Sonoma Valley AVA is Sonoma County’s original winegrowing district. Designated as an AVA in 1981, it includes 14,000 vineyard acres in a long, narrow valley that runs north-south. Rather romantically, the valley is also called The Valley of the Moon. The oldest winery in the AVA, and one of the oldest in California, is Buena Vista Winery, founded in 1857 by a Hungarian count who planted vineyards in Wisconsin before moving to California. Today there are nearly 60 wineries in the AVA producing a variety of wines, from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewurztraminer. The appellation is bordered by mountain ranges on the east and west, which partly account for Sonoma Valley’s unique terroir. The mountains protect it from the cooling weather of the Pacific Ocean and fruit ripens well.
Zinfandel is a black-skinned grape, but 85% of the wine produced is made into a rosy “White Zinfandel.” Red Zin is far more complex and bold, while still being light-bodied. It grows in popularity as winemakers continue to experiment with new styles and blends.