SCW News Events Archive - Page 2 of 12 - Sonoma County Winegrowers (2023)

News Events Description

Another Harvest for the Record Books for Sonoma County Grape Growers

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (October 25, 2022)— A record early start on July 29 set a fast pace for the harvest season in Sonoma County and most of the crop is already in for the year. Traditionally, harvest season for grape growers begins in mid-August and runs through early November. However, like every year, farmers dance to the rhythm of Mother Nature and every harvest has its challenges. This year, a heat spike around the Labor Day holiday weekend and rain in mid-September kept farmers in the vineyards and on their toes.

“Mother Nature always promises a harvest dance and 2022 did not disappoint,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers. She added, As with every vintage, our grape growers manage an incredible logistical process, working with their winery partners to pick and deliver the grapes at their optimal ripeness and flavor. Overall, the crop is lighter than average across most varieties for several reasons—the ongoing drought, spring frost, a heatwave and then the mid-September rains—and we’re seeing smaller berry and cluster sizes, packing a stellar quality 2022 vintage.”

Given the ongoing drought, many growers implemented water conservation efforts to minimize their water use, which could also result in a lighter crop compared to past harvests. According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, it’s the driest year to date in the last 128 years, based on data from January through August 2022.

As we head into the dormant season, our grape growers and talented vineyard workforce can pause to celebrate another great harvest, and then it’s right back to work, tending the vines for the next vintage.

Here’s a brief look at what growers are saying about the 2022 harvest from around the Sonoma County appellations:

Alexander Valley

“The 2022 Harvest has been challenging, but each harvest has its challenges, which is why they’re all unique,” said Justin Seidenfeld, senior vice president of winemaking and winegrowing at Rodney Strong Wine Estates. “This year was special because of the team that came together to make everything happen the way we wanted. So far, the wines are showing beautifully in the tanks. It’s still early, but we are off to a good start.”

Dry Creek Valley

“Mother Nature delivered another memorable harvest season in Dry Creek Valley —spring frost, a September heat spell, and drought-driven state-mandated restrictions of irrigation water use,” commented Duff Bevill, founder and partner of Bevill Vineyard Management. “But the 2022 vintage still delivered, and the winemakers were excited about the quality.”

Fort Ross-Seaview

“Exceptional quality, but yields are quite low,” said Jasmine Hirsch, general manager and winemaker at Hirsch Vineyards. “At Hirsch Vineyards, yields are about 50% of normal.”

Petaluma Gap,

“Similar tonnages to last year—30% lower than typical years, most likely due to the drought,”

said Scott Welch, director of farming at Jackson Family Wines.

Russian River Valley

“It was our earliest finish of harvest ever in 45 years on Sept. 17,” said Whitney Hopkins of Hopkins River Ranch and Sonoma County Board Alternate Commissioner. “The 2022 harvest was lighter than the past few years. Drought and spring frost may have been factors.

“The quality of the 2022 vintage is good,” said Mark Sanchietti of Sanchietti Farming, Inc., “There was a little rain on the 18th of September, but it didn’t have an effect on the quality. We also had a heat spike in September that expedited harvest.”

Sonoma Valley

“This is a great year,” said Taylor Serres, owner of Serres Ranch. “The heat and the rain were nerve-racking, but the vines held it together and are producing some of the best flavors yet.”

About Sonoma County Winegrowers:

Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW) was established in 2006 as a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality, sustainability and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers and influencers around the world.

