[PHOTO: Dr. Mark Greenspan, borrowed from his Advanced Viticulture Website]

From the famed viticulture expert Dr. Mark Greenspan in a Petaluma Gap Newsletter:

According to viticulturist Mark Greenspan in this Wine Business Monthly article, “Wind is a significant factor in many regions [including] the Petaluma Gap of Sonoma County… We see thicker skins and more intense color in Pinot Noir vines grown in the Petaluma Gap relative to the neighboring Russian River Valley… I like to put a positive spin on the windy climate effect. One could argue that wind conveys an element of terroir to a region. But, from a grower’s perspective, wind sucks.”

As for thicker skins, because I’m from Maine and have picked tons (maybe not that many) of wild Maine Blueberries, along the coast line… Think Maine blueberries. They, too, grow in wild, less-nitrogen soils, along the coastline. The berries are so tiny, and they’re so flavorfully intense… Quality over quantity. Along any coast line, the plants are very hardy, because they’ve adapted to that chilly terroir, otherwise they won’t survive.

Now, equate that with Sebastopol’s climate as it equates to the Pacific Ocean, and how that factors into the grape berries that are going to become wine… Let’s just say, you’ve got the beginnings of some very aromatic and flavorful wines. Whites are a natural variety, in this cooler climates. Think about wines from Northern Europe, and Italian Wines along the Adriatic Sea in places like the Marche region. Red wines have to be carefully monitored, because they need a modicum of heat to ripen fully, and when they do… Ooo lala… Polished, restrained, and also quite tasty.

Petaluma Wind Gap

I attended a Petaluma Gap wines tasting a while ago, hosted by the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance. I was very impressed with some of the wines, especially those grown on location and made in small lots, bottling with their own winery name and AVA listed.

There are some big name wine companies, buying grapes from this region, too. Names you’d easily recognize, buying grapes grown in the Petaluma Gap area, but they’re not all putting the American Viticultural Area (AVA) on that wine’s labels… yet.

How the wine industry typically works, among the old guard: they aren’t going to help build the obscure regions. It’s like my grandfather taught me, when we were picking Maine blueberries: “Do not make a sound when we’re picking. Someone will know we’re here, will see the blueberries, and now we have competition.”

I’m going to list some of the wines I tasted during that visit, most especially those located in the Petaluma Gap AVA

It all Began In a Charming Little School House

When I drove to the invite’s locations, it, like Petaluma Gap’s wines, was well hidden. I arrived a bit late, because I had zipped right by the Green String Farm location on Adobe Road. As I traveled farther and farther away, instinct said, “turn around.” In my mind I had no idea how small this tasting was going to be. I thought I could just slink in. I wondered if it was an optical illusion, “Does this tiny house go much further back?”

As I entered the school house, I realized, no, there were just three of us writers, and an uber selection of wines for us to taste. We sat around a couple of tables, set for my wine writer colleagues Linda Murphy (Writer for – among others – Decanter Magazine, and co-author, with Jancis Robinson MW, of “American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of United States) and Deborah Parker Wong (Wine Educator and the global wine editor for SOMM Journal, The Tasting Panel, and Clever Root magazines).

The tasting was organized by Cheryl Quist, the executive Director of the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance. We were also joined by Erica Stancliff, VP of the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers and Charene Beltramo (our host from Cline Cellars).

So much time and energy went into setting up this tasting, just for the three of us, I was so humbled. My hat is off to all of the brands and the wines that were submitted. It’s worth mentioning all of them. DeLoach Vineyards slipped in right at the end, so I’m mentioning here, as an FYI.

Lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnays, as one would expect. And now that Syrah is considered to also be a perfect cool climate wine, yes, we tasted a rosé of Syrah, and a few other Syrahs. But then, there were a couple of Italian wines in the mix. Tasting them I thought, “this what Syrah wants to be… A Syrah’s Syrah….

  • Enriquez Estate Wines Tempranillo (a Spanish grape), I wrote this one as being really lovely. It had delicious strength, more than the Pinots and Syrah. It stood out with great expression. Bring on the castanets.
  • McEvoy Ranch‘s Montepulciano (a Tuscan grape), I very much appreciate those who march to their own drummer, and this wine was that kind of a segue from the Pinots; however, my notes stated: This one is really light and lively with cherry and berry flavors. It was so completely refreshing: yes, please, I’m all in. 

Have had quite a bit of time between that tasting, thinking about it, and right now. Also done a lot of visiting these places via the Web. Yes, I’ve convinced myself to go take a day and visit locations, not only for the wines, but also for the vistas. Let’s just say,

  • If I’m coming from the Bay Area to the north, I would be truly remiss if I didn’t get off the freeway in Petaluma. This is such a gorgeous rural area, just after the hustle and bustle of quite a few “down towns” headed north. The Petaluma Gap AVA is perfect for city crazed people just needing a “get me to the county and make sure the vistas will knock my socks off right now” kinda place. It’s Zen, it’s what we hope the just relaxin’  weekend will deliver… including wine. Are you kidding me?
  • And, if the hustle and bustle of other wine country locations north of the bay have you a bit dazed, I’m going right back to the Petaluma Gap. It has backroads less traveled, filled with charm and down home people… and their Burgundian-style wines.

These are the wineries with Petaluma Gap grapes in the bottle. Check them out, when you’re looking for a new adventure!


Adobe Road Barrel Samples Reds TBD
Azari Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir
Azari Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir Corkscrew
Brooks Note 2016 Pinot Noir Marin County
Brooks Note 2016 Pinot Noir Azaya Ranch
Bruliam Wines 2015 Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown
Bruliam Wines 2015 Pinot Noir Sangiacomo
Cline Cellars TBD
Enriquez Estate Wines 2012 Tempranillo
Enriquez Estate Wines 2013 White Blend Brisa
Fogline Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay Zephyr’s Block
Fogline Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir Hillside Block
Karah Estate Vineyard 2016 Pinot Noir Estate
Karah Estate Vineyard 2016 Pinot Noir Estate Reserve
MacPhail Wines 2016 Chardonnay Gap’s Crown
McEvoy Ranch 2016 Montepulciano Il Poggio
McEvoy Ranch 2016 Pinot Noir Evening Standard
Pax Wines 2014 Syrah Griffin’s Lair
Pellet Estate 2016 Chardonnay UnOaked, Sun Chase Vineyard
Pellet Estate 2015 Chardonnay Sun Chase Vineyard
Rodney Strong 2016 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
Rodney Strong 2016 Chardonnay Blue Wing Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Rodney Strong 2014 Pinot Noir Estate, Sonoma Coast
Thirty-Seven Wines 2015 Red Blend “The Hermit” [Merlot/Petit Verdot]
Thirty-Seven Wines 2015 Syrah Estate, Paradise Vineyard
Three Sticks Wines 2016 Chardonnay Gap’s Crown
Three Sticks Wines 2015 Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown
Trombetta Family TBD
Waxwing 2013 Pinot Noir Spring Hill Vineyard
Waxwing 2013 Syrah Flocchini Vineyard