In 1983 the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) became an approved viticultural area. As of October 11, 2005 the expansion of the Russian River Valley AVA formally became law according to a ruling by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. This expansion increased the AVA total acreage by 30,200 acres to 126,600 by recognizing previously overlooked portions of the fog regions. Presently the Russian River AVA is over 150 square miles, which includes over 15,000 total acres planted to premium wine grape vineyards. The expansion has been endorsed by the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association and culminates over ten years of effort by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers (RRVW).
The Russian River Valley Winegrowers took leadership in proposing a boundary change to better define the unique geographical characteristics of the Russian River Valley AVA. The amendment to the original 1983 boundary lines follows more accurately the historically identifiable borders of the area influenced by cool, coastal fog — the single most important factor differentiating the Russian River Valley AVA.
The new boundary adds land to the east and south of the AVA’s original established limits, including the entire Santa Rosa Plains, which was previously bisected. Also included is the entire Green Valley, Sonoma County region, in the southwestern edge of the Russian River Valley, portions of which had been formerly excluded. In addition, the new boundary includes a southernmost region, located south and west of Sebastopol, which is locally referred to as the Sebastopol Hills.
UPDATE – EFFECTIVE DECEMBER 16, 2011
On Wednesday November 16, 2011, the TTB published a ruling (T.D. TTB-97) amending the federal definition of the Russian River Valley viticultural area and the Northern Sonoma viticultural area, by expanding each. The TTB ruled to expand the Russian River Valley viticultural area south and southeast by 14,044 acres to 169,029 acres, an increase of 9%. This expansion will include land just west of Rohnert Park and Cotati.
The TTB specifically noted in the ruling that the expansion will not affect currently approved wine labels but will allow winemakers in the expanded area to utilize the two viticultural designations not previously available to them.
The ruling was effective as of December 16, 2011.