The Russian River Valley- The Land of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
"The story of small wine growers with big dreams"
Russian River Valley was one of the first appellations to receive an American Viticultural Area designation in Sonoma County Wine Country in 1983. Home to 70+ wineries and over 15,000 acres of grapevines, the region is world renowned for superb, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wine grapes due to the cooling fog from the Pacific Ocean that blankets the area overnight, especially during summertime. However, the cool climate and longer growing season also produces a broad range of aromatic, bright, fruit-focused, rich wines including Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.
The region is named after the Russian sea otter hunters who settled on the coast at Fort Ross, and moved inland to establish farms in the 1830s. Grapes were planted initially at the coast then later in Freestone, Graton and Sebastopol, although prunes, cherries and apple orchards dominated these areas up until the 1970s. The Russian settlers abandoned the area in the early 1840s and vines remained untended until European immigrants arrived prior to the Gold Rush in 1849. By the late 1800s, the Russian River Valley had become more of a viticultural area and a number of wineries had been established, including Korbel Champagne Cellars (1882) and Foppiano (1896), both of which survived Prohibition from 1920-1933 and are still in operation today.
Much of the Russian River Valley has a wild and bohemian feel to it, with sparsely traveled country roads shaded by redwoods, manzanita, fir and oak trees, making small wineries and hidden gems extremely hard to find on your own – this is where our tour guides shine as they have developed privileged relationships with wineries and wine growers.
The historic Korbel Winery, for example, offers a Champagne Cellar Tour where you can learn about the step-by-step process of making champagne in the French tradition, as well as a Garden Tour featuring 250 rose varietals along with other plants and shrubs. There is also a gourmet delicatessen, should you wish to have an outdoor lunch here.
For spectacular views across the rolling hills of Sonoma County, a visit to Iron Horse winery is a must. This highly acclaimed winery offers an informal, down to earth, fun experience. At the rustic, outdoor tasting room, take your pick of Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and their signature Sparkling Wines. In addition to special Cuvées produced for top chefs, Iron Horse sparkling wines have graced the dining tables at the White House for several presidential dinners, including the historic Reagan/Gorbachev summit meeting. Tour and tasting by appointment Monday-Friday at 10:00 for $25 per person. Tasting is offered daily from 10:00 to 16:30pm for $20.
Korbel Winery offers daily a 50-minute guided tour every hour from 11:00 to 15:00 through their historic champagne cellars and museum. If you wish to taste wines made by a renowned female winemaker, then be sure to visit Merry Edwards Winery. Merry was one of the first female winemakers in California, and a founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek in Sonoma County. Merry Edwards Winery was founded in 1997 with a focus on Pinot Noirs from Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations and, over the years, Merry has added Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs to her repertoire. In her 40-year career as a winemaker, Merry has received many awards and, in 2013, was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame and won the James Beard Award for Best Wine Beer or Spirits Professional in the US.
Additional wineries you may enjoy visiting in the Russian River Valley include Gary Farrell, Russian Hill Estate, Copain, Hartford Family Winery, Moshin Vineyards, Arista Winery, Corks Restaurant tasting room at Russian River Vineyards, Emeritus Vineyards, Woodenhead tasting room, Porter Creek Vineyards, Thomas George Estates and Sonoma-Cutrer among others. If you have special requests, or have had wine from this region that you enjoyed and would like to visit a particular winery, please let us know.
Green Valley, the coolest and foggiest appellation, and one of the smallest in Sonoma County, lies in the southwest corner of the Russian River AVA. While still famous for its Gravenstein apples, high demand and prices has led to an increase in viticulture in the valley, and there are now over 100 growers producing exceptional grapes. Due to its fine sandy loam soil, cool climate and lingering fog, Pinot Noirs from Green Valley are especially sought after for their bright fruit, lively acidity and beautiful structure. Wineries such as DeLoach Vineyards, Dutton Estate, Dutton-Goldfield, Emeritus Vineyards, Hartford Family Winery, Iron Horse Vineyards, Miramar Estate and Orogeny, offer visitors exceptional wines and a relaxing experience in this off-the-beaten-path wine region.
