Moon Mountain District Sonoma County

Frontispiece of Jack London's Valley of the Moon

Frontispiece of Jack London’s, “Valley of the Moon”, 1913, The Macmillan Company, Ny

Now that I am out and about again, I wasted no time high tailing it out of town to visit some new wineries. The first on the list was Repris Wines in the Moon Mountain District.  This post will explore this eerie landscape and I will discuss the winery in the next.

Moon Mountain District is located within Sonoma Valley across the eastern ridge from the Mt. Veeder AVA (or the Sonoma-Napa border, if you will…). The name of the area is based on the mistaken belief that the local indigenous peoples referred to Sonoma Valley as the “Valley of the Moon”.  At least the last Mexican governor of the area did, as well as Jack London, who wrote a book with that title.  While there was a “valley” of the moon, there was no associated mountain.  That has all changed.  After asking the USGS  nicely to designate a “Moon Mountain”, the people were finally rewarded (57 years later).  The peak is located east of Mt. Pisgah and south of Bismark Knob.

The appellation ranges from 400-2,200 feet above sea level and is known for its series of medium sloped hills that build upon one another. This leaves the terrain with little pockets of terroir that receive different amounts of sunlight and different airflows.  The majority of the region faces the west to maximize the amount of sunlight that the vines receive as well as maximizing the intensity.  Cool day time temperatures from the Pacific have warmed up by the time they reach Moon Mountain and night time fogs roll down the mountain to keep the  vines from freezing.  The temperatures in the area provide almost double the growing degree days in the area making it a perfect location for growing Zinfandel and other long hanging grapes.

image of lava outcrop, Moon MountainThe geology of the area is a mixture of andesite and basalt lava flows from the Sonoma volcanics that have been mixed with gravels.  The resulting soils are brown and shallow and very well drained allowing the grapes to grow deeply into the  hillside.  This gives the area a sometimes eerie look from these flows that are visible in places at the surface (thus the name Moon Mountain, perhaps?).  The brown soils are largely of the Goulding series are volcanic and very well drained.

There are currently 11 bonded wineries and 40 commercial vineyards operating around Moon Mountain.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Know Your Local Wine Shop ~ Arkansas Edition

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

I love to visit wineries when I am traveling. But sometimes, you can’t get away when you are away. How do I solve the problem? Check out the local wine shop or liquor store.

But, first a word about Arkansas liquor laws.

Confusing is too simple a word. As is arcane.

First off, you can’t buy wine over the internet and have it shipped to you in Arkansas. Well, technically you probably could but because Arkansas won’t ship its liquor to you the other states won’t allow the reverse. You can go into a winery or store buy your liquor and have it shipped to your residence only. You have to have a special label from the ABC (alcoholic beverage control) agency or the special label from Fed Ex or UPS. But the winery has to pay all the taxes to Arkansas and pay for a permit. So naturally most places won’t do it. oh. And you can only have a single case.

Whew. Complicated. But it gets worse. Like if you live there worse.

Some counties are wet. Some are dry. Some are wet and have dry towns. Some are dry and have wet towns. In wet places you can get beer and wine in a grocery store. And in most wet places you can’t buy on Sunday. Because God.

You will find team spirit everywhere! Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve

You will find team spirit everywhere! Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve

The best way to figure out what is going on in your area is to drive around on Sunday and find out which stores have full parking lots. That’s how my dad figured it out. Luckily as a retiree, he could pick where they could move. Which is why they don’t live in Conway, Arkansas. They originally were really set on the place. And then they went to dinner at nice steak house and found out that their beverage options were Coca-Cola and sweet tea. Ugh.

So they opted for a place in Benton County.

And while they found a place that is open on Sundays (after 11am of course so the baby Jesus doesn’t weep) that wasn’t the place that they took us to during our inaugural trip to Arkansas. We went to Guess Who?.  An odd name, I agree, but a great shop, super friendly and busy too.

Organized into four sections, the store has a separated entrance for those buying liquor by the case.  And I mean a case of Tito’s Vodka.  I think this spot is mostly for the restaurants or clubs, but the lady running it was super friendly.  The other entrance is for the regular customers.  Broken down into beer, wine and liquor sections.  The beer section includes a cooler with a large section of craft brews.  Much to Kevin’s excitement it also sells Boulevard Brewing Company beers.  Technically not a craft brew anymore after being sold to the folks at Duval, it hasn’t become as accessible as Sam Adams or Budweiser, but we can’t get it at home.  As as extra special plus for Kevin, this store carries the special brews usually only available in the tasting room.  The liquor section is probably the smallest part of the store. Found in front of the registers found by type on short black metal shelves.. Liquors are organized by type.  Pretty standard stuff.