In 2014, Sonoma County’s winegrowing community embarked on a major initiative to have all Sonoma County vineyards certified sustainable. Today, 99% of the vineyard acreage in Sonoma County has completed certification by a third-party auditor making Sonoma County the most sustainable winegrowing region in the world. In addition, in 2020, SCW was a pilot partner in a climate adaptation program to learn how local farmers could create custom farm plans to be part of the climate solution and leaders in this movement.SCW’s sustainability efforts have been recognized with California’s highest environmental honor, the 2016 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA). Learn more

CONTACT: John Segale | (916) 600-1081

Download Media Release Here

Russian River Valley’s Pinot Noir Neighborhoods

The Good Stuff

October 19, 2022

Russian River Valley’s Pinot Noir Neighborhoods

The concept and exercise remain one-of-a-kind

In 2015, growers and wineries in the Russian River Valley undertook a curious experiment, the first, really, of its kind. They were not interested in creating new appellations, nor hardened border lines.

They wanted to confirm what they felt they already knew: that Pinot Noir presented itself differently when grown in different sub-regions within the bigger area. That the Russian River Valley is uniquely diverse. Defining these neighborhoods was an exercise in historic memory as well as tasting.

This was called the Neighborhoods Initiative and it led to six specific delineations within the Russian River Valley known more simply as The Neighborhoods. Working with Dr. Roger Boulton, a professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis, the growers and winemakers interested in the neighborhoods concept helped devise a series of characteristics for their wines that could be measured in a lab.

Pinot Noirs from 18 wineries from the several vintages were analyzed. When the analysis was concluded in 2019, it confirmed that each neighborhood offered a fingerprint of its own – that there were indeed specific, consistently identifiable sensory characteristics that derive from grapes grown in those neighborhoods.

The Russian River Valley became an American Viticultural Area in 1983, with expansions in 2005 and 2011. In total, it contains 13,896 acres of grapevines within a total acreage of 96,000 acres, or 150 square miles. It spans from Healdsburg to Sebastopol, so not only are there significant differences in soils, elevations and aspects, there are profound differences in climate and how the Russian River and Pacific Ocean impact growing sites.

The Neighborhoods

Middle Reach

Located along Healdsburg’s western edge south of the Dry Creek Valley, the Middle Reach is considered one of the warmer neighborhoods and is also among the most historic. The heart of it is Westside Road, home to Bacigalupi, Bucher, Rochioli, Allen Vineyard, Williams-Selyem, Arista, DuMol’s Flax Estate, Ramey’s Westside Farms, MacMurray Ranch and Gary Farrell, among many others. With Pinot planted on benchlands and hillsides as well as the valley floor, it’s also where many of the oldest plantings in the appellation exist. The wines are typically defined by texture and length as well as ripeness, intensity and lush character. The tannins can be structured yet supple. Microclimates and soil variability abound, but the Russian River itself helps moderate the climate.

Laguna Ridge

Defined by the ridgeline separating Green Valley from the Laguna de Santa Rosa, this neighborhood lies south of the Middle Reach near Forestville. A narrow strip marked by deep, well-draining sandy Goldridge and Altamont soils, it overlooks the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Among its residents are Merry Edwards, Dehlinger, Lynmar and Joseph Swan. Swan was the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Laguna Ridge post-Prohibition on the advice of André Tchelistcheff, who referred to it as “Middle Cool.” The Pinots are characterized by sensuous mouthfeel and moderate acidity, with red and dark fruit flavors and a nice helping of baking spice, with ample tannin.

Santa Rosa Plain

A large stretch of flatlands on the east side of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, this neighborhood encompasses Olivet Road, and the larger Piner-Olivet area, with a deep concentration of vineyards and wineries, including Benovia, Inman, Pellegrini and DeLoach. This is also ground zero for old-vine plantings of Zinfandel at sites like Papera, Saitone and Montafi.

Eastern Hills

The northernmost neighborhood and last to be introduced to the neighborhood concept, the Eastern Hills designation acknowledges the western ridge of the Mayacamas Mountains east of Windsor, a warmish area only minimally touched by Russian River fog. The soils are considered quite diverse, volcanic and sedimentary. Most vineyards are planted toward the west, getting late afternoon heat and sun. The Pinots from here can be quite ripe and lush, butting up against warmer-loving varieties like Zinfandel and Syrah.

