Of all the wine producing regions in California, Sonoma County is one of the most highly regarded, having had a long and fruitful history which has helped shape the American wine industry. Within Sonoma County, we find the AVA of Russian River Valley, a beautiful viticultural area centred around the Russian river, and responsible for around one sixth of Sonoma’s high quality wine production. The vineyards of the region were first planted some two hundred years ago by immigrant communities coming over to California. At first, the vines planted here were generally for private consumption - a reminder of home gardens in Spain and Italy - but by the beginning of the twentieth century, business was booming with a couple of hundred wineries in operation, thanks to the unique nature of the terroir and the effectiveness with which the grapes were growing.
The Russian River Valley is renowned worldwide for the character and quality of its wines, which are the result of the region’s perfect, cool climate, which is affected by the Pacific fog which rolls in over the valley. This coolness tempers the strong sunshine of the area, and allows for a longer, slower ripening season - thus adding character and expression to the grape varietals which grow there. The main vines grown in Russian River Valley are cool climate grapes - Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - which make up for over forty percent of the grapes grown there. The hillier parts of Russian River Valley have had great success with Syrah and Zinfandel, and other parts of the region are experimenting successful with Bordeaux grapes, too.
The green skinned grapes of the Sauvignon Blanc varietal had their origins in Southern France, where they are still widely grown and used for many of the excellent young and aged white wines the region is famous for. Today, however, they are grown in almost every wine producing country in the world, and are widely revered for their fresh and grassy flavors, full of tropical notes and refreshing, zesty character. Sauvignon Blanc grapes thrive best in moderate climates, and ripen relatively early in the year. This has made them a favorite for many wineries in the New World, where they can still produce healthy and high yields in the earlier part of the summer before the temperatures become too hot. Too much heat has a massively adverse effect on Sauvignon Blanc, as the grapes become dull in their flavor, and the wine produced from them loses all its unique character and high points. As such, Sauvignon Blanc farmers have had a lot of trouble from global warming and climate change, as they are being forced to harvest their crops increasingly earlier in the year when it is cool enough to do so.
Of all the New World wine countries, perhaps the one which has demonstrated the most flair for producing high quality wines - using a combination of traditional and forward-thinking contemporary methods - has been the United States of America. For the past couple of centuries, the United States has set about transforming much of its suitable land into vast vineyards, capable of supporting a wide variety of world-class grape varietals which thrive on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coastlines. Of course, we immediately think of sun-drenched California in regards to American wines, with its enormous vineyards responsible for the New World's finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, but many other states have taken to viticulture in a big way, with impressive results. Oregon, Washington State and New York have all developed sophisticated and technologically advanced wine cultures of their own, and the output of U.S wineries is increasing each year as more and more people are converted to their produce.