Chalk Hill Wine Region and Appellation
The founder of Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery only discovered his property by flying over it in a small plane, but that's not too surprising: from the ground, the Chalk Hill area is easy to miss. Starting in Windsor, drive up Chalk Hill Road and you're likely to see only the briefest of vineyard vistas through the trees before you're already in Alexander Valley—despite the fact that Chalk Hill is one of most esteemed winegrowing areas in Sonoma County.
Carved out of a curious northeast corner of the Russian River Valley AVA, the Chalk Hill AVA, awarded in 1983 then revised in 1988, is defined by its warmer climate and white, quartzite-rich volcanic soils. There are more than 1,400 vineyard acres here, but just five 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
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" is named for the chalky white ash— more specifically, quartzite-rich volcanic tuff—that characterizes its soils. Though Chalk Hill AVA is a sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley AVA, it's somewhat warmer, with less cool fog and more moderating breezes.
Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery, founded in the 1970s, defines the region's wines and wine tourism with its hospitality center, equestrian center, and culinary program.
The 710-acre estate at Windsor Oaks Vineyards includes 210 acres of vineyards planted with 16 different varieties of grapes. Windsor Oaks supplies grapes to several wineries, including its sister operations, Notre Vue Estate Winery & Vineyards and Balverne Wines.
Gonzague & Claire Lurton, fourth generation winemakers from Bordeaux, planted roots in Sonoma County. Their property Trinité Estate, and its signature red blend Acaibo, showcase the breathtaking beauty and high quality wines of the Chalk Hill area.
Albini Family Vineyards farms Merlot and Zinfandel just east of the town of Windsor, while Calluna Vineyards, set adjacent to Trinité, strives to produce the finest Bordeaux-style varieties.
Partly due to Windsor Oaks Vineyards' extensive plantings of different varietals, which they sell to many wineries, you'll find Chalk Hill designated wines throughout Sonoma County, from venerable producers like Rodney Strong to small-production projects like Arnot-Roberts.
Restaurants and Lodging near Chalk Hill
Nearby in Windsor, Hampton Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Windsor Wine Country, and Holiday Inn Express Windsor provide lodging. Just 10 minutes away from the Chalk Hill area, the town of Healdsburg also offers an extensive selection of restaurants and lodging.
Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight
Sonoma County Appellations (AVAs):
Carneros - Sonoma
Dry Creek Valley
Fort Ross - Seaview
Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak
Russian River Valley
West Sonoma Coast