Whilst the AVA covers a much larger region, the area planted to vine is just shy of seven-hundred hectares, with most vineyards located around the western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains. Elevation varies between individual sites but some plots reach heights of five-hundred metres above sea level and thus escape the cooling influence of the fog that so often sweeps through the valley at lower levels. Characterised by volcanic soils and a warmer microclimate than the wider Russian River Valley AVA, Chalk Hill is a visually appealing appellation that is home to a small number of boutique wineries.
A range of grapes have found success in this unique terroir. Amongst them, the red varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, which occupy elevated sites on the hillside and benefit from an ideal aspect and abundant sunshine during the growing season. White grapes such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, are principally planted at lower altitudes close to the river from which the larger AVA takes its name.
Around one and a half hour’s drive from San Francisco passing over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, wine tourism is a key feature of the economy here. The majority of Chalk Hill’s wineries offer tours and tastings, led by the somewhat emblematic Chalk Hill Estate - whose packages perfectly reflect Sonoma County’s style of informal indulgence. The wines here, like those of other cellars in the appellation are wide ranging, luxurious and very often exceptional in quality. Deep, intense Bordeaux blends and exquisite, mineral-rich Sauvignon Blancs are amongst the wines for which this AVA is renowned.