By Lisa Rowlands

Contained within the larger Sonoma Valley appellation, Sonoma Mountain was granted its own designated AVA status in 1985 on account of its unique elevation and exposure. The Mountain - a seven-hundred-and-fifty metre peak offering splendid views across the valley below - has slopes facing towards each of the four compass directions and subsequently offers a range of different microclimates. The majority of vine parcels face east on steep, wooded slopes sheltered from the Pacific breeze / fog and in receipt of abundant sunshine during the morning and early afternoon. In the evening, temperatures drop significantly, giving cool overnight conditions and hence the benefits of an extended ripening process. Cabernet Sauvignon is the chief variety in these eastern vineyards producing powerful yet elegantly structured wines.

The opposite side of the the mountain is cooler and more heavily influenced by the the marine air and cool winds from the Petaluma Gap. Conditions here are more suited to Burgundy varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as the Rhône Valley grape, Syrah. Here, as on the eastern flank, vineyards are seemingly sporadic and non-contiguous, rather they are found in pockets amongst trees and other flora. Shallow, free-draining, volcanic soils are fairly uniform across the appellation, hence low yields of richly concentrated grapes are the norm.

In addition to the principal varieties mentioned above, other grapes such as Grenache, Merlot and Grüner Veltliner are also grown, albeit in much smaller quantities. And whilst there are few wineries operating directly out of Sonoma Mountain AVA, the fruits cultivated here are a highly sought after commodity for premium, non-resident wineries across many of Sonoma’s AVAs. Chardonnay wines from Sonoma Mountain are intensely aromatic, buttery and complex whilst Pinot Noir varietals tend to be rich and elegant with flavours of cherry, plum and rose petal.