Feds OK Petaluma Gap winegrowing appellation on Sonoma Coast

Azari Vineyards just southwest of Petaluma (Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance)

JEFF QUACKENBUSH,

NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

The federal government on Thursday gave final approval to the 202,000-acre windswept Petaluma Gap winegrowing region, dominated by pinot noir vineyards stretching from bay waters north of San Francisco to the ocean.

The newly created American Viticultural Area (AVA) straddles the Sonoma–Marin county line from the Sonoma Mountains and San Pablo Bay on the east, through Petaluma and ending at the Pacific Ocean on the west. It is partly within the boundaries of the Sonoma Coast AVA. The even larger North Coast AVA was extended by 28,077 acres to encompass all of Petaluma Gap.

Petaluma Gap has about 4,000 acres of vines in roughly 80 commercial vineyards. Three-quarters of the vines are pinot noir, with chardonnay and syrah making up virtually all the remainder. The area also has nine bonded wineries.

AVAs are federally recognized appellations of origin for wine labels, showing consumers where the grapes come from. At least 85 percent of the grapes going into wine with the AVA name on the label must be grown in that area, according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which approves AVAs.

"Local winemakers have long known that grapes grown in the Petaluma Gap ripen more slowly than in surrounding regions, allowing later harvest times, which results in more complex flavor development while preserving natural acidity," Rickey Trombetta, president of the board of directors of Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance, the trade group that filed the AVA petition in February 2015. “With today's finalization of the AVA, wine lovers and members of the wine trade will have the opportunity to become more familiar with the distinctive quality and flavor profile of Petaluma Gap wines.”

The TTB published the proposed AVA rule in October 2016. The final rule, published Dec. 7, takes effect Jan. 8.