Situated eighty miles north of San Francisco (whose iconic cityscape can be seen from here on a clear day) and just a short hop from the city of Sonoma, the AVA takes its name from the native tribe’s translation of the latter (literally, Valley of the Moon).
A sub-appellation of the North Coast and Sonoma Valley AVAs, Moon Mountain covers a geographic area of seven-thousand hectares of which more than six-hundred are currently planted with winemaking grapes. Benefitting from a mostly western / southwestern aspect, the majority of Moon Mountain vineyards enjoy an ample amount of sunshine as well as the influence of the Pacific breeze which serves to cool extremes in summer temperature. This unique microclimate - considerably warmer than The Valley floor - ensures that the grapes here mature over an extended period and hence produce intensely aromatic, well-balanced wines.
Red grapes outnumber whites four to one and Cabernet Sauvignon is the principal, along with other traditional Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot. The pale skinned Chardonnay is also well represented, so too Syrah and the afore mentioned Zinfandel which produces rich, flavoursome varietals. Pinot Noir - typically grown in cooler climate regions - has also found some success near the appellation’s southern tip.
Elevation is a key constituent of the Moon Mountain terroir, and a stipulation of the AVAs label. Vineyards typically occupy plots between one-hundred-and-fifty and seven-hundred metres above sea level, with many sited above the fog line. Volcanic, free draining soils rich in iron and steep slopes are the norm, producing low grape yields and high quality wines.
An appellation in its infancy, Moon Mountain nonetheless has a rich viticultural history as part of the Sonoma Valley AVA and the wider North Coast wine region. Home to the famous Monte Rosso vineyard with its more than a century old Zinfandel vines, this area is now rightly gaining a reputation for high quality, mountain wines in the style of more well known AVAs such as Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder.