Introduction

By Lisa Rowlands

The Sonoma Coast like so much of the United States’ western reaches, is an area of wild and rugged natural beauty. Vineyards here tend to occupy steep slopes at high altitude - many above the fog line, and as the appellation’s name suggests, the cool fog and strong winds coming off the Pacific Ocean have a huge influence on the area’s climate. Average temperatures are significantly cooler here than inland and the area receives more precipitation as well. Subsequently, the grape varieties given to thrive in these conditions are distinct from those found in California’s warmer appellations. Around three quarters of wines produced under the Sonoma Coast label are made from either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay and there is also a small but increasing number of Syrah varietals turning heads in the wine world.

Since the appellation covers such a large area, it has been suggested that a number of smaller, site specific AVAs are created to address the wide range of terroirs / microclimates within its bounds. However, at present Sonoma Coast has only one named sub-appellation - the mountainous Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, whose label can only be assigned to wines made from grapes grown in vineyards at least two-hundred-and-eighty metres above sea level.

Despite two grapes dominating production here, the wines of the Sonoma Coast AVA are diverse and plentiful, with a great number of unique expressions receiving high scores and wide acclaim. Elegant, crisp Chardonnay varietals, captivatingly aromatic Pinots and rich, textured Syrah wines, along with the occasional gem from a lesser planted variety, make the Sonoma Coast AVA a rather exciting and increasingly fashionable wine zone.