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Understanding the Sonoma Wine Region (with Maps)

Written by Madeline Puckette

Sonoma County Wine Vineyards
It doesn’t really get any better than this. photo courtesy

Sitting in-between the Pacific Ocean and Napa Valley is Sonoma County. The region silently produces almost 2 times as much wine as Napa Valley and is responsible for some of the biggest names for Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wine in the United States. If you love Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, you should get comfy with your knowledge of Sonoma.
Sonoma silently produces almost 2 times as much wine as Napa

Get a lay of the land as well as learn the basics of all the Sonoma County AVA’s from the tiny Rockpile AVA, famous for Zin, to the rolling hills of Carneros, that grow an ocean of Chardonnay grapes.

Sonoma Wine Map

Sonoma Wine Map by Wine Folly


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What Does Each Sonoma Wine Region Do Best?

The entire Sonoma region varies from low, fog-covered valleys to sun-beaten hillside plots. Because of the range of the area, each sub-AVA within Sonoma can produce remarkably different styles of wine. Learn what each major region does best.

Rich Full-Bodied Red Wines

Looking for the bigger and bolder styled wines from Sonoma? You’ll find some of the most lusted-after Zinfandels as well as more mineral-driven Cabernets from the following AVA’s:

Dry Creek Valley AVA
10,000 vineyard acres – Known for Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Founded in 1983.
Alexander Valley AVA
15,000 vineyard acres – Known for Cabernet and richly flavored Chardonnays as well as hillside Merlot. Founded in 1984.
Moon Mountain District AVA
1,500 vineyard acres – Great for Hillside Zinfandel and some of the oldest vineyards in Sonoma. New AVA pending status.
Pine Mountain / Cloverdale Peak AVA
300 vineyard acres – Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Founded in 2011.
Rockpile AVA
150 vineyard acres – Famous for Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Syrah. Founded in 2002.


Amazing Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley AVA
15,000 vineyard acres – Famous for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Founded in 1983.
Los Carneros AVA
8,000 vineyard acres – This AVA spans Napa and Sonoma and is famous for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wine. Founded in 1983.
Green Valley AVA
3,600 vineyard acres – A sub-set of Russian River Valley known for Pinot Noir because of a high proportion of a special soil called Goldridge. Founded in 1983.
Sonoma Coast AVA
2,000 vineyard acres – Sonoma County’s largest AVA runs along the coast and produces great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Founded in 1987.
Chalk Hill AVA
1,400 vineyard acres – Known for its ‘Chablis-like’ chalky soils growing Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Founded in 1983.
Fort Ross / Seaview AVA
500 vineyard acres – This new AVA contains some of the most lusted-after Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with producers such as Peay, Marcassin and Flowers. Founded in 2012.


Softer & Rounder Red Wines

Sonoma Valley AVA
14,000 vineyard acres – One of the oldest Sonoma AVA’s, known for smooth and supple Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Founded in 1981.
Knights Valley AVA
2,000 vineyard acres – Volcanic soils from the ancient explosion of Mount St. Helena filled both Knights and Alexander Valley. Known for riper styles of Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. Founded in 1983.
Bennett Valley AVA
650 vineyard acres – Founded in 2003.


Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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