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Marquee Sonoma County vineyards offer sought-after grapes

Sometimes a piece of land is just a piece of land. Sometimes it’s magic. What conjures that magic is an elusive mix of climate, soil, location and farming.

For wine grapes, that last element is crucial; vineyards, after all, don’t plant or nurture themselves.

Many magical vineyards in Sonoma County are owned and farmed by the families who will use the grapes themselves to make their own wines.

Others are highly sought after by others.

Only a couple handfuls of these vineyards can call themselves “marquee,” farmed so meticulously and so perfectly located and planted that they are coveted by many and sourced by few.

The inclusion of their name on a label telegraphs both quality and cachet.

Here are just a few:

Bacigalupi Vineyards

Location: Russian River Valley

Acreage: 125 acres

Varietal(s) produced: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Why is the vineyard notable: In addition to being a vineyard designate for many fine producers, Bacigalupi is famous for supplying 40% of the chardonnay grapes that went into Chateau Montelena’s 1973 wine that won the famous 1976 Paris Tasting.

Durell Vineyard

Location: Sonoma Valley/Carneros/Sonoma Coast

Acreage: 135 acres

Varietal(s) produced: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Why is the vineyard notable: A much sought-after vineyard source for many producers, Durell is owned by Bill Price, who uses them for his Three Sticks wines.

Gap’s Crown

Location: Sonoma Coast/Petaluma Gap

Acreage: 406 acres (138 planted)

Varietal(s) produced: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Why is the vineyard notable: Another marquee vineyard owned by Bill Price and the crown jewel in the pending Petaluma Gap AVA (American Viticultural Area).

Jackass Hill Vineyard

Location: Russian River Valley

Acreage: 3 acres

Varietal(s) produced: Zinfandel

Why is the vineyard notable: One of the steepest vineyards in California, planted at a 60-degree angle of non-terraced slope, Jackass is owned and farmed by the Martinelli family. It’s a highly sought-after, tiny-production Zinfandel vineyard, made famous originally by wine consultant Helen Turley. While the Martinellis keep the Jackass Hill grapes, they sell grapes from many of their other marquee vineyards across Sonoma County.

Kick Ranch

Location: Rincon Valley, Santa Rosa

Acreage: 41.5 acres

Varietal(s) produced: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Musque, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Viognier

Why is the vineyard notable: Kick Ranch sells grapes to a who’s-who of producers, including Paul Hobbs, Kirk Venge, Fred Scherrer, Ehren Jordan -- and Bibiana Gonzales Rave and Jeff Pisoni for their exquisite Shared Notes sauvignon blanc. Owner Dick Keenan also makes his own wine from the ranch, called Overland.

Virginie Boone is a freelance wine writer based in Sonoma County. She can be reached at virginieboone@yahoo.com and followed on Twitter @vboone

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