New winegrowing region proposed for west Sonoma County

The proposed 16-square-mile Sebastopol Hills American Viticultural Area southwest of the namesake city currently has over 1,000 acres of vines in about 50 vineyards.|

Just over 16 square miles of hills and valleys southwest of Sebastopol is the latest Sonoma County area being pursued for federal recognition as a distinct winegrowing region for cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir.

The petition submitted Thursday to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau seeks establishment of the Sebastopol Hills American Viticultural Area. If approved it would join 18 approved subappellations inside Sonoma County, and it would also be part of the larger North Coast winegrowing region.

Under federal rules, wines bearing an approved winegrowing area name on the front label generally must be made with at least 75% of the grapes used coming from that region. Where appellations overlap, vintners can choose which area name to use on the label.

The proposed Sebastopol Hills area would partially overlap with the existing Green Valley of the Russian River appellation, created in 1983. Sebastopol Hills for over two decades has been considered one of six grape growing “neighborhoods” or marketing areas in the Russian River Valley area, according to the document prepared by the Sebastopol Hills Winegrowers Association.

“This small jewel of a region produces wines with a distinct regional character, wines of great acidity, vibrancy and freshness,” said Ted Lemon, president of Littorai Vineyards, one of the petition backers.

The trade group makes the case that Sebastopol Hills has lower daily high temperatures and heat accumulation during the season than the rest of the Russian River Valley.

Littorai, Balletto Vineyards and Kanzler Vineyards formed the Sebastopol Hills trade group and are backing the petition, written by Joe Rogoway of Rogoway Law Group. The area is said to have about 1,113 acres of planted vines in more than 50 vineyards plus two bonded wineres, Kanzler and Littorai.

Here are the proposed Sebastopol Hills AVA boundaries. (Courtesy: Sebastopol Hills Winegrowers Association)
Here are the proposed Sebastopol Hills AVA boundaries. (Courtesy: Sebastopol Hills Winegrowers Association)

The boundaries proposed for the 10,320-acre region include the hills directly west and south of Sebastopol, south of Bodega Highway (Highway 12), east of Barnett Valley Road, north and northeast of Blucher Creek, and west of Highway 116.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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