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A Wine Journey along the Russian River by Steve Heimoff

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Heimoff wine book

Steve Heimoff: A Wine Journey along the Russian River

University of California Press

The Bottom Line

California's Russian River runs through some good geology as well as several world-class and soon-to-be-world-class wine regions. Wine writer Steve Heimoff expands into geology, history and biography in his exploration of this distinctive area, giving readers a new depth of appreciation for the wines and winemakers of the Russian River in Sonoma County.
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  • Interviews and decades of tastings pay off in vivid depth
  • Candid photo portraits bring winemakers and geologists to life
  • Attention to geologic history is unusual for a wine book


  • Maps are only adequate
  • Does not address the upper river in Mendocino County
  • Interest limited to wine geeks and Bay Area residents


  • Geography, geology and history get equal billing with winemakers
  • Decades of visits and tasting notes inform a treatment in depth
  • Interviews, photos and character portraits include both geologists and winegrowers

Guide Review - A Wine Journey along the Russian River by Steve Heimoff

I recently drank a pinot noir from one of the dozen wine appellations along the Russian River. On its Web site the winemaker details all five vineyards contributing to the bottle, plus each one's exact mix of vine clones—symptom of a wine region that has reached fad status. In "A Wine Journey along the Russian River," Steve Heimoff explores the genuine factors that underlie the hype, and there is a fine lily beneath the gilt.

The peculiar geologic events that gave rise to the river we know include volcanism, stream capture and the passage of a tectonic slab window. Today's rivercourse threads a bewilderment of microclimates and soils in which winegrowers are still feeling their way, from the heights and heat of the Alexander Valley, past Chalk Hill and Green Valley, to the windswept Sonoma Coast fog belt near Jenner. Heimoff makes a game foray into cutting-edge geologic research and acquits himself pretty well, thanks to some smart geologists who are wine-country specialists.

It takes more than great geology to make great wine. The bulk of Heimoff's book goes into the human history of the river valley and the generations of winegrowers that gave this region its well-deserved reputation.

The same wine drinker who appreciates clone trivia will get from this book a good dose of the geology that forms the basis of the terroir. And the geologist who loves wine will learn of some special localities to consider visiting during a wine-tasting sojourn in this special place.

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