Russian River A special place to grow grapes, to make wine, to live or to visit
The Russian River Valley is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Sonoma County. Centered on the Russian River, the Russian River Valley AVA accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. The area generally lies between Sebastopol and Healdsburg in the South and Forestville and Healdsburg in the north. The Russian River Valley has a characteristically cool climate, heavily affected by fog generated by the valley’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The area is known for its success with cool climate varietals, notably Pinot noir and Chardonay.
Below is what the Russian River Chamber of Commerce has to say about the communities that make up the Russian River region.
Known as the “Heart of the Russian River”, this town, comprised of roughly 4500 people, is the largest of the villages along the Lower Russian River. Its many resorts, restaurants and shops have served the locals and tourists for over 120 years. Guerneville’s biggest attractions are Armstrong Woods State Reserve and Johnson’s Beach, as well as large festivals such as Women’s Weekend, Blues/Jazz Festival and Lazy Bear Weekend, to name a few. Guerneville Demographics and a brief history can be found here.
Once remembered as “Eagle’s Nest” and the place to go for big bands, weekend dances and bowling, Rio Nido, (“river nest” in Spanish) is now home to some 2000 people. Winding through the maze of roads that twist through the dense redwood forest you’ll find a small community of year-round and vacation homes. Rio Nido’s main attractions are the Rio Nido Roadhouse, the Rio Nido Pool and the Rio Nido Lodge which houses local theatrical productions. Rio Nido demographics and information can be found here.
“The Good Life” reflects this small town’s laid-back and comfortable atmosphere. Although not directly located on the banks of the Russian River, Forestville connects the rest of West Sonoma County to the Russian River. Roughly 3300 people call this little piece of heaven home. Forestville is home to many great restaurants, the El Molino High school, Burke’s Canoe Trips and Steelhead River Beach. Forestville information can be found here.
“Vacation Wonderland” was once home to Sonoma County’s first elevator, inside the Montrio Hotel. However, Monte Rio is most famous because it houses the summer encampment of the Bohemian Men’s Club of San Francisco. Monte Rio’s dog-friendly public beach attracts hundreds of visitors and 1100 locals alike. The town’s biggest events are the Monte Rio Variety Show, produced and hosted by the Bohemian Club, and the 4th of July Big Rocky Games and Fireworks show. For more information about Monte Rio, visit here.
The 2nd smallest of the villages along the river, with only 175 people as its residents. Duncans Mills was best known for its authentic Northwest Pacific Railway train station, now a Historical Museum. This small town is also known for it’s fine shops and spectacular Cajun dining. For more information, click here.
This small town sits atop the coastal cliffs overlooking the mouth of the Russian River. With a population of about 130 people, Jenner receives the title of the River smallest village. It’s main attractions are two fabulous restaurants, River Estuary Kayaking, and the Goat Rock Sonoma Coast State Beach. Jenner is also a hotspot for viewing the harbor seals and their pups (at a safe distance, of course). For more information, click here.
A town built around the Northwest Pacific Railway train stop, Occidental has flourished into the small bohemian community we know it as today. Occidental’s restaurants, shops and close proximity to the world famous Sonoma Canopy Tours redwood zip lining course make it a must for a Sonoma County vacation. Not located directly on the Russian River, one would travel through Monte Rio on Bohemian Hwy, through the dense redwood forest, to get there. For more information, click here.
Another town not directly located on the Russian River but equally as relevant, is this small logging town. First established as a hunting camp, its population grew large enough to merit its own Post Office. Follow Cazadero Highway six miles to the small downtown where you can see the old mill grounds, the historic Hotel and the General Store. Follow the highway up the mountains where you’ll connect with Fort Ross Road which takes you through the wilderness, ending at Fort Ross on the coast. For more information about Cazadero, click here.