Sonoma County California Wineries, Events and More!

Sonoma Coast Appellation

Within the borders of the Sonoma Coast viticultural area there are 750 square miles, dozens of wineries, hundreds of vineyards, and just about every type of agricultural endeavor in the county, from flowers, potatoes, apples, and figs to poultry, sheep, and cattle.  The AVA stretches from the Sonoma-Marin border north all the way to the Mendocino county line, overlapping Carneros, and intersecting Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Mountain, and Russian River Valley.
Sonoma Coast makes about as much sense as Northern Sonoma (an amorphous AVA that includes Chalk Hill, Knights Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and most of Green Valley within its immense embrace), which is to say, not a lot.  Just four wineries—Annapolis Winery, Wild Hog Vineyards, Flowers Vineyards and Winery, and Keller Estates (formerly, Pyramids)—exist soley in Sonoma Coast.   Only Annapolis is open for visitors.  Keller Estates, located on Lakeville Highway east of Petaluma not far from the southeastern edge of the county, is our southernmost winery.  Annapolis Winery, a couple of miles inland from Sea Ranch and about three miles south of Mendocino County, is our northernmost winery.  No two wineries in the county are farther apart, yet they are in the same appellation.  How can such a vast region tell us anything about the wines produced there?
The stated justification for Sonoma Coast as it is currently drawn is temperature.  Daily marine fog cools some, though hardly all, of the area.  More to the point, Sonoma Coast has allowed Sonoma-Cutrer to designate its wines as “estate”.  To do so, both a winery and a vineyard must be within the same AVA (the winery must also own or control the vineyard).  With vineyards in various parts of the county, only a new appellation would permit the use of the term.  Bryce Jones, who sold Sonoma-Cutrer to Brown-Forman in 1999, was the primary force behind the establishment of Sonoma Coast and until recently one of its sole advocates.
The county’s first vineyard was planted in Sonoma Coast in 1817 near what is now Coleman Valley Road, though there is no record of the varietal grown.  Today the most interesting—and controversial—activity is taking place high above the fog line near Seaview Road northwest of Cazadero, a remote region with spectacular views, large parcels, dirt roads, and a growing number of vineyards, all high above the nearby Pacific Ocean.   Soils vary but they tend towards clay, rock, and gravel, poor soils in which grapevines struggle and, as a result, produce superior grapes.  There is abundant wild life, including coyotes, porcupines, skunks, and, of course, wild boar and deer.  In recent years, an increase in the number of mountain lions seems to have brought populations of boar and deer back into balance.  There are more young oak trees than there have been in years, evidence that boar and deer are no longer eating all of the saplings.  There are so many birds here that the vineyards are covered with nets as soon as the first grapes ripen.
There is a tremendous amount of rainfall in this part of Sonoma Coast—as much as 160 inches in a wet year—but water is scarce much of the year.  Because the vineyards are all above the fog, days are sunny.  There is plenty of light, from sunrise to sunset nearly every day during the growing season, but, because of marine influences, only moderate heat, conditions that favor pinot noir and chardonnay.  Grapes ripen slowly in the intense but cool light, developing deep, complex flavors.
Some vineyards have been established for