Green Valley

Brimming in fluffy Goldridge soils, the Green Valley is the only neighborhood that is also its own American Viticultural Area, established at the same time as the Russian River Valley in 1983. Centered around the towns of Graton and Occidental and following the path of Atascadero Creek, redwood and fir trees surround many of the vineyards, some of which are planted at moderate elevation, where cooling winds from the Pacific Ocean have an influence on the grapes. The Dutton family, Iron Horse, Hartford Court, Marimar Estate and DuMol have considerable plantings here; some of the oldest Chardonnay in the region is at Dutton. Because of the cooling winds and elevation, many of the Pinots have a crispy red fruit character, more rhubarb and pomegranate than dark cherry, with beautiful aromatics and texture.

Sebastopol Hills

Set predominantly west and southwest of Sebastopol, the Sebastopol Hills is about as cool as it gets within the Russian River Valley. Balletto’s Burnside Road, Sexton Hill and Cider Ridge vineyards are here as is Pratt Sexton Road Vineyard. Goldridge soils dominate. The cool climate provides crisp red fruit characteristics alongside elements of dried herb and black tea. Much of it was planted to apples until vines began to be planted in the 1990s. Cold, windswept and unsheltered, it worries less about frost than other neighborhoods, providing plenty of time for fruit to hang.

Protecting Cabernet Sauvignon

“The Good Stuff”

Protecting Cabernet Sauvignon

October 12, 2022

There’s no doubt that Cabernet Sauvignon is among California’s most important wine grapes. Across the state there are nearly 95,000 acres of it planted and the grapes that result produce some of the most collectible, sought-after and highest-quality wines of the world.

It is also among the grapes that helped put Northern California on the map internationally after the Judgement of Paris Tasting in 1976. But its roots in Sonoma County go way farther than that.

The year 1875 was a turning point in Sonoma County wine history, the first time it led the state in wine production. As detailed in Sonoma Wine and the Story of Buena Vista by Charles L. Sullivan, Cabernet Sauvignon was already in the mix.

Around this time, the widow of William Hood, Eliza Shaw, began grafting Mission vines planted on her Los Guilicos land grant in Sonoma Valley to Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Semillon.

John Drummond came along in 1878, buying a large piece of the Los Guilicos Ranch and planting 150 acres. The ruins located on the site of what is now the property owned by Kunde Family members under the original name of Wildwood Vineyards, Drummond’s Dunfillan Winery sourced from vines that had been imported by Drummond from Bordeaux, including Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau Lafite. Before long, his grapes were commanding top dollar from area wineries, as sought after as those planted by H.W. Crabb in the 1860s over the mountain at To Kalon.

Fast-forward to the 1930s and Simi Winery in Healdsburg, under the leadership of Isabelle Simi Haigh (who owned Simi until 1970), was earning a reputation for fine Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the 1940s, Frank and Antonia Bartholomew paid $17,600 for the long-shuttered Buena Vista Winery, which was being auctioned off by the state. Professor Albert Winkler of UC Davis paid a visit and suggested they grow, among other varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon. Before long, the great wine consultant Andre Tchelistcheff was on board to consult after making his mark at Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa.

Still, for a long time, Cabernet Sauvignon was nearly a specialty crop. In 1964 there were only 89 acres of it in Sonoma County; by 1971 it was up to 1,629 acres.

The year 1972 is when the real post-Prohibition planting explosion began. By the end of that year Cabernet Sauvignon had grown to 2,469 acres in Sonoma County, 65% of which were still unbearing. Through much of the 1980s, 570 acres of grapes were added per year, and then between 1993 and 2012, Cab plantings grew another average of 1,300 acres a year.

Today, Sonoma County has the third largest amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in California – around 13,000 acres – exceeded only by Napa and San Luis Obispo counties. But its long legacy here is clear and it is a resource that should be protected.

