Here Comes the Petaluma Gap AVA

petalumagapI can make a pretty compelling case that within the latitudinal bands where wine grapes flourish on this planet, it is almost always the grape variety used to produce the wine that is more important to the ultimate character of the wine than the place or region where it is grown. This shouldn’t be controversial.

However, when particular wine growing regions within these latitudinal bands demonstrate unquestionably unique climatic and/or geographical characteristics that have a real and positive impact on the growth of vines, it is to the benefit of the consumer and the wine industry that they be outlined, noticed and even officially recognized. One such region is the Petaluma Gap located primarily in the southern reaches of Sonoma County and it’s about to be officially recognized.

The unique aspect of the Petaluma Gap region is that it consistently experiences much greater wind speeds than its neighboring regions in the southern/western Sonoma County area. This along with the consistent fog has produced conditions that lead to unique and even identifiable wines. The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Allliance knew this when they set about documenting the geographic, climatic and historical details of the region in the form of a petition to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) asking that federal agency to recognize the Petaluma Gap as an official American Viticultural Area.

That process is nearly complete, with only one more step required: Public input on the petition. Yesterday the TTB announced that it was seeking public input on the proposed new AVA. If you are so inclined, you can give the TTB your comments and thoughts on the idea of a Petaluma Gap AVA.

I have long believed that the Petaluma Gap region ought to be recognized as an official AVA. Sitting largely in the monstrous and uniquely useless “Sonoma Coast” AVA, the Petaluma Gap actually tells consumers something about the wines produced from grapes grown here and that is exactly what an AVA should do. If approved, it would join other useful AVAs in Sonoma County such as Fort Ross/Seaview, Rockpile, Bennett Valley, Sonoma Mountain and Green Valley.

Some folks have bemoaned the proliferation of AVAs over the past few years. I’m not one of those people. I believe the more small, well-defined AVAs, the better for consumers and the wine industry. And for those who grow grapes within the boarders of the Petaluma Gap or who make wine from those grapes and who do not want to put “Petaluma Gap” on the label, while I think that would be a mistake, it should be mentioned that there is no requirement to put the term on your label. You could still choose to use the “Sonoma Coast”, “North Coast” or simply “Sonoma County” appellations.

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