High on the slopes of Pine Mountain, Sonoma and Mendocino counties now have a new grape-growing region.
The Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA, or American Viticultural Area, spans 4,750 acres and contains 230 acres of vineyards. Another 150 acres of vineyards are under development, according to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which recently made the area the 14th official viticultural area in Sonoma County.
"This is a truly unique area, and really deserves to be recognized as a viticultural area," said Sara Schorske, a Compliance Service America consultant who wrote the petition to create the AVA. "The growers who have vineyards up there had invested a lot more in maintaining their vineyards, because they are so high up in the mountains."
The AVA starts at an elevation of 1,500 feet and vineyards currently stripe the slopes to heights of 2,600 feet, said Barry Hoffner, one of nine or 10 grape growers located in the new AVA.
"We had this project to carve out our own AVA to show the distinctiveness of our area and of our grapes," said Hoffner, owner of Silverwood Ranch, which supplies grapes to Francis Ford Coppola Winery, among others. "At the end of the day, it will be the wineries that decide the success of the AVA itself, by ultimately bottling Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak labels."
Originally, the group had requested to be named Pine Mountain-Mayacmas, to include the mountain range to which Pine belongs. But that didn't fly with neighboring grape growing regions.
"Some growers in Napa Valley took issue with that name," Schorske said. "They said, &‘It's a name associated with Napa Valley, you can't use that.' So we had to go back to the drawing board and think of a new name that would be distinctive."
In Sonoma County, the new AVA overlaps with the Alexander Valley and Northern Sonoma viticultural areas. But its mountainous soils and steep topography make it distinct.
The process of attaining the designation took six years, Hoffner said. Next, growers there plan to start their own association.
"Its been a long time in coming," Hoffner said.