Chalk Hill Wine Region and Appellation
No wonder the founder of Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & 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 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
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 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.
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.
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.
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 new 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 (AVA):
Carneros - Sonoma
Dry Creek Valley
Fort Ross - Seaview
Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak
Russian River Valley