Meet the AVAs

Healdsburg sits at the intersection of four AVAs. Alone, they are remarkable. Together, they create magic.

Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Chalk Hill. Our four AVAs, or American Viticultural Areas, all have traits that lend themselves to different wines: whether it be a grape that grows better in its soil, or a microclimate that lends itself to white vs red, or simply the minerals in the soil that developed before humans walked the earth. Often wineries source from vineyards in multiple AVAs, while others might specialize exclusively in one. Join us on a beautiful afternoon at Cast Winery and discuss the differences of each AVA. Cast sources grapes from vineyards in The Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valleys.

Here are a few notes that can help you taste the subtleties of the land in your glass.

Russian River Valley

This storied AVA is home to about one-sixth of Sonoma County’s vineyards. The impact of the fog and cool air from the ocean means that this AVA lends itself to cool-climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But plenty of other grapes thrive here as well: Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Sirah to name a few. Wine growing in the Russian River dates back to the 1800s when vines were planted by immigrants from Southern Europe. 

In Healdsburg, Ramey Winery, Cartograph Winery, Longboard Vineyards, are just a few locations where you can taste the Russian River Valley.

Alexander Valley

The Wappo called this region Unutsawaholmanoma, meaning “Toyon Bush Berry Place.” It’s located to the North of today’s Healdsburg and is the largest and fullest wine growing region in the county. The climate here swings like a pendulum daily. It doesn’t have the same influence of the Pacific that the Russian River Valley does, so days are hot, but nights are very cool. It is still impacted by the Russian River’s morning fog. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are examples of the rich wines iconic of this AVA. Stop by Robert Young for a taste of the Alexander Valley.

Dry Creek Valley

As the name suggests, this AVA is pretty dry. Today, the waters from Lake Sonoma aid in irrigating the valley. Famous for Zinfandel, the region had a long spell of primarily producing stone fruit. Recent history has returned it again to a wine growing region.

Sample the sights and tastes of Dry Creek at Cast Wines, Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves, Comstock Wines, Pasterick winery, Preston Farm & Winery and others that pique your interest as you travel through. 

Chalk Hill

Technically a sub-AVA of the Russian River. White varietals like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc thrive in the chalky volcanic soil of this hill. A thermal belt means that this area is significantly warmer than its neighbors just down the road. In fact, many grapes here are harvested a full month earlier than at vineyards just a fifteen minute drive away. Try Chalk HIll Estate to sample the difference.