Stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Mayacamas Mountains in the east, Sonoma County is the largest wine producer in Northern California's Wine Country region, which also includes Napa, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. Sonoma County wines enjoy global recognition and have won countless national and international wine awards since the 19th century.
Why is Sonoma County such a good region for wine?
Two prime reasons: climate and soil. Sonoma County offers grape growers a wide variety of climate and soil conditions, known as terroir.
The climate is ideal for growing grapes, with long, dry, sunny, warm-but-rarely-hot summer days buttressed by cool nights, ocean breezes and fog.
That oceanic fog drifting through the Petaluma Gap (and other locations) into the interior valleys, works a unique magic. Among other things, it helps preserve acidity and complexity in the wines, and helps create daily temperature swings of 40 degrees or more (ideal for a grape’s flavor development).
Another remarkable feature here is the wide-ranging nature of the soil. With the Mayacamas Mountains, the rolling hills of the Carneros, the Russian River Valley, coastal hills, and other geographical features, Sonoma County has more soil types than all of France, with soils ranging from rich and loamy to volcanic/rocky and well drained.
How many different winegrapes are grown in Sonoma County?
Because of the range of soil types, more than 50 grape varieties are grown in Sonoma County. For example, the cool weather of the Carneros and the Russian River Valley produce exemplary Chardonnay and Pinot grapes; the warmer Dry Creek Valley and Rockpile produce excellent Zinfandel; and the Alexander Valley is famed for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
In 2015, Chardonnay accounted for a whopping 30 percent of Sonoma County grapes grown (it’s grown the most in Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Sonoma-Carneros AVAs). Following Chardonnay are Cabernet Sauvignon (grown the most in Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Mountain) at 16 percent; Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, Carneros, Sonoma Coast) at 14 percent; and Merlot (Bennett Valley, Sonoma Valley), Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile), and Sauvignon Blanc (Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley) all at about 6 percent. Among the lesser-known varietals planted here are Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Viognier.
How many wine regions are there in Sonoma County?
Sonoma County’s wealth of unique terroirs is reflected in the county’s 18 distinct American Viticultural Areas (known as AVAs or appellations), each with its own distinctive characteristics:
- Alexander Valley
- Bennett Valley
- Carneros - Sonoma
- Chalk Hill
- Dry Creek Valley
- Fountaingrove District
- Fort Ross - Seaview
- Green Valley of Russian River Valley
- Knights Valley
- Moon Mountain
- Northern Sonoma
- Petaluma Gap
- Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak
- Russian River Valley
- Sonoma Coast
- Sonoma Mountain
- Sonoma Valley
How many wineries are there in Sonoma County?
Sonoma County's 18 wine regions are home to more than 400 wineries. They range from small, family-run operations to internationally acclaimed wine houses. View our list of all Sonoma County wineries
How much of Sonoma County is planted with grapes?
Only six percent of the county is planted to vineyard, or approximately 60,000 acres of vineyards. So as you explore our wines you’ll do so against a beautiful backdrop of redwood forests, crashing ocean surf, broad plains and grasslands, a lush river valley, mountains, and rolling hills. And everywhere you go you’ll find excellent restaurants, fine hotels, fun activities and opportunities for outdoor adventure.
Enjoy your time in Sonoma Wine Country.
Learn more about individual wineries in Sonoma County.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez