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December 5, 2011

Understanding Sonoma Valley Appellation

sonoma valley avaThere are close to 65,000 acres of grape production in Sonoma County covering 13 different AVA’s.  The American Vintner Association classifies each area based upon the types of grapes grown in a specific area, the climate of that area and the soil (and about 12 to 15 other items!).   Another way to think about the various AVA’s listings is this… If you look around San Francisco, for instance, you might find 15 to 20 “unique” areas (burrows) in the City.  Each one catering to a different “hub” of businesses or a different type of homeowner.  Historic Homes in one area, Start Up Techie Companies in another, a wonderful restaurant district further down the street.    It’s the same way with the AVA system – each area is a thriving environment for a unique type of grape.

Sonoma County is interesting, because of the large number of AVA’s in the county, which can be attributed to the huge difference in landscape from the Coast to the Mountains.  Sonoma County vineyards typically produce 30 million gallons of wine from the nearly 300 wineries there.  Of the 13 AVA’s in the county, the largest production area is the Sonoma Coast with 27,000 acres of vineyards.  The Sonoma Valley AVA, by comparison is small 14,000 vineyard acres, however it does have the most ( 55 ) wineries.

It’s important to note that Sonoma Valley IS ACTUALLY an AVA… a bottle labeled Sonoma County, might not be from this unique corner of the county.  The Valley is shaped almost identically to the Napa Valley appellation to the east.  It runs from south (at the ocean) 17 miles to the north.  Mountains stretch from the west to the east across various growing regions.  You will find well-draining rocky (and in some instances volcanic) soils along the mountain sides – perfect for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel.

The Sonoma Valley appellation is bordered by the Sonoma Mountains on the west and the Mayacamas Mountains on the east.  Warm days and breeze-cooled nights during the growing season create perfect conditions for grape growers.  The ocean winds in the southern sections of the valley are attributed with slowing the ripening process… this is important, as it is considered a factor in prolonging the hang time and it is thought to help promote the natural balance in the wines.  The grapes that produce the award winning wine from this area include the red wine favorites: Zinfindel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah – and the white wine favorite:  Chardonnay.

Trying to compare the grapes, vineyards and potential of this area to other great Wine Production areas of the world?  The Sonoma Valley appellation can be compared, based upon the number of days during the growing season that the temperature will be a consistent above 50 degrees F (the Winkler Scale).  Based upon the growing times, Sonoma Valley would be classified as a Region II, and therefore similar to Alto-Adige in Northern Italy, the Northern Rhône region of France, Yountville of Napa Valley and the Clare Valley of Australia. Region II is similar to Bordeaux in France.   Accordingly, the Carneros AVA and the Sonoma Mountain AVA both compare at cooler classifications, at Region I and low Region II, respectively.  The cost of ownership for a vineyard here, when you look at the global comparison and potential, is quite reasonable!

Interested in a vineyard for sale in Sonoma Valley, or Napa Valley?  I work with buyers everyday who are looking for the right property to meet their ROI /  EBIT and individual needs.  Please call me for more information!

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