The West Sonoma Coast Vintners is proud to announce the TTB’s approval of the newly established West Sonoma Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA). The West Sonoma Coast AVA is located within the westernmost portion of Sonoma County, holding approximately 50 vineyards planted with varieties ranging from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Syrah. The approval of the AVA recognizes the region’s unique maritime growing conditions that are clearly expressed in the wines and give proper distinction to the growers who farm this cold, marginal viticultural region.
West Sonoma Coast is the 19th AVA in Sonoma County. The AVA is located on the furthest western sliver of Sonoma County encompassing the steep, rugged mountainous terrain along the Pacific Ocean coastline. The AVA comprises three sub regions from north to south: Annapolis, the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA and Freestone-Occidental. The Pacific Ocean forms the western boundary of the AVA, and the shared Sonoma-Mendocino County line forms the northern boundary. The eastern boundary follows a series of elevation contours within 5 to 7 miles of the Pacific Ocean while the southern boundary is marked by the northern boundary of the Petaluma Gap AVA.
The growers in West Sonoma Coast are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in this marginal climate. Erin Brooks of Ernest Winery summarizes the significance of the new appellation noting, “A great deal of effort from our winegrowing community has been devoted to getting this AVA approved. We are excited for West Sonoma Coast to be recognized as the true coastal region within the greater Sonoma Coast appellation, a distinction that will inform the wine consumer on a unique style that is dictated by coastal proximity.”
Elevation of the West Sonoma Coast AVA ranges from 400 to 1,800 feet with vineyards planted on steep ridge tops along the San Andreas fault line up against the consistently cold Pacific Ocean, both above and below the fog line. As a result, temperatures are at least 10 or more degrees cooler than the rest of the Sonoma Coast AVA. Due to the immediate proximity of the Pacific Ocean, cold marine air and heavy fog create challenging conditions for grape growers, while offering distinct advantages for wine grapes. The maritime conditions moderate the temperature in the vineyards – daytime highs are cooler, while nighttime lows are warmer than just a few miles inland. This modest diurnal temperature swing allows the fruit to ripen slowly throughout the day and the night, a phenomenon experienced only in a truly cold-climate, maritime environment. This slow, steady ripening promotes the development of fruit that reaches true physiological maturity at lower sugar levels with pronounced acidity.
The climatic characteristics of West Sonoma Coast guide the style of the wine produced in the AVA. Bright acidity, moderate alcohol, and pure flavors are the qualities that are often associated with the wines from the West Sonoma Coast. The newfound status of the region as an AVA provides clarity for the consumer who can expect a wine labeled ‘West Sonoma Coast’ to have these defining qualities that differentiate its wines from those grown on warmer sites farther inland in the Sonoma Coast AVA.
The area comprising the West Sonoma Coast AVA has a long agricultural history dating back to the 1880s, with the earliest vitis vinifera vines planted as early as 1817. In addition to wine grapes, the area still produces commercial apples and supports a lively dairy and ranching industry, as well as many nature parks, conservancy efforts and environmental projects.
About the West Sonoma Coast Vintners
The West Sonoma Coast Vintners is an association of wineries and growers who are passionate about farming along the mountainous coastline of western Sonoma County. Their goal is to promote and preserve the character and complexity of the rugged West Sonoma Coast region — its wines, culture, history, natural landscape, and cool, maritime climate. For a list of members of the West Sonoma Coast Vintners and to learn more, visit westsonomacoast.com.