A Simple Guide to the Sonoma Coast Winemaking Region
California is home to many large winegrowing regions, but few are as diverse as Sonoma County. While warm-weather grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel flourish in areas such as the Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys, the cool-climate Sonoma Coast area has quickly gained a world-class reputation for Pinot Noir, but also Chardonnay. Recognized as an official AVA (American Viticulture Area) in 1987, the Sonoma Coast’s climate is heavily influenced by its proximity to the Pacific, as well as the altitude and aspect of the steep coastal hillsides.
Although only about 2,000 acres are planted with vines, the Sonoma Coast encompasses a whopping 500,000 acres, or 750 square miles total. Temperatures at vineyards in the eastern part of the region can be thirty degrees warmer than vineyards in the west, at the same exact time! For this reason, there has been a move in the past ten years to further delineate and define subregions.
The Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural area was established in 2011 in the far northern end of the area, near the Mendocino border. Vines here sit above the fog line to ensure they have enough sun to ripen but are subjected to cold winds off of the Pacific, which preserves acidity. Chardonnay is the top white grape in these vineyards, but the resulting examples show less oak influence and less ripe fruit notes than you may expect from a California Chardonnay. These cold-climate bottlings are medium-bodied, full of crisp green apple, citrus, and peach tones, and also have a pronounced acidity.
A group of vintners have also spent years establishing an unofficial subregion, the West Sonoma Coast. These growers and winemakers feel it is important for consumers to understand the stylistic and quality differences that set their wines apart from wines grown further inland, where reliable sunshine makes ripening grapes extremely easy. Across the world of wine, it has long been accepted that grapes forced to struggle to grow, due to soil or climate, produce wines of great character. Chardonnay from the fog-shrouded hillsides in towns like Bodega and Occidental display characteristics that are unique to that area. The wines are bright and convey a minerality that is not found elsewhere in the state. Producers such as Peay, Littorai, and Failla were among the pioneers here and all continue to make world-class examples.
We are thrilled to launch our new corporate gifting section of the website! Our core offerings will be sustainable, affordable Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. By uploading your logo, you will be able to send bottles with your own custom label to teammates and customers nationwide!