Cabernet tends to thrive in the warmer reaches of plantable land. Here, a majority of the Cabernet is found in Alexander Valley, Knights Valley, Dry Creek Valley and at elevation on Moon Mountain and Sonoma Mountain, all traditionally warm areas.

What used to be considered warm is often now much warmer, and water resources are always of concern. So it was good to hear of a new UC Davis study published in Frontiers of Plant Science that looks at one way to grow Cab in warmer environments.

The study maintains that single high-wire trellis systems allow vine leaves to shade grapes better than vertical shoot position, or VSP, trellises, where vine shoots are trained to grow up in vertical, narrow rows with fruit growing lower to the ground, allowing greater exposure to sunlight. How much sunlight depends on the site and the farmer.

VSP trellises became popular during the boom planting years of the 1990s and allow more rows to fit per unit of land than many other systems. They were actually first used in cooler areas of Germany, France and New Zealand to ward off fungal diseases and maximize sun exposure.

In California, this is less of an issue in many places.

Examining six different types of trellis systems and three different watering amounts, the study also found that single high-wire trellis systems got a more marketable yield for the amount of water used. It also found that single high-wire trellis systems acted like a good shade cloth but didn’t negatively affect grape color or quality.

Whether or not this change in trellising makes sense for growers in Sonoma County remains to be seen. But it could be something to consider long-term. Given Cabernet Sauvignon’s long history in Sonoma County, it has a proven ability to survive.

FIGURE 1 Illustrations for the Trellis Systems Established at the Oakville Experimental Vineyard: (A) Traditional Vertical Shoot Position (VSP); (B)Vertical Shoot Position 60° (VSP60); (C) Vertical Shoot Position 80°(VSP80); (D) High-Quadrilateral (HQ); (E) Single High Wire (SH); (F)Guyot-pruned Vertical Shoot Position (GY). “h” stands for the cordon height from the vineyard ground.

SCW News Events Archive - Page 2 of 12 - Sonoma County Winegrowers (4)

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Sonoma County Grapegrower Max Thieriot Debuts Fire Country TV Show

“The Good Stuff “

Sonoma County Grapegrower Max Thieriot Debuts Fire Country TV Show

October 5, 2022

Max Thieriot grew up in Occidental the son of a prominent grape grower and vineyard owner.

On Friday, October 7, he launches a new show called Fire Country, a firefighter drama set in Northern California in which he both stars and is executive producing, a passion project borne out of the fires he, his family and the community experienced in Sonoma County in 2017, 2019 and 2020. He is also one of the writers of the show, which will run on CBS.

When he’s not filming, Thieriot remains a local. He is raising his own family and his own grapevines on a vineyard he planted in the hills of Occidental in view of Bodega Bay.

In Fire Country he plays a parolee named Bode assigned to fight fires in his home town who is looking to turn his life around. The trailer promises plenty of drama, from saving a baby stuck in a burning car to being doused by a helicopter’s water drop.

Thieriot said in a Paleyfest Fall TV Preview that the idea for the show came to him about two years ago, inspired by Cal Fire’s inmate firefighter program and the rigors of rural firefighting. He wants the show to have a blue collar, Yellowstone-like feel and not shy away from talk of climate change and mega droughts.

Having grown up in the small town of Occidental, Thieriot also wants to mirror that feel of community. He remembers buddies from high school working as volunteer firefighters and learning by osmosis about the work they did and some of the terms and techniques involved in fighting fires.

As a kid, Max modeled for The GAP, first appearing on screen in the 2004 film Catch that Kid, but gained greater fame in 2005 in The Pacifier with Vin Diesel. He’s been acting ever since, gaining television success most recently on SEAL Team.

Thieriot grew up on the B.A. Thieriot Vineyard. The high-elevation vines sit in Goldridge sandy loam soils over fractured sandstone and were planted by Max’s parents, Cameron and Bridgit, who bought the property in 1988.

