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Grape Varieties of Russian River Valley


It’s not possible to separate great wines from the grapes that made them. The Russian River Valley climate, the varied soils, the passion and expertise of the grape grower, all end up in the bottle. Many varieties are grown in the Russian River Valley, with more to come as the versatility of the area is discovered. The most widely planted are:
Variety * % Total RRV Acreage
Chardonnay 41% over 6,300
Pinot Noir 29% over 4,500
Zinfandel 9% over 1,400
Merlot 5% over 800
Cabernet Sauvignon 4% over 600
Sauvignon Blanc 4% about 600
Syrah 2% over 300
Other Reds 1.5% about 200
Pinot Gris 1.5% over 180
Petite Sirah 1% about 100
Other White 1% over 100
Viognier .5% about 60
Gewurztraminer .5% about 60
Total Over 15,000 Acres

*Green denotes white grape varieties, red denotes red grape varieties

“The Queen of White Wines”, Chardonnay is known for the Old World style of Chablis and the Cotes d’Or of Burgundy and the New World style reflected in the wines from warmer growing areas of California. Russian River Valley Chardonnays tend to split the difference. Over 6,000 acres of Chardonnay are under cultivation in the Russian River Valley.

Pinot Noir
A difficult grape to grow, this native of the Burgundy region of France achieves greatness in only a handful of places worldwide, and the Russian River Valley is one of those places. Our Pinot-perfect climate combined with an amazing complexity of soil types, results in wines that reflect their individual sites but share a common thread. In the Russian River Valley, over 4500 acres are dedicated to Pinot Noir production.

This heritage grape is widely planted throughout California. In the Russian River Valley, new Zinfandel plantings have joined vines planted as early as the late 1800s. Today, over 1100 acres of Zinfandel are cultivated in the Russian River Valley. Our long, cool growing season allows Zinfandel to achieve superb levels of ripeness.

There is substantial acreage in the Russian River Valley planted to Merlot yet most of our Merlot grapes are used to enhance Sonoma County Merlots and Meritage blends. However, Merlot shows its Russian River Valley pedigree when bottled on its own. Over 1000 acres of Merlot are cultivated in the Russian River Valley.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Although Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a warmer climate grape, our extended growing season allows Cabernet to achieve full ripeness but with less aggressive tannins than many other areas. Most of the Cabernet is planted in the warmer more northerly portion of the Russian River Valley, but scattered plantings occur in other areas in the Valley. Over 700 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon is planted in the Russian River Valley.

Sauvignon Blanc
With our long, cool growing season, Sauvignon Blanc enjoys the best of both worlds. The cool climate keeps the wines crisp and allows the natural character of cool climate Sauvignon Blanc to come through. Over 500 acres of Sauvignon Blanc are planted in the Russian River Valley. Note: Wine produced from this grape is sometimes called Fumé Blanc.


Syrah is also known as Shiraz, particularly in Australia. The climate in the Russian River Valley is much more akin to that of the northern Rhone Valley of France, its ancestral home, and the wines are stylistically similar to the wines from this region. In the Russian River Valley, over 80 acres of this unique varietal are cultivated.

Pinot Gris

A relative newcomer to the Russian River Valley, this white variant of Pinot Noir is ideally suited to our climate. Already, over 140 acres are planted to this varietal in the Russian River Valley. The Russian River Valley produces Pinot Gris more like the rich wines of the Alsace region of France than the Pinot Grigios of Italy. Pinot Gris is a grape varietal that often loses acidity quickly on the vine, but our cool nights allow it to develop its full flavor potential while maintaining acid levels.