific plate slides obliquely against the North American plate, it has created uplifting. In the western-most part of the AVA the geologic formation that predominates is known as the Franciscan formation and consists of rocks that were jumbled and mixed in an ocean trench far from here. The deposit was left at the edge of the North American plate as an ancient oceanic plate slid beneath it from 42-140 million years ago, now uplifted and eroded by wind and rain. The resulting soils are often quite rocky and well drained. About 3 to 5 million years ago, volcanic eruptions from the Sonoma Volcanics to our immediate east deposited deep beds of volcanic ash on the shallow sea bottom.
The resulting rock is known as the Wilson Grove Formation. Continued uplifting and the resultant erosion has given rise to a number of related soil types, with goldridge fine sandy loam being the primary type. It is extremely well drained. Erosion of the flanks of the volcanic vents formed much of the soil of the Santa Rosa plain. These soils tend to have a higher clay content, are shallow to very deep and vary in their drainage. Continued uplifting resulted in the Russian River changing course, cutting a path down the valley and across what are now the coastal hills, and leaving deep deposits of eroded material including beds of alluvial gravel, sand and clay in terraces along its course. These soils are also typically very well drained. Each of the various soil types has a sometimes subtle, sometimes profound effect on the grapes growing upon them.
By continually reducing our carbon footprint, we’re aiming to neutralize our winery and vineyards’ carbon impact. Wine starts in the vineyard, which is where we started reducing our greenhouse gases by choosing sustainable farming. We are also certified as Fish Friendly Farmers in all of our vineyards and we’ve turned the roof of our barrel building into a solar power plant.
Our barrel building does more than just keep our barrels cool! The roof is covered with enough solar panels to reduce our electricity needs by about 35%, and in turn greatly reduce the environmental impact that would otherwise occur from commercial power production. The solar project is just one part of our ongoing effort to be an environmentally responsible business within our community.