The first Russian River Valley (California) wine I had was a Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay. I loved the dryness of the oak, the slight buttery taste combined with the simple flavor of citrus or vanilla that is found in Russian River wines. Sonoma-Cutrer uses grapes from several appellations, but Sonoma Coast is most often found in stores. Whenever I order wine in a restaurant, I always scan the wine list for Russian River wines.

My husband is a red wine lover, preferring Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County. His palate is much larger than mine and he appreciates white wines as well as red. He will always have a glass of my Russian River Chards so I thought I would look into the region and see what other varietals they had. Forty-one percent of the grapes grown in the Russian River are chardonnay and twenty-nine percent are pinot noir. It turns out that because of the coolness of the Russian River and the early fog that rolls in from the Pacific ocean, the grapes have a longer growing season. This allows them more time to mature on the vine. That, coupled with the varied soils in the area, makes a beautiful grape for wine.

For my husband’s birthday in June, I got him a bottle of Pellegrini Pinot Noir from the Russian River that he thought closely resembled the Santa Maria Pinots that he is so fond of. It was a $20.00 bottle, which was cheap compared to most of the Russian River Pinots the store carried. Most of them were $40-$80. The pinots from the Russian River have similar flavors to the Santa Maria wines – black cherries, currants, black licorice. They also have a hint of vanilla like the chardonnays.

On Friday, we went to the wine store again, specifically looking for more Russian River wines. I found a bottle of Healdsburg Ranch Chardonnay which went well with the crab legs we had on Saturday night. My husband chose a Bearboat Pinot Noir. He thought it was “ok”, but I really liked it. We had it with steak and potatoes with dill on Friday night. Both wines were about $16.

Let me know if you decide to try these wines – in fact, give me a call and I’ll help you drink it. 😉