Sonoma Gets Its Coast Back

Today the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, better known as the TTB, published a rule establishing California’s newest American Viticultural Area, the West Sonoma Coast AVA. Home to some of the coolest vineyard sites in California, and the source of many of the state’s finest Pinot Noirs, the West Sonoma Coast AVA has been a grassroots effort many years in the making.

‘This is extremely exciting and rewarding,’ says Chantal Forthun, a board member of the West Sonoma Coast Vintners Association, and winemaker at Flowers Vineyards and Winery. ‘I’m ready for the world to recognize the West Sonoma Coast. A lot of people, who really care about where they’ve been growing and making wine came together and worked really hard to get here.’

In truth, those who pay attention to California Pinot Noir have long recognized the unique qualities of Sonoma’s coastal terroirs, despite the fact that the region’s existing AVAs did not.

Transcending politics

‘AVAs are supposed to bring clarity and understanding to consumers, and to help consumers make more informed decisions,’ says Carroll Kemp, one of the founders of the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, and co-proprietor of Alma Fria Wines.

For Kemp and countless others, the Sonoma Coast AVA, established in 1987, has never made any sense at all. Despite having ‘coast’ in its name, the bulk of the nearly 500,000-acre AVA sits far inland, well outside any real maritime influence, and with a staggering variance in microclimates and geology.

‘The Sonoma Coast AVA is so over-broad, by any standard of viticulture and winemaking it obfuscates rather than clarifies,’ says Kemp.

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