Working with Warren Dutton, they planted the first part of the vineyard to Chardonnay and sold grapes to Landmark, Williams Selyem, Neyers, Littorai and Rivers-Marie. Pinot Noir was planted in 1991 and 1994.

In 2011, while still in his early 20s, Max joined with childhood friends Christopher Strieter and Myles Lawrence-Briggs to create Senses Wines, hiring Thomas Rivers Brown as winemaker, with a focus on West Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (they also make an Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, a favorite of Max’s).

Back to the firefighting theme, after the 2017 fires in Sonoma County, Max and his Senses co-founders, as well as general manager Chelsea Boss, launched Rebuild Wine Country, a crowdfunding outfit that partnered with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes. It operated through 2020.

Max loves the farming side of the business most and has developed a vineyard of his own called Thieriot-Bodega on the hillsides of Occidental five miles from the Pacific Ocean, near Steve Kistler’s Occidental Vineyard, Platt Vineyard and de Coelo. Another Goldridge sandy loam site, it has 9 acres of Pinot Noir and should further add to the impressive reputation of the new West Sonoma Coast AVA.

IPM Wrap-Up Meeting

November 11, 2022

9:00 am – 10:30 pm


The Magic of Alexander Mountain and the Pending Pocket Peak AVA

“The Good Stuff”

The Magic of Alexander Mountain and the Pending Pocket Peak AVA

September 28, 2022

Jess Jackson first fell in love with the mountains above Alexander Valley in the 1960s, when he missed a chance to buy the J Bar B Ranch, a 6,000-acre spread of horse and cattle pasturelands that included 2,800-foot-tall Black Mountain.

Not yet the wine mogul he would become, Jackson lost the estate to Edward Gauer, a Bay Area men’s clothing store owner who had recently sold his share for many pretty pennies and wanted to retire to the mountains. The cost in 1968? $1,829,500.

Gauer Ranch grew prunes and ran sheep and cattle but was a hidden goldmine for wine grapes, which were soon planted. By the mid-1970s they were going into quality bottles by Chateau St. Jean and others. In 1982 Gauer planted Chardonnay on a high-elevation ridge near the top he called Upper Barn. Those grapes found their way to winemaker Helen Turley at Peter Michael Winery and a reputation for fine grapegrowing was born.

Gauer bought Vinwood Winery in Geyserville in 1987 and went about making his own wine under the name Gauer Estate but the concept never really took and two years later he sold the whole kit and kaboodle to Chevron Corporation for $35 million, acknowledging the mountain estate as one of the most valuable pieces of land in Sonoma County at the time.

Chevron spoke of building a golf course and many homes on the site, while conservation easements were discussed as a way to counter subdivision. And then Jess Jackson came back around, buying Vinwood in 1993 with an option to buy the ranch should Chevron opt to sell.

In 1995 it did, and for $19 million Jackson would own what he came to call Alexander Mountain Estates, including 417 acres of vineyards with another 1,000 or so deemed suitable.

All of this is detailed in “A Man and His Mountain,” the story of how Jackson created Kendall-Jackson and other Jackson Family Wines’ brands, including Stonestreet Estate Vineyards, where most of the grapes from Alexander Mountain go.

But Alexander Mountain wasn’t just the key to so much of Jackson’s success, it was also home.

Today his son Christopher is among those trying to designate it as its own American Viticultural Area (AVA) called Pocket Peak.

Part of the Mayacamas Mountain range, Pocket Peak itself is 2,256-feet high. Set amidst the foothills of Pocket Peak, Geyser Peak and Black Mountain, the proposed AVA is above the Alexander Valley and east of Cloverdale, Asti and Geyserville and would run south from Big Sulphur Creek, share the eastern boundaries of the Alexander Valley and Northern Sonoma AVAs and run adjacent to Knights Valley.

In total it includes 30,987 acres of land with 2,915 acres currently planted.

