There are different micro-climates throughout Sonoma County. For example, in Sebastopol you can go from a windy cold area to a banana belt warm sunny zone in just a couple of miles. The temperature difference between towns can be significant. Santa Rosa is generally 10 degrees or so hotter than Sebastopol, Graton or Occidental. Healdsburg is generally 10 degrees hotter than Santa Rosa. Cloverdale is generally 10 degrees hotter than Healdsburg. Sonoma is similar to Healdsburg in temperature, but not exactly. It’s because of all these micro-climates that the county has been segmented into ‘Appellations’ used to describe the region the fruit for any given bottle of wine was grown in. For example, the Sonoma Coast Appellation is known to produce premium Pinot and Chardonnay wines and is very sought after by grape growers and wineries for that reason. It’s cooler climate and coastal influence is ideal for these type varietals. Similarly there is the Chalk Hill Appellation which has a fine Chardonnay as does the Russian River Valley Appellation. The Sonoma Valley Appellation produces a fantastic Cabernet among other reds like Syrah and Zinfandel because they like the heat. The Dry Creek Appellation also is known for its Cab & Zin on the North end of the valley and more for Pinot and Chard on the South end. The Carneros region also has it own unique tasting wines ranging from oaky Chardonnay’s to fine Pinot’s and strong red varietals grown in different areas within it. All these appellations and the micro-climates within them produce their own unique flavors recognizable as a region with more personality to be puzzled through for each winery and label producing wines grown within that region. With each of these appellations and micro-climates come different personalities for the area as well which is not only reflected in the wines produced from the fruit grown there but also in the tastes of the people that choose to live there.
The climate for each area is what I mean when I say you are subject to ‘mother nature’. Each appellation and microclimate creates its own challenges for farming. For example, growing Pinot Noir in the Sonoma Coast Appellation gets riskier the closer to the coast you get. The quality of the fruit increases as does the challenge Mother Nature creates for the farmers there. I’ve seen whole crops ruined a week before harvest because of a sudden rain or un-expected heat wave. Farmers are wise to get crop insurance to protect themselves against this. Also, being that wineries need to maintain a minimum production for their Pinot Noir programs in place using fruit from these areas, they tend to buy vineyards spread out within the Sonoma Coast appellation so that if a particular microclimate wipes out one vineyards crop they can hedge with other vineyards in different microclimates but the same appellation to ensure they have a crop to continue their program with.
It’s especially important in Sonoma County to understand the microclimates in the area’s you are thinking to purchase to understand how that will affect the property you purchase as well as to match that to your own personality and lifestyle goals. Only a local guide can do that for you if you’re not already intimately familiar with this county.