Contained entirely within the renowned Russian River Valley AVA, Green Valley covers an area of over seven and a half thousand hectares of which one-thousand-five-hundred are planted with grapes. The appellation is notable for its maritime climate and the significant influence of the thick fog passing through the Petaluma gap; it is subsequently one of northern California’s coolest wine growing regions. Under a blanket of fog for much of the day and with limited access to direct sunlight, Green Valley’s grapes ripen slowly over an extended period of time enabling them to develop a balance of flavours and acidity. Free-draining, sandy Goldridge soils dominate the appellation, leading to low yields of high quality grapes.
In the appellation’s unique and remarkably consistent terroir, Burgundy varieties have been shown to thrive. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most dominant grapes, being used in both dry red and white varietals as well as in the area’s much heralded sparkling wines. The Rhône Valley grape Syrah is the third most prevalent variety although plantings are significantly lower than for the two principals.
Established as an AVA in 1983 having begun the second wave of its viticultural journey a decade or so earlier, the area was originally given the short title of ‘Green Valley’. However, the name was changed to ‘Green Valley of the Russian River Valley’ in 2007 to avoid confusion with the much warmer but similar sounding Solano County Green Valley.
Today the appellation is home to mostly small hillside vineyards whose grapes are sought after by wineries from outside its bounds. Green Valley Pinots are typically silky smooth in texture with a complex flavour profile of black cherry, blueberry, violet and spice. Chardonnays tend to be fresh and citrus-driven. Sparkling wines in a Champagne style are nonetheless unmistakably expressive of the region. Amongst the various highly acclaimed wineries in the area, Iron Horse Vineyards is particularly noted for its sparkling wines and Dutton Goldfield Winery is famous for single vineyard Pinot and Chardonnay.