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Sustainable Wine Review: Celebrate Single Vineyards in Russian River Valley

What’s in a name? Well, if its the name of a single vineyard, possibly quite a lot. Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast suggests that the vast majority of the highest rated wines are single vineyard wines (he asserts that 90+ % of his top scorers have borne either the name of a vineyard, or had the word “estate” or “estate-bottled” on the label.)

The Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is located in Sonoma County, California, about an hour north of San Francisco. The seasonal fog and the tempering effects of the ocean to the west provide an uncommonly long growing season and create ideal conditions for cool-climate-loving grape varieties, particularly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And, in the same way wine geeks around the world savor the highest quality vineyards of Burgundy (aka. Grand cru), a single vineyard wine from the Russian River Valley is often something to celebrate. What is a single vineyard (SV) wine? The TTB states that in order for a wine to carry the name of a vineyard on the label at least 95% of the grapes must be sourced from the named vineyard. Blogger Vicente Santos goes on to say “… single vineyard designated wines are probably as close as we’ll get commercially to the romantic idea of what terroir should be.”

And the terroir of the Russian River Valley is so special because, among other things, their winegrowers often use natural solutions to natural problems. From the RRV Winegrowers website:

We plant cover crops between rows of vines. The cover crops return nutrients to the soil, improve soil structure, prevent erosion and provide habitat for beneficial insects. We reduce the amount of water we consume for irrigation by using precision drip irrigation that delivers a measured amount to each individual vine. If we want to add a nutrient, it can be deposited precisely with water flow rather than scattered from a tractor.

If you happen to be in RRV on June 4th you’re in for a treat. The second annual  RRV Winegrowers Single Vineyard Night is being held from 6:30 (5:30 for VIP Reception) to 10:00 p.m. at Thomas George Estates in Healdsburg, CA and its sure to be worth your while. More than 30 winemakers and their grower partners will present their small-lot, single vineyard wines paired with an array of food from local producers and restaurants. The evening will feature Russian River single vineyard wines from world class producers including William Selyem, Gary Farrell, Merry Edwards (and many more) paired with local food stuffs from the likes of Kozlowski Farms, a family-owned farm, country store and delicatessen that was one of the first California Certified Organic Farmers (C.C.O.F) in Sonoma County, and  Viola Pastry Boutique & Cafe, known for its local, farm fresh ingredients.