Duck Dynasty wine.  Fake as the Show... which is probably also a product of California...Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.

Duck Dynasty wine. Fake as the Show… which is probably also a product of California…Photo by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.

The last part of the store is the wine section.  This is probably the largest section and is bright and airy with wines organized in wooden cases by location or varietal.  There is a good mixture of options with popular and bulk wines being found in the front.  Guess Who?  Offers a variety of classes for customers, private wine lockers and wine tasting opportunities.  Oh, and a section for local wines of which I took advantage (and will be discussed later).  The one downside?  Finding this obnoxious Duck Dynasty wine. The wines are being produced in California and have no other connection with the family other than the labeling.  The press release from Trinchero Family Wines says that the family “Share(s) the same values,” with the Robertsons. Not all of them I hope.  But as my mother has always said, “If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck and acts like a duck…. Well, it’s a duck.”

Over all, I was impressed with impressed with Guess Who and expect that I will be shopping there  occasionally while visiting the folks.  If you are in the Bentonville area and need some wine, I suggest you visit them too.

 

 

Guess Who?
214 SE Walton Blvd.
Bentonville AR, 72712
Phone:479-268-4169
Fax:479-268-4648
Email:office@guesswhobentonville.com

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Arkansas. Wine.

After years of telling me that they were going to retire to Arkansas, my parents have finally done so.  Kevin and I tried to talk them into moving to Oregon, but they weren’t going for it.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.


So, Arkansas it is.  In the middle of the Walmartian capitol.
Luckily, like almost every place in the country, there is wine nearby.  Yup.  wine.  Located in three American Viticultural Areas.  Twenty-four wineries.

California it is not.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  After all, variety is the spice of life.   So what’s the deal with Arkansas wine?
Officially, viticulture began in Arkansas in the 1870s when German and Swiss immigrants settled in Altus, Arkansas.  Unofficially, there was wine in Arkansas before that.  In A Journal of Travels into the Arkansa Territory During the Year 1819 With Occasional Observation on the Manners of the Aborigines by Thomas Nuttall, F.L.S. (I have no idea what F.L.S. means), the author describes the vineyards and wine encountered along the way.  Tales of wine being produced at local taverns like the Hinderliter Grog Shop in Little Rock circa 1827 are likely to be true.  And prior to American settlement? Well, Arkansas was once officially part of France after all.
In addition to the Altus wineries,  Italian immigrants have made their mark in Arkansas’s wine history.  The city of Tontitown was founded by the followers of Father Pietro Bandini in 1898.  The residents, mostly from northern Italy brought their traditions with them including wine making.  Even today, the sign welcoming you to town features grape vines.  Unfortunately, for most American’s the town is more commonly known as the home as the Duggar family.

What kinds of wines are being produced?  Well, a lot of sweet wines.  Muscadine grapes grow naturally in the state and have long been used  to produce.  Muscadine is a type of grape known as Vitis rotundifolia that is native to the United States.  But Muscadine doesn’t have to produce a sweet wine and there are dry options as well.

Map produced by Gretchen Neuman using a USGS basemap.

Map produced by Gretchen Neuman using a USGS basemap.

Other grapes producing wine in Arkansas include Niagara, Concord and Delaware which are park of the Vitis labrusca family.  French-American Hybrids such as Chambourcin and Vidal are common as is Cynthiana, a Norton clone is thought to be created in the Arkansas. There are even folks producing Chardonnay and Merlot… though most of them get that fruit from California.
There are three viticultural areas in the Arkansas.  Altus is located around the German Swiss town of the same  name in the Boston Mountains.  Altus is the only appellation found completely within the state. Altus is also located within the Arkansas Mountain appellation but extends in the area from Fort Smith to Conway (another place my folks thought about moving to… but thought better of as the town is dry).  Ozark Mountain contains the Altus and Arkansas Mountain regions and is crosses into Missouri and Oklahoma as well.
Getting your hands on Arkansas wine is tricky.  The state does not play well with others, i.e. does not allow direct shipping and because of that can’t ship out of state either.  So you kinda have to go there and taste it there.

But since I am about to be spending more time in the Ozarks, I guess I will have time to explore.

It’s All About Wine – Alexander Valley Edition

I admit it has been a while since I have posted here.

But that is because I have been learning. About one of my favorite things. Besides wine.

Maps.

Naturally, I have made maps about wine too. (It is almost like you can hear one of my teens complaining)

So over the next couple of weeks expect to see maps of the American Viticultural Areas made with ArcMap.

