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

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

Geology Term of the Day: Terrane

Terrane, not Terrain. More specifically a tectonostratigraphic terrane

In geology terrane is a block of the Earth’s crust from one tectonic plate that get attaches (accretes) to another plate. A piece of the earth’s crust that differs from the surrounding material, and is separated from it by faults.

Where are they found?

All over California, dude. All over.

Example? Part of Ben Lomond Mountain in California is part of the Salinian Block that is found parts of Santa Cruz County, the Monterrey Peninsula, Bodega Head, Point Reyes and the Farallon Islands. The source of these rocks? The Sierra Nevada Mountains… at least 150 miles to the southeast of the Bodega Bay. How did they get there? After being sliced off the Sierra Nevadas they moved along the San Andreas Fault guided in part by the Big Pine and Nacimiento Faults.

Farallon Islands photo by NOAA

Why does this matter? Ben Lomond Mountain is an AVA which is located on this geological intrusion. Kinda makes the area different from the surrounding terrain, doesn’t it?

Willamette Valley AVA

It’s Willamette Dammit! And rightfully so, as this appellation is the big daddy of Oregon winemaking. (also, it is pronounced Ora-gun not Or-e-gone. These folks are making you delicious wine. Be respectful of their ways).  Stretching 150 miles north to south and 60 miles wide in some places, this is the home of Pinot.  The climate is perfect for it.  Located in the same latitudes as the vineyards of Alsace and Burgundy with warm dry summers and a cool rainy season all that this viticultural area needed for success was the perfect soil conditions.  And what do you know?  They got them.  Oregon’s Jory soils are located in the foothills of the region are are composed of igneous rocks that were swept through the region thousands of years ago at the time of the Missoula Floods.  The soil is thick, well drained and full of minerally deposits that grapes just love.

While there is a long history of agriculture in the region, viticulture didn’t really take off until the mid to late 1960s  when UC Davis alum Charles Coury, Dick Erath and David Lett found their way up north of California.  From there the industry has grown by leaps and bounds with around 200 wineries and an additionally six new sub-appellations in existence.  And while Pinot Noir is King, it isn’t the only game in town, additionally grown are:

  • Auxerrois
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cascade
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Gamay
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Melon
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Muscat Ottonel
  • Nebbiolo
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tocai Fruiulano
  • Viognier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

With Thanksgiving over, the inevitable slide into the Christmas holidays has begun. Usually in the weeks before Thanksgiving, this depresses me. However, this year I got the opportunity to taste a wine that made me wish for the arrival of holiday and mistletoe.

The Biltmore Estate has been producing wines since the 1970s and presently producing wines from both estate and contract grown grapes. VinoVerve had its first taste of wines from the estate when Marguerite Barrett first tasted the Century White on 2009’s Open That Bottle Night.  Besides good wine, I love the sense of history that comes from the Biltmore Estate and their wines.

The Estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II a scion of the great Vanderbilt family.  Being the youngest of his father’s eight, the bulk of his father’s wealth went to his older brothers, but G.W. was not left penniless.  He build the Biltmore with the plan to pursue intellectual pursuits which he did, including experiments with horticulture, animal husbandry and silvaculture.  Unlike many intellectuals of his time, his goal was to make the estate self-sustaining.

In furtherance of this goal, GWV’s grandson began the winery.  Starting with French-American hybrid grapes, the estate is now growing Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Viognier.  The wine makers are using North Carolina grapes as well as those from California and Washington to produce award winning wines.

The Christmas at Biltmore® White Wine is the perfect wine for a holiday meal or party.  It is fruity and off-dry to semi-sweet which will match perfectly with spicy foods.  It is lovely for sipping in a crowded party and if sweeter wines aren’t your thing, you probably have an Aunt Rita who drinks nothing but.  The flavors of orange, spices with a touch of mint scream Christmas and the bottle label with a holiday tree seals the deal.

This wine is available at the winery, online and in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.

Enjoy your holiday season!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
December 1st, 2011

 

Disclosure:  I received this wine as a sample.

 

 

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

Visiting a Winery

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I realize that this is much later in the day than I usually post, but it has been a crazy busy week and I wanted to start this next series. Hard core wine lovers have almost always have gone to visit a winery before. But if you don’t get to travel much and don’t realize that there are wineries in your area you might not be familiar with what it is like. Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin was on my way home from the Wine Bloggers’ Conference and therefore the perfect last stop before I got home later that day. The winery at Wollersheim was established in the 1840s by Agoston Haraszathy, better known to wine lovers as the “Father of California Viticulture” and the founder of Buena Vista Vineyards. Before he made it to Napa, he stopped for several years in Wisconsin, where he established the oldest incorporated village in the state, Prairie du Sac. The winery is still in operation to this day and this is from the tour when I visited at the end of June. Enjoy.

Wollersheim Winery
7876 Wisconsin 188
Prairie du Sac, WI 53578
1-800-VIP-WINE (847-9463)

Dating the Don

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Boy, that sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Never fear, I am not hanging out with mobsters or any nationality… I am drinking wine from Don Sebastiani & Sons. This winery, an independent offshot of the Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery is terroir driven. The wine was poured by Greg Kitchen, the winemaker and Jack Meyer from their marketing department.

The wine poured was from their Crusher line of wines which are grower’s selections. We tasted the 2008 Petite Sirah from Clarksburg.

Don Sebastiani & Sons
P.O. Box 1248
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 933-1704

The Inevitable Red Hills Map

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I am nothing if not predictable. After discovering that there was a Lake County in California, it was all but certain that I would have to prepare a map of it….

So… Voilà

The Red Hills Lake County is one of five AVAs located in Lake County, California including Clear Lake, High Valley, Benmore Valley and Guenoc Valley. Red Hills is located on the southwestern shore of Clear Lake. It is located at the foot of Mt. Konocti, an extinct volcano between Excelsior Valley, Big Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains. The appellation was designated in 2004 and consists of 31,250 acres of which 3,000 are under cultivation. The soil is volcanic and is full of shards of obsidian that was formed as the magma from the Mt. Konocti cooled quickly due to the waters of the lake. The elevation of the area is betwen 1,400 and 3,000 feet and receives between 25 and 40 inches of rain per year. The region is perfect for Bordeaux and Rhone grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Mourvedre and Zinfandel.

Wineries and vineyards located within the AVA include:

Sol Rouge
Fortress Vineyards
Ferrel Ranch Vineyard
Red Hills Winery
Obsidian Ridge Vineyard
Fore Family Vineyard
Becht Vineyard
Eden Crest Vineyard
Roumiguiere Vineyards – Red Hills Ranch
Snow Lake Vineyard