At the county’s southeastern most tip, and encompassing five very distinct AVA’s, Sonoma Valley wines radiate the region’s remarkable natural diversity. There are steep mountains and rolling benchlands and fertile plains. There’s cool coastal fog. There’s abundant warm California sunshine. And yet that’s just the beginning of the region’s endless diversity, both in climate and geography. It’s as if nature brought together the very best elements for winegrowing and assembled them in one place.
Spice of Life
Known affectionately as The Valley of the Moon, Sonoma Valley is both the name of the region and its largest AVA. Geographically, it’s bordered to the west by the Sonoma Mountains and, to the east, by the stunning Mayacamas Range.
- Climate: An “open” valley to the north and south, cool air flows down from the Pacific Ocean and up from San Pablo Bay.
- Soils: There are, at last count, over fifteen distinctly different soil series found and farmed in Sonoma Valley.
- Varietals: Of the dozens of grape varietals grown in Sonoma Valley, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the most notable.
2,300 feet high at its peak, vineyards on Sonoma Mountain rise above the fog line, allowing grapes to ripen more fully in the extended hours of sunlight. A bit off the beaten path, Sonoma Mountain has a steep, rustic and faraway feeling.
- Climate: More sunlight means warmer days, but the altitude makes for chilly nights.
- Soils: Sonoma Mountain soils are volcanic-based and exceptionally well-draining.
- Varietals: Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon flourish in this high altitude environment.
Sonoma and Napa share this cool, highly marine-influenced region. The morning fog and afternoon winds keeps Los Carneros cool in the summer and warm in the winter creating a refreshing paradox that gives grapes a little extra hang time.
- Climate: Bordering San Pablo Bay keeps temperatures consistently cool.
- Soils: Because much of Los Carneros was once under water, soils are mostly marine sedimentary.
- Varietals: The classic cool climate varietals – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Sonoma Valley’s smallest AVA, Bennett Valley is nestled between three peaks. Taylor Mountain to the west, Sonoma Mountain to the south, and Bennett Peak to the east.
- Climate: A gap in the mountains welcomes Pacific breezes that cool temperatures.
- Soils: Ash that accumulated long ago give the soils a high volcanic content.
- Varietals: Chardonnay rules in Bennett Valley, along with Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.
Moon Mountain District
Tucked into the steep western slope of the Mayacamas Mountains, Sonoma Valley’s newest AVA begins at 400 feet above sea level and rises to the skies above the valley floor, reaching up to 2,700 feet at its peak.
- Climate: Almost constant bay breezes blow across an entire AVA perched above the average summer fog-line.
- Soils: The soils of Moon Mountain consist largely of fractured basalt and volcanic ash.
- Varietals: While home to the historic Monte Rosso Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon is now dominant on these hillside vineyards.