For the next day of our Vines to Vinos Tour Kelly and I drove southward through Sonoma County to the Russian River Valley AVA. As the mercury dropped from the warm toastiness of the
|Raymond Rolander of Wine Cube Tours|
The Russian River Valley has a characteristically cool climate, by virtue of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The weather here is heavily influenced by the cooling effect of the evening fog flowing in from the Pacific Ocean only a few miles West through the Petaluma Gap and up the Russian River. The fog drops temperatures up to 40 degrees, allowing full grape maturity over an extended period of time, while simultaneously preserving crucial natural acidity.
With over 15,000 acres of grapevines planted, there is a broad range of wines from the Russian River Valley. The weather, along
with its famous Goldridge Loam (Loam is soil composed mostly of sand and silt, and a smaller amount of clay) converge, creating a phenomenal region for cool climate grape varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
|Iron Horse Vineyard|
Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow and for this reason this native of the Burgundy region of France achieves greatness in only a handful of places worldwide; luckily the Russian River Valley is one of those places!!!
|Russian River Vineyards|
The perfect Pinot climate combined with an amazing complexity of
soil types, results in wines that reflect their individual sites but share a common intention. In the Russian River Valley, aromas tend to be bright and focused fruit, ranging from wild strawberries and raspberries to red and black cherries. Notes of cola and baking spices are also standard.
Our tour guide through this cooler climate AVA (as introduced to us by the Sonoma Wine Road) was Raymond Rolander of Wine Cube Tours. This grinning bearded guy in pageboy cap knows where to go and what to drink in the Russian River Valley. Driving around wine country in his Nissan Cube, Sonoma Magazine referred to Raymond as “a one man Uber.”
|The Wine Guerilla|
Rolander tailors all tours based on whatever you want in wine, experience, and location preferences in a fun and 100% worry free environment. With a catchphrase of: local is knowledge, he specializes in access to small, off the beaten path producers of wine, cheese and olive oil while serving up a side order of local
history. Rolander quite mobile as he covers both Sonoma and Napa (he does about a 80/20 split between the former and the later). Upon request, he’ll even enhance your day with a local farm,
|Tree Hugger Kelly at Armstrong Redwoods|
Our day with Raymond consisted of four unique Russian River Valley wineries (which will be fleshed out in detail in coming posts!). Our first stop was the sparkling wine gurus Iron Horse Vineyards and their outdoor tasting room. Next was the Russian River Vineyard, their bat-housing chateau like Hop House, and their delicious Corks Restaurant located in a historic 1890s farmhouse. In the afternoon we continued our tour with a
Zinfandel only based winery the Wine Guerillia in the tiny hamlet of Forrestville. This was followed by Hartford Family Winery, a family owned winery that specializes in single vineyard Chards and Pinots. To finish off the day we drove through Armstrong Woods, an 805 acre California State Park of the magnificent Sequoia Sempervirens (aka the coastal redwood).
It was a perfect day of beauty: of bucolic landscapes, bright and brainy teachers, and bewitching bottles for as Rolander noted, “an open bottle, is an empty bottle.”