Among the vineyards within this area, in addition to Alexander Mountain Estate, are Skipstone Vineyard, Reynoso Family Vineyards, Ellis Alden Vineyard, Rock Rise Vineyard and Farrow Ranch, which was bought by winemaker Jesse Katz of Aperture and Devil Proof Cellars in 2021. Rodney Strong also maintains estate vineyards here.

If approved, Pocket Peak would become Sonoma County’s 20th AVA, following on the heels of the West Sonoma Coast, which became official earlier this year.

But while the West Sonoma Coast was focused primarily on climate, Pocket Peak is about delineating between grapes grown at elevation versus those grown on the valley floor. Slopes exceed 10 percent grade within Pocket Peak and are commonly above 20 percent, according to the petition.

Smaller berries, deeper concentration and considerable structure are among the hallmarks of these mountain grapes, the majority of which are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.

The Alexander Valley as a whole has earned worldwide recognition for the quality of its wine grapes and wines since it was named an AVA in 1984. Should Pocket Peak become reality, it could mean higher recognition and respect for this subsection of the larger Alexander Valley, too.

To follow the progress and learn more visit


Old Vine Zinfandel in the Russian River Valley

“The Good Stuff”

Old Vine Zinfandel in the Russian River Valley

September 21, 2022

Zinfandel might be Sonoma County’s most historic grape, but it is nowhere near the most popular in terms of acreage. Chardonnay is number one at nearly 16,000 acres with Pinot Noir not far behind. Then there’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Zinfandel is down the list, accounting for just 5,000 acres.

Still, its historic significance cannot be overstated. That there are still plantings of what we call old-vine Zinfandel, vines planted typically pre-Prohibition all the way back to the late 1800s, is astounding, given all that has gone on in Sonoma County over that time, particularly in the Russian River Valley and the rise of Pinot Noir.

Part of its cultural heritage, Sonoma County is home to dozens of well-known sites, from Bedrock and Pagani Ranch in Sonoma Valley to Monte Rosso on Moon Mountain, planted in the 1880s. That these vineyards have survived Phylloxera, Prohibition, World Wars, the rise of Cab, Chard and Pinot, is impressive.

California’s long, dry growing season suits the grape well – Zin doesn’t like humidity and is susceptible to mildew and mold – which is why it was probably planted here in the first place and why it has endured. These older vines tend to produce small berries and small clusters with an intensity of flavor; yields can be low.

The weird trend that was White Zinfandel of the 1970s and 1980s and a few key winemakers who cared about these vines are credited with helping to save them. Former Ravenswood winemaker Joel Peterson is one of them, as are Joseph Swan, Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, Robert Biale of Biale Vineyards and Mike Officer of Carlisle.

Since 2011, the non-profit Historic Vineyard Society (HVS) has worked to both catalogue, preserve and shed light on these sites. Biale, Officer and Peterson are all part of the HVS team, as is Peterson’s son, Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Company and David Gates of Ridge. To be part of the registry, the vineyard must be currently producing, with an original planting of at least 50 years ago, with 1/3 of existing vines still traceable to the original planting date.

A motherlode of old plantings populate the Russian River Valley’s Santa Rosa Plain, the flatlands on the east side of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, encompassing Olivet Road and the larger Piner-Olivet area. Here old vine Zinfandel and mixed blacks thrive at sites such as Carlisle, Papera, Saitone, Mancini and Montafi. Winemakers say they get higher acid levels from many of these sites, with wild berry flavors and pronounced spice.

Beloved by Peterson when he was at Ravenswood (first vintage 1991), another is Belloni, where the majority of the Zinfandel was planted in the early part of the 1900s. Also on Wood Road is a head-trained, dry-farmed vineyard planted in the 1910s owned and farmed by Hartford Family Wines as well as their estate vineyard once farmed by the Chelli family called Highwire. Hartford also buys Zinfandel from Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard