The fertile soils and temperate climate of the Russian River Valley have made it one of the California's most popular and successful wine regions. The region, one hour north of San Francisco, is ideally situated, with cool, foggy conditions that allow grapes grown there to develop full flavor maturity and unique acidity over an extended growing season. Soils in the 150-square-mile area have high quantities of clay and alluvial materials, which further lend the grapes a distinctive character.
The Russian River Valley is so named because the first non-natives to settle in Sonoma County were Russians, who arrived in 1812 and who, in addition to fur-hunting and trading, planted the area's first vines. Once they left in 1841, subsequent settlers - mostly Italians - took over and nurtured the existing vineyards, giving rise to the notoriety that flourishes there today.
* SF Chronicle Wine Competition