Northern Sonoma Wine Region and Appellation
Established in 1990, the 329,000-acre Northern Sonoma appellation is Sonoma County's second-largest AVA (after the Sonoma Coast), combining the better part of six other major viticultural areas. Only a couple of wineries use the region's Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and more, but both are household names that sell their wines in supermarkets across the nation.
The Lay of the Land
Northern Sonoma's landscape spans Chalk Hill and the Dry Creek, Alexander, Knights, Russian River, and Green valleys. Elevations range from valley floors to mountain peaks.
The borders the AVA serve largely to distinguish this broad area from the Sonoma Valley, Carneros, and the western part of the Sonoma Coast AVA.
Wineries may only use the word "estate" on their label if both the winery and vineyards that they own or farm are located in the same AVA. When the E&J Gallo company, which makes a large portion of wine sold in the U.S., sought the "estate" designation for their Gallo of Sonoma brand (now Gallo Family Vineyards), they could only do so when their wide-ranging vineyards fit into one AVA.
To this end, Gallo became the driving force behind a petition for a Northern Sonoma AVA. Their efforts came to fruition, and today Gallo Family Vineyards' makes their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from grapes grown in the Northern Sonoma AVA.
While traveling through the northern part of Northern Sonoma, just south of the sweeping vineyards of the Asti area, seek out area-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel at J. Rickards Winery.
In the Russian River Valley, Bacigalupi Vineyards has helped to make Northern Sonoma Chardonnay famous in their own quiet, behind-the-scenes way.
Restaurants and Lodging around Northern Sonoma
In Geyserville, Catelli's serves up gourmet comfort food in a romantic courtyard, and you'll find delicious wood-fired pizza and house-made salumi at Diavola. Less than a mile down Main Street, rooms at the family-owned Geyserville Inn look out on a vineyard and the Mayacamas Mountains.
Find more hotels and lodging here.
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
West Sonoma Coast