Napa vinters say wine lovers think Napa, not Sonoma, when that mountain range is mentioned

  • 4/2/2008:D1: Tim Ward, left, vineyard manager at Skypine Vineyards on Pine Mountain, supplies merlot grapes to Eric Guerra, founder of Eric Guerra Wines, and Leslie Sisneros, winemaker at Eric Guerra Wines. Pine Mountain is part of the Alexander Valley region east of Cloverdale.

    PC: Tim Ward, left, vineyard manager at Skypine Vineyards, supplies Merlot grapes to Eric Guerra, founder of Eric Guerra Wines, and Leslie Sisneros, winemaker at Eric Guerra Wines. Skypine Vineyards is located on Pine Mountain, overlooking Cloverdale, where according to Sisneros, the adverse conditions produce flavorful fruit. (Press Democrat/ Christopher Chung)

Grape growers in the Pine Mountain region northeast of Cloverdale may drop the word "Mayacmas" from their request for a unique appellation for their high-altitude fruit.

The group has asked the federal government to create a new American Viticultural Area, or AVA, named "Pine Mountain-Mayacmas." It would encompass 4,600 acres in northeastern Sonoma and southeastern Mendocino counties.

But Napa Valley vintners object to using the word Mayacmas, saying it would just confuse consumers. They maintain that wine lovers might think the proposed AVA includes Napa County.

Napa vintners say the mountains commonly known as the Mayacamas cover four counties and shouldn't be tied to any single AVA.

"If anything, the point of appellation designation is to make it easier for the consumer," said Napa Valley Vintners spokesman Terry Hall. "This makes it harder."

Proponents say they thought about calling it just "Pine Mountain" but were told there are other Pine Mountains in the U.S. They added Mayacmas, the U.S. Geological Survey name for the mountain range that runs through Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and Napa counties.

Now they are talking with Napa vintners about a compromise.

"We're willing to consider an accommodation," said Barry Hoffner, whose 1,150-acre Silverwood Ranch has cabernet and merlot vineyards within the proposed AVA.

Not if it forces them back to square one, however. Hoffner said proponents have spent five years seeking the AVA designation.

"If we can together agree to come up with an accommodation," Hoffner said, "then it shouldn't jeopardize where we are in the process. Our main objective is to get our AVA through with the name Pine Mountain on it."

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