The Bleeding Potential of the Petaluma Gap
I sat and had lunch today in the middle of a region of Sonoma that MUST obtain its own AVA status.
The Petaluma Gap is, I think, everything and more that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) demands of an American Viticultural Area. For the record, the TTB demands that applicants for AVA status show that their region 1) locally known by the name specified, 2) that the boundaries of the proposed AVA have current or historical evidence demonstrating their validity and 3) that there be evidence of growing conditions such as climate, soil, elevation and physical features that distinguish the region.
This defines the "Petaluma Gap".
Currently the Petaluma Gap region sits primarily within that monstrosity of an AVA known as "Sonoma Coast". While the Sonoma Coast has gained some fame among aficionados for its Pinots, the appellation is so large as to be meaningless. Carving it up, starting with the Petaluma Gap region would go a long way toward fixing the problem that is "Sonoma Coast".
The region is located in southern Sonoma and runs on a rough west to southeast direction from the coast to the Sonoma Mountains with the Marin County border to the south and the northern edge running up to Santa Rosa.
As is written on the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance's website, "Wind and fog define the area, giving the term "micro-climate" real meaning."
And there is no question this is true. Most of the region is well below the fog line and is covered in fog in the morning and the night, unlike much of Sonoma Coast that is above the fog line. This is Pinot, Chard and Syrah Country. And there is even some riesling planted that I can't wait to try.
I was sitting on the veranda of a beautiful estate, Azari, that has yet to release its first wine. When it does, wine folks will flock to it. But for now, the wines are still in barrel and we sat above them eating a quiet lunch, the owners and I. We talked wine, history, the industry and about our pasts and looked out at what are already golden hills.
The growers in the Petaluma Gap region primarily sell their wines to top wineries that put "Sonoma Coast" on their labels for lack of a better, more defining term. I'm not sure how the members of the Petaluma Gap Association feel about seeking AVA status. But I know that if they did it would be good for the whole American Viticultural Area program since the uniqueness of this area would demonstrate that the TTB can grant AVA status to a meaningful and deserving region.
It is very easy to become jaded about terroir, appellations, new wineries and even the magnificent landscapes that define Sonoma County after working in the wine industry for 20 some odd years. But then you are find yourself amongst fine people, eating fine and authentic homemade food on a lovely day, in a beautiful region that bleeds potential all while sitting above a collection of barreled wine that demonstrates that potential and the cynicism melts away.