June 15, 2012

Sonoma Mountain Appellation


Sonoma Mountain is perhaps one of the best known land marks in Sonoma, but most people only see if from a distance!  Four million years ago, an east-facing slope of Sonoma Mountain blew open, sending molten rock and hot ash raining out over the upper valley.  Remnants of the eruption are everywhere:  large obsidian boulders, veins of ash, erratic variations in soil, extensive marine deposits, all characteristics of the ancient violence that shaped this hauntingly beautiful area.  Sonoma Mountain itself rises to a peak of 2463 feet, and it’s here that wonder grapes grow in the unique terrior.

The Sonoma Mountain Appellation, with its eastern to northeastern exposures, rises high above the western edge of Sonoma Valley on the edge of Sonoma Mountain. Located above the typical morning and evening fog lines, the vines enjoy full morning sunlight and a lengthy growing season during which they can evenly develop and flourish. The region is steep and rustic and has a faraway feeling compared to the rest of the Valley.

The Sonoma Mountain AVA is well known for it’s micro-climates that occur within the crevices and folds of the hillside terrain.  Because of these diverse micro-climates, it is home to production for a wide range of varietals.

While best known for growing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in its well-drained soils, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon grapes also thrive in its diverse micro-climates.  Well known Wine from this area include Benzinger Family Winery, Ravenswood and Van Der Kamp.

Overlooking the town of Kenwood, the Van der Kamp family has been making wine from this north-facing vineyard on Sonoma Mountain for more than four decades.  The vineyard is farmed organically in key vineyard blocks, with some dry-farmed blocks. Few growers in the world give the kind of dedication that vineyard manager Ulysses Van der Kamp gives – and the results show.  The Van der Kamps provide their own picking labor, calling on family and friends to pick the fruit so that no outside labor is brought in.

The vineyard sits at 1,400 feet, next to a full vegetable and herb garden and fruit orchard. It used to be that mountain fruit like this meant aggressive tannins but, through Ulysses’ tireless efforts, the viticulture here has worked to finesse the tannic structure of the wines.

If you want to know more about the Vineyards in Sonoma, or other Sonoma Appellations, call me!

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