By Lisa Rowlands

Covering around fifteen-thousand hectares of beautiful, wooded landscape at the eastern edge of Sonoma County, Fountaingrove District is a hidden jewel in the Californian wine crown. With less than 2% of the land area planted to vine and an average vineyard size of just five hectares, the AVA has a peaceful, undiscovered feel with a small number of family-run wineries, some of which offer tastings. Most vine plots are found amongst the foothills of the Mayacama Mountains at altitudes up to seven-hundred metres where they experience excellent exposure to sunlight.

Despite it being some distance from the ocean, the climate of Fountaingrove District benefits from the cool breeze that travels through the gap in the Sonoma mountains at Santa Rosa. Temperatures are subsequently cooler than those in adjacent lower lying appellations and consequently grapes enjoy an extended growing season. Free-draining volcanic soils dominate in combination with sedimentary Franciscan bedrock, providing a near perfect platform for high quality viticulture.

The appellation takes its name from a utopian colony set up towards the end of the nineteenth century by cult leader Thomas Lake Harris. Historically, the area has been synonymous with cool climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Riesling, along with California’s emblematic Zinfandel. These days however Cabernet Sauvignon is the most prevalent variety and Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Petite Sirah, along with the characterful white grape Viognier are also well represented. Although not so widely planted, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc do still thrive in certain microclimates within the appellation.