THE MOST DISTINCTIVE AVA OF THE NORTH COAST
Green Valley is one of the smallest appellations in Sonoma County. It lies in the southwestern part of the Russian River Valley, bordered by the towns of Sebastopol, Forestville and Occidental. It is very tightly delineated, both geographically and climatically, and is the most consistent of any North Coast appellation in terms of soil, climate and flavor.
The fog is Green Valley’s trademark and the cool climate it creates is the hallmark of this AVA. Unlike some coastal locations, it’s largely sheltered from wind, and it isn’t the first to receive the fog bank — but once it’s there, the fog sticks around. In this cool-climate region made famous for sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay might be expected to predominate, and indeed, those varietals do. Syrah is a distant third, made in a distinctly northern Rhône style. Several of Sonoma County’s top Zinfandel vineyards exist in favorable, sunny spots within the appellation’s boundaries, but they are seldom labeled as such.
Green Valley is primarily about the vineyards which still share this area with apple orchards, another cool-climate crop. The Gravenstein apple is said to have been brought here via the Russian settlement at Fort Ross, which established inland farms in the early 18th century. A relic of an inland seas several million years old, the dominant soil series here is Goldridge, an unmistakably fine-grained, sandy soil that naturally limits vine vigor. The loamy Goldridge soil is arguably on of the most sought-after type in Sonoma County—especially for Pinot Noir.
There are over 100 growers in the area, and several key wineries: DeLoach Vineyards, Dutton Estate, Dutton-Goldfield, Emeritus Vineyards, Hartford Family Winery, Iron Horse Vineyards, and Marimar Estate. There is a wonderful cohesiveness among the Green Valley wineries; their wines share a distinctive flair.
Grape growing in Green Valley goes back to 1836, two years before George Yount, who is credited with starting grape growing in Napa, planted vines in what is now Yountville. However, after such a strong start, grape growing in Green Valley, along with most of the wine regions in the world, went through a long fallow period because of Phyloxera and sheer economics—almost every other fruit was more profitable.
The Duttons, the most famous farming family in the area, was the first to replant grapes in Green Valley in the 1970s. Even as late as 1976, when Audrey and Barry Sterling bought Iron Horse, agents from the UC Davis Agricultural Extension advised against investing here on the grounds that it was too cold and prone to frost, and that Napa was a safer bet.
Green Valley became a federally recognized AVA in 1983. In 2008, the TTB approved a name change and the official name is now Green Valley of Russian River Valley. It is today renowned for producing exceptional cool climate wines.
Comparative tastings show a remarkable thread of continuity in Green Valley Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Asked to provide a short description of the Green Valley flavor profile, tasters offer the following:
Chardonnay: Fresh, clean, crisp, crystalline focus, beautifully integrated, restrained, Gravenstein apple, complex citrus (a hint of lime, tangerine), spice (cinnamon, nutmeg), core of minerality, long finish, great food wines, age-worthy.
Pinot Noir: Bright fruit (cherry and cranberry); great clarity of fruit; sweet spice character (allspice, cinnamon, clove); distinguishing underlying, rich earthiness (red clay); tea and floral notes; complex; nuanced; lively acidity; subtle oak; soft tannins; supple texture; long palate evolution; beautiful structure; definite sense of class.
A commendable wine that is well crafted. Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Classically Russian River Valley in character, with aromas and flavors of black cherry, cola, spice and a hint of dark chocolate and toasty oak.