No wonder the founder of Chalk Hill Winery famously discovered his property while flying a small plane over it—the Chalk Hill area is easy to miss. Starting in Windsor, take a drive up Chalk Hill Road, and you may see no wineries and the briefest of vineyard vistas through the trees before you’re already in Alexander Valley. Yet it’s one of Sonoma County’s most esteemed winegrowing areas.
Carved out of a curious northeast corner of the Russian River Valley AVA, the Chalk Hill AVA is defined by its warmer climate and volcanic soils. Chalk Hill’s AVA status was awarded in 1983 but revised in 1988. There are more than 1,400 vineyard acres, and just four wineries.
Chalk Hill is known best for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Semillon, Syrah, Sangiovese and Zinfandel are also grown; even Pinot Noir, in the right exposures.
The Lay of the Land
The Chalk Hill AVA is named for the chalky white ash that characterizes the soils. It’s volcanic in origin, not actual chalk, despite the appearance of a bright cut in a small hill along Chalk Hill Road bearing a pair of signs that announce, “Chalk Hill”—it’s volcanic tuff.
Although Chalk Hill is a sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley AVA, it’s somewhat warmer here, with moderating breezes but less cool fog. From the town of Windsor along Highway 101, Chalk Hill extends east into a jumble of hills, opens to a pretty little valley planted in vineyards, and continues to 1,600 foot elevations tucked between Alexander Valley and Knight’s Valley AVAs.
Chalk Hill Estate, founded in the 1970s, defines the region’s wines and wine tourism with its hospitality center, equestrian center, and culinary program.
Low-key, production-oriented Windsor Oaks Vineyards & Winery, open by appointment, is home to the renewed Balverne brand and estate-grown Windsor Oaks wines.
Albini Family Vineyards farms Merlot and Zinfandel just east of the town of Windsor; Calluna Vineyards is on a mission to produce the finest Bordeaux varietals.
Partly due to Windsor Oaks Vineyards’ extensive plantings of 18 varietals, which they sell to many wineries, you’ll find Chalk Hill designated wines throughout Sonoma County, from venerable producers like Rodney Strong to new projects like Arnot-Roberts and Wind Gap.
Restaurants and Lodging near Chalk Hill
Nearby in Windsor, Hampton Inn & Suites and Holiday Inn Express Windsor provide lodging; a more extensive selection of hotels, B&Bs and restaurants are just ten minutes away from the Chalk Hill area, in Healdsburg.
Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight
Sonoma County Appellations (AVA):
Carneros - Sonoma
Dry Creek Valley
Fort Ross - Seaview
Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak
Russian River Valley