Heading north from the Russian River Valley, the drive along Westside Road towards Dry Creek Valley offers a scenic rural route lined with redwood, oak, eucalyptus and bay trees, as well as rolling hills, and vineyards with beautiful panoramas of the distant Mount St Helena. Wineries along this route range from small family owned to large production facilities including Moshin, Porter Creek, Thomas George, VML, Arista, Matrix, and Armida.
At the end of Westside Road we enter into the Dry Creek Valley appellation, renowned for its world-class Zinfandels. The Zinfandel grape is grown exclusively in California, and many of the vines in the Dry Creek region are over 100 years old. The route along West Dry Creek road is one of the prettiest in Wine Country with vineyards and wineries dotting the hillsides and valley floor. It is easy to wish one could stay here forever, ambling from winery to winery where winemaking traditions from the past blend with commitment to sustainable farming practices. With over 70 wineries to choose from, most still family-owned, you’ll have a chance to taste a range of Zinfandels from fresh and fruity to big, concentrated and intensely fruity. Sauvignon Blanc is the signature white grape of Dry Creek Valley, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc from this region have also been gaining recognition. Wineries worth a visit along West Dry Creek Road include, Wilson, Lambert Bridge, Martorana, Quivara, Preston, Bella and Ferrari-Carano.
At Golden Horizon, we choose our wineries based on a number of factors: excellent wines, tour and tasting options, high quality customer service, location and views. Our guides have created their own ‘Pinot and Chardonnay Wine Trail’ and, based on your wine tasting preferences, they will focus on bringing you to the best wineries within a specific region so you enjoy quality time and tasting without spending too much time traveling. Alternatively, if you wish to visit wineries in Russian River Valley and Dry Creek, for example, sit back and enjoy a little longer drive as we bring to wineries guaranteed to please your eyes and your palate.
For lunch (not included), there are several options:
Healdsburg - At the southern end of the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek appellations, has grown from a country town to an upscale, sophisticated, yet still very relaxed destination. If you wish to do a mix of dining, sipping, strolling and shopping, you will find a wide variety of restaurants, many of them award-winning, as well chic boutiques, art galleries, and wine tasting rooms all across a few blocks.
Sebastopol - At the southern end of the Green Valley and Russian River appellations, offers small-town rural charm, with a liberal, progressive, artsy, vibe that is often compared to Berkeley. Like many towns in Wine Country, Sebastopol has seen many changes in the form of an increase in new restaurants (reflecting the farm to table trend), shops and live music venues. It is now considered the arts and culture hub of western Sonoma. While the town still hosts an Annual Blossom Festival and Gravenstein Apple Fair the decline of the apple business, which began in the 1970s, has led to the surrounding orchards being replaced with vineyards.
Forestville – Located in the northern part of the Green Valley appellation, Forestville is known as the town where the redwoods meet the wine country. It retains its western town vibe and architecture, and many of the old buildings have been restored. Dining options here have expanded due to the emphasis on locally sourced organic produce, so you will find a variety of menus offering increasingly creative food combinations.
Guerneville is the largest of the lower Russian River towns, located mid-way between Monte Rio, Occidental, Forestville and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Picnic at a Winery - Several wineries offer salads and sandwiches onsite, while others welcome you to bring your own picnic (which can be purchased in towns along the wine trails and the Russian River towns) and enjoy it with a glass or a bottle of wine at the winery..
You may also add overtime to your Russian River Valley wine custom tour, and enjoy dinner at a celebrated restaurant in the Wine Country or enjoy free time at Graton Casino. You may consider Francis Ford Coppola's castle winery renowned for its ‘Rustic’ restaurant, if you are looking for a culinary experience within a winery.
Graton Casino – Opened in November 2013, this gaming resort also offers a choice of upscale and dining options at four restaurants. So, if you would like to try your luck on the casino floor as well as dine, this is the place to visit.
Join our passionate and knowledgeable tour guides and let them drive you on the scenic, pastoral and rural back roads along the Russian River as it carves its way through the valley passing quaint towns, rolling vineyards and beautiful redwood forests. It is a paradise for wine lovers, so sit back, enjoy the drive, and savor superb wines at a variety of first-class wineries.
