WINEMAKING ON THE MOON
An epic day exploring Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Valley’s newest (and highest) AVA.
SUNRISE AMONG THE VINES WITH WINEGROWING LEGEND PHIL COTURRI.
You have to get up pretty early to catch Phil Coturri. But if you want to know the fascinating history and promising future of Sonoma Valley, Phil’s your man. He can tell you what it’s like to grow up here, working vineyards planted by his parents when he was 14. He can trace back the roots of the grapes he grows to the legendary, century-old Zinfandel vineyards of Monte Rosso. He can give you all the technical viticultural specifications that make Moon Mountain such a remarkable place to grow grapes. But he’d probably prefer to share a few of his favorite wines with you. WinerySixteen600.com
Some of the best spots on Moon Mountain are best accessed
by alternative forms of transportation.
The Moon Mountain District is made up of entirely hillside vineyards. Some incredibly remote. Microclimates abound up here. Among the meadows, canyons and ridges you’ll encounter everything from arid chaparral to scrub oak woodlands. There are even a few redwood groves tucked among the mountain’s steep ravines.
MOUNTAINTOP TASTING AT KAMEN VINEYARDS
If there’s a more spectacular place to taste wine, we haven’t found it.
Perched high atop his Moon Mountain vineyards is a spot Robert Kamen set aside for private tastings – the views befitting his spectacular wines. A little closer to sea level, in the town of Sonoma, the Kamen Estate Wines tasting room pours all of his Moon Mountain grown wines in a beautiful setting. KamenWines.com
Signs of the massive volcanoes that formed the Mayacamas Mountains are everywhere, with huge outcroppings that seem to erupt from the ground around every corner. Even the soils, predominately fractured basalt and ash, can give the place a particularly moonlike feel. Then, of course, there are the clay deposits that imbue the soils in vineyards like the renowned Monte Rosso with an intense red color.
HANZELL HAS IT ALL
Incredible wines in a beautiful setting.
Some places in Sonoma Valley just seem to embody the region’s unique blend of agrarian antiquity and contemporary sophistication. Hanzell is totally one of those places. Surrounded by pristine vineyards in what you could call the foothills of Moon Mountain, Michael McNeill is crafting estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that have collectors clamoring for the latest releases. Tastings here are a true event, and an opportunity to sample some of the finest wines made on Moon Mountain, or anywhere else for that matter. Hanzell.com
LUNCH AT STREET LEVEL
When you come down the mountain for lunch, head to the town of Aqua Caliente. That’s where you’ll find El Molino Central serving authentic Mexican street food. Tip: take home a few of their homemade tamales.
MEET THE CAB MASTER AT AMAPOLA CREEK
Richard Arrowood, perhaps more than anyone else, helped put Sonoma Valley on the map.
When Richard Arrowood started crafting Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards throughout Sonoma County, he showed the world that Sonoma cabs could compete with the best in the world. Today, Amapola Creek Vineyards & Winery showcases the best of the best on Moon Mountain, from his signature Cabs to Monte Rosso Zinfandel. Rosco, the French Bull Dog, has also made a significant impact, too, but in a much cuter way. AmapolaCreek.com
YOU CAN SEE ITALY FROM PETRONI VINEYARDS
About as close as you can get to a real Italian Villa.
Fresh olive oil made from trees grown right on the estate. Honey from bees that pollinate the many local wildflowers. And, of course, wines made from their estate grown Sangiovese. Petroni Vineyards brings a slice of the Italian countryside to the hills above Sonoma Valley. PetroniVineyards.com
VINES WITH A VIEW
Some of the higher vineyards here enjoy sweeping views from the Santa Rosa Plain to the bridges of San Francisco Bay. The elevation keeps these vineyards out of all but the thickest summer fog, so days are long and warm while the nights are cool and dry. The coastal influence and constant cooling winds allow grapes to ripen slowly, creating deep extracted flavors. Admit it, if you had a view like this, you’d probably hang on the vine as long as you could, too.
THE CORK MAKES IT CRYSTAL CLEAR
Korbin Kameron is growing wines at the very peak of elevation and flavor.
Look at the cork. Those crystals are a tell tale sign of the majestic intensity of Korbin Kameron wines. With estate fruit grown from some of the highest vineyards on Moon Mountain, these Bordeaux style wines are powerful testimonies to why Sonoma Valley’s newest AVA deserved to be isolated and recognized. You can taste them at Korbin Kameron’s charming tasting room in Glen Ellen. KorbinKameron.com