Cool New Appellation in Sonoma

While the Napa Valley still gets the most attention, the seaboard hills of Sonoma are increasingly attractive to winemakers looking for conditions that will survive climate change.

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Map of Sonoma (Photo: Sonoma County Vintners)
Map of Sonoma (Photo: Sonoma County Vintners)

California has a new appellation, Sonoma’s 19th. The West Sonoma Coast AVA, which is home to around four dozen, most of which are focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is distinguished by altitudes which range from 121m (400ft) to 550m (1,800 ft). The landscape is often dramatically hilly as it follows the line of the San Andreas Fault and ocean breezes from the Pacific help to keep temperatures in this region around 5.5 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Farenheit) lower than the rest of the Sonoma Coast AVA, one of the cooler parts of the state.

Producers in the region include small, recently established, boutiques and well-known California names such as Joseph Phelps, Paul Hobbs and Littorai, all of whom see the advantages of the cooler temperatures here. The shift in focus to higher elevation regions with more reliable access to water is an inevitable consequence of climate change - and the readiness of US consumers to pay more for cooler-climate, more 'European' style wines

The creation of the West Sonoma Coast AVA comes at the end of an 11-year fight by a small group of wineries, and in the context of the relative failure of the huge Sonoma Coast AVA which includes large amounts of inland vineyards and has little regional character. Producers who might have used it, have preferred to label their wines as coming from sub regions like Russian River or Green Valley. West Sonoma Coast also has sub-regions - Annapolis, Fort Ross/Seaview, Freestone, Green Valley, Occidental, and Sebastopol Hills - but, like the young Petaluma Gap AVA to the south, as an overall region it has a more coherent style.

While winemakers and enthusiasts across the planet love to see new AVAs being created, and marketers enjoy the opportunity to talk about them, sales teams are not always quire as enthusiastic about regions that have not yet created resonance with retailers and wine drinkers. 

There is no question, however, that new appellations with distinctive styles and stories to tell can have an immediate role in tasting rooms and in sommeliers’ repertoires.


West Sonoma Coast Vintners
  • 32 Winds
  • Alma Fria
  • Balletto
  • Black Kite Cellars
  • Bor’s View
  • Ceritas
  • DuMOL
  • Ernest Vineyards
  • Failla Wines
  • Flowers Vineyards & Winery
  • Freeman Vineyards & Winery
  • Gros Ventre Cellars
  • Hirsch
  • Joseph Phelps
  • Littorai Wines
  • Matt Taylor Wines
  • Occidental
  • Paul Hobbs
  • Peay Vineyards
  • RAEN Winery
  • Red Car Winery
  • Small Vines Wines
  • Senses Wines
  • Stressed Vines
  • Wayfarer
  • Whistler Vineyard



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