Our Russian River Valley Private Wine Tour Itinerary
- 09:00 to 10:15 – Pick-up
- 10:15 to 12:30 – Enjoy your wine tasting
- Overlooking Wineries
- Lunch Break
- 13:30 to 16:00: Enjoy a relaxing afternoon wine tasting
- Russian River Valley wine country wineries
09:00 to 10:15 – Pick-up at your hotel and head North West towards the Russian River Valley wine country. We will drive through farmlands and beautiful wine countries where you can stop and visit a local farmers market, have an organic coffee, cider or taste our local chocolate and olive oil. Picture the majestic redwoods as we drive you along the Russian River where you can visit the best-kept secret ancient forest of giant redwoods in San Francisco Bay Area, absolutely outstanding and pristine redwood park in the middle of nowhere. The Russian River Valley wine trail is filled with natural wonders, small and hidden wineries off-the-beaten-path. Without our tour guide you would never find out about these charming family wineries and tasting rooms.Back to Top
10:15 to 12:30 – Enjoy great wine tasting at your favorite wineries in some of the top wineries located along the Russian River and off-the-beaten-path.
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Let your tour guide drive you to one of the best overlooking wineries in the valley, to enjoy a glass of wine while admiring the beautiful views of rolling hills of the Russian River Valley.
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Lunch Break: Enjoy a picnic lunch in a serene setting within a top champagne winery in California and let our tour guide offer you complimentary wine and champagne tasting. Looking for a sophisticated culinary experience let your guide drive you to an upscale restaurant located within a rustic and hidden winery in the valley. You may also choose your favorite restaurant in the Russian River small towns and ask your tour guide to drive you there.Back to Top
13:30 to 16:00 – Enjoy a relaxing afternoon wine tasting experience away from crowded wineries, and visit more wineries and champagne tasting rooms. You may also take free time to visit some historic towns within the valley, attractions, or go shopping in the local department stores and boutiques. The Russian River Valley has a lot of offer. Your tour guide will provide you with all the required information regarding shopping, wine tasting and sightseeing. After such an exciting journey in The Russian River Valley wine country, you will be taken back to your hotel.Back to Top
Some of the Russian River Valley wine country wineries you may consider to visit include; Gary Farrell Wines, Arista Winery, Bella Vineyards, Chateau Diana Winery, Armida Winery ,Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards, Amphora Wines, Collier Falls Vineyards, Copain Wine Cellars, Crane Canyon Cellars, Davis Bynum Winery, DeLoach Vineyards, Dry Creek Vineyard, F. Teldeschi Winery, Dutcher Crossing Winery, Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery, Geyser Peak Winery, Graton Ridge Cellars, Field Stone Winery, Foppiano Vineyards, Porter Creek Vineyards, Quivira Vineyards, Rafanelli Winery, Raymond Burr Vineyards, Ridge Lytton Springs Winery, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Rosso & Bianco, Sausal Vineyard & Winery, Seghesio Family Vineyards, Siduri, Silver Oak Cellars, Simi Winery, Stonestreet Winery, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Sunce Winery, Trione Vineyards & Winery, Twomey Cellars, Yoakim Bridge Vineyards & Winery, Michel-Schlumberger Wines, Murphy-Goode Winery, Nalle Winery, Papapietro - Perry Winery, Passalacqua Winery, Pellegrini Family Vineyards, Kistler Vineyards, Lambert Bridge Winery, Lancaster Estate Winery, MacMurray Ranch, Martinelli Vineyards, Matanzas Creek Winery, Meeker Vineyards, Korbel Champagne Cellars, La Crema, Lake Sonoma Winery, Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Harvest Moon Winery, Hook & Ladder Winery, Hop Kiln Winery and Iron Horse Vineyards.
This SUV tour is totally private and the price is per person.
Price per person
|Private SUV Tour
This VAN tour is totally private and not available for public
or individual reservations. The price is per party and not per person.
|Tour Prices:||Tour Prices per group
not per person
|1 - 5 Guests||$1,359.00|
|6 - 7 Guests||$1,449.00|
|8 - 10 Guests||$1,629.00|
|11 - 12 Guests||$1,719.00|
|13 - 14 Guests||$1,799.00|
Included: Pick-up and drop off in San Francisco downtown or Fisherman’ Wharf, all applicable taxes, and a private 8-hour guided tour from 9 am to 5 pm.
Not included: The price does not include meals, driver’s gratuity, overtime, wine tasting fees and optional activities or features.