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Geography & Climate

Sonoma County Geography and Climate Overview 

Written by Gerald Boyd     

Sonoma County is a diverse landscape for grape growing that, climatically, is strongly influenced by maritime variations. Cool nights and days that rarely get hot contribute to layers of oceanic fog that creep into Sonoma’s interior valleys through numerous spots like the Petaluma Gap.

Tree SunDaytime temperatures average a comfortable 71F, with the warmest summer days rarely topping 84F.  Nighttime temperatures stay mostly in the 40s, meaning hard frosts are a rarity, even in the spring, the critical flowering time for grapes.  In September, at the start of the autumn grape harvest, the weather remains moderate with little to no rainfall. Sonoma County experiences no measurable snow or hail and normal rainfall measures between 25 and 30 inches a year.

Grapes thrive in this climate and while the county does experience the occasional temperature extreme and hard rains, the reliably moderate diurnal swings are tempered by coastal fog and only trace amounts of summer rain.

While growing premium wine grapes in Sonoma County is not quite as easy as putting a stick in the ground then stepping back to watch it grow, for grape growers and winemakers, Sonoma County is truly a Garden of Eden.

In the triumvirate of North Coast counties, Sonoma stands out for its diversity of vineyard locations and grape varieties. Within the broad east-west expanse, bounded by the moderating Pacific Ocean and a range of low mountains, Sonoma County is a land of unlimited potential for grape growing and wine making.

Sonoma CoastLong before vineyards covered much of the land, what we now know as Sonoma County was an inland sea. Violent tectonic upheavals of the coastal plates created present day Mayacamas Mountains that form the eastern boundary of the county. In sharp contrast are the southern rolling hills of Sonoma Carneros, once grazing land for sheep but now highly praised land for grape vines, and the slightly higher coastal hills that run the length of the county’s western edge.

All great world wine regions benefit from a body of water, often a river, to moderate climatic swings. In Sonoma County, the mighty moderator is the Russian River, meandering through a lush valley of vineyards, it provides a conduit pulling fog through Healdsburg and into the Alexander Valley, as well as forming its own appellation. On the west side of the county, the Russian River continues its run through Green Valley, finally emptying into the ocean at Jenner.

Today, Sonoma County physical geography is a balance of redwood forests, viticulture and orchards, all in a delicate dance with the pulse and growth of Sonoma County’s business and residential communities.

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