Regional History of the Russian River Valley
The history of the Russian River Valley is one of natural abundance. Plentiful water and rich alluvial soils have nurtured a diversity of crops here. Immigrants to the region first farmed the sunny slopes above the coastal redwoods. Hops and award-winning tobacco were among their yield. As the thriving logging industry felled more trees, planting began in earnest on the valley floor. Apple and plum orchards quickly brought prosperity to places like Graton and Sebastopol. Viticulture grew rapidly as well during this period. Records show that by the late 19th century, the Russian River Valley was producing more than half a million gallons of wine from roughly 7,000 vineyard acres.
The contemporary era of winemaking in the Russian River Valley began in the 1960s with the advice of the University of California Farm Advisor for Sonoma County, Bob Sisson, who urged growers to focus their efforts on cool-climate grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Those pioneers who heeded his advice helped usher in the current period of great prominence for the region, renowned for producing some of the most exquisite California Pinot Noir wines in the New World.