Sonoma County Green Valley’s nippy terroir ripens fruit slowly, causing many observers to regard this appellation as a frontier for cool-climate varieties. The viticultural area is a small swath of land that takes a southwestern slice from the larger Russian River Valley AVA. Because of its location, Green Valley has more exposure to the Pacific’s cooling effect. While most of the Russian River Valley is rated as cool, the Green Valley sub-appellation is even cooler. Considering the tender fruit crops that flourish here, such as apples and berries - fruit more associated with cooler places like New England and Washington State - one should not be surprised by local choices for wine grapes. These include the Burgundian varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as Alsatian favorites like Gewürztraminer.
The reality for most new and relatively unknown appellation names is that most producers will opt to use a more recognized name over a more specific one. Indeed, this is the case for wines emanating from the Green Valley AVA – most end up in bottles carrying the (less specific) ‘Russian River Valley’ appellation designation due to its greater celebrity in the marketplace. In light of this, it is not surprising that a group of key producers in the region have recently petitioned the TTB for an AVA name change. If all goes well, these producers will be able to label their wines as “Green Valley – Russian River”. As Napa Valley producers have found, a hyphenated appellation designation can give the wine recognition for being from somewhere famous, while simultaneously drawing attention to and promoting the more precise origin.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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is the Regional Correspondent for Green Valley of Russian River Valley.