I am starting today with the Alexander Valley. First some quick facts:

  • Settled: 1840 by Cyrus Alexander. Property was part of Henry D. Fitch and Josefa Carrillo Fitch’s Rancho Sotoyome. Alexander was granted two leagues of property as a reward for managing the Rancho for the Fitch Family
  • Established: October 24, 1984
  • Location: Sonoma County, California
  • Size: 32,536 acres; 15,000 acres under vine
  • Wineries: 45 – including Clos du Bois, Francis Ford Coppola, Geyser Peak, Jordan (a friend of the blog!), Kendall-Jackson, Murphy Goode, Silver Oak and many more!
  • Elevation: 128-2573 feet above sea level.
  • Grape Varieties Produced: Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Zinfandel

Map of Alexander Valley AVA

 

by Gretchen Miller Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The Ohio River Valley AVA Meanders

Map of the Ohio River Valley AVA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like the great river for which it is named, the Ohio River Valley AVA has changed its course. I alluded to this over the weekend when I mentioned the new Indiana Uplands AVA. But because I wanted to focus on Indiana Uplands and the also new Elkton AVAs, I didn’t get to the revisions the Ohio River Valley.

Today this has changed. As a reminder, this is the original version of the map:

Map of the revised Ohio River Valley AVA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the new? Well, I assumed that the variation between the two maps would represent the original map minus the territory that would have crossed over into the new Indiana Uplands AVA. So, I am including both maps here so you can judge for yourself. I feel fairly satisfied that I guessed correctly.

Map of the Indiana Uplands AVA

 

 

 

Now, what the variations are and what they mean? That will be discussed on another day.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Busy Week for AVAs

Map of the Indiana Uplands AVA

If you are interested in new American Viticultural Areas, then this has been the week for you as the TTB created two new wine regions and amended a third.

But first the two new appellations:

Indiana Uplands is located in the Hoosier State along the Ohio River. Unlike the old Ohio River Valley AVA, this new region extends further north to Bloomington.

The next new appellation is in Oregon. The Elkton AVA is located within the currently existing Southern Oregon and Umpqua Valley regions. The area is located near the confluence of the Umpqua River and Elkton Creek.

Map of the Elkton AVA

As for the amended Ohio River Valley AVA, well, I haven’t gotten around to figure out what has changed, but am guessing that the Indiana Uplands portion of that map is out. But that is just a guess. You will have to check back sometime next week to find out for certain as well as to find out why these new appellations were designated.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Wine From the Ledge

There is more to my neighbor to the north besides cheese and the Green Bay Packers. I have had several nice experiences in the Dairy State and am pleased to learn that an application has been filed for a new appellation.

By CJ Moss via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

Called Wisconsin Ledge, this potential AVA consists of the western most part of the Niagara Escarpment as it reappears out of Lake Michigan.  The application points out the regions underlying rocks of dolomite (Lockport Dolomite) which provide minerals as well as drainage to the areas soils and are overlain with sand, loam and glacial moraines.  If this sounds vaguely familiar, it is because it exceptionally close to the geography of the Niagara Escarpment AVA in western New York  State.  In the case of the New York appellation, the climate is moderated by two Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario) and the prevailing west wind that would blow across them.  The Wisconsin Ledge has a more moderate temperature due to its proximity to Lake Michigan but the west winds would be more continental.

The new potential AVA is located in the Door Peninsula, south of the Fox River, east of Lake Winnebago and north of County Highway T (North of Milwaukee).  This area is already home to at least twelve wineries including the Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

Map by Gretchen Neuman for VinoVerve.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported license.

So three cheers to Wisconsin Ledge!  It is about time that they got some wine with that cheese!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor,
October 25, 2011

New Additions at VinoVerve

Once I am on a mapping roll, I sometimes can’t stop. Here is the McMinnville AVA from Oregon and the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA from California. You might be wondering why I working on west coast appellations, but all will be revealed soon enough.

image-6370″ title=”Arroyo Grande Valley AVA” src=”http://vinoverve.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ArroyoGrande.001-263×300.jpg” alt=”” width=”263″ height=”300″ />

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
September 29, 2011

Jefferson Vineyards – History


After visiting Monticello, it makes perfect sense that my first stop the next day was the Jefferson Vineyards. The property was originally part of Monticello and granted to Filipo Mazzei so he could develop a vineyard. Jefferson had been disappointed by his attempts to produce wine grapes so he brought in Mazzei, a Venetian viticulturist to take over the effort. This is a story about timing being essential. Luckily, the dream lives on at this winery.

Jefferson Vineyards
1353 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
434-977-3042

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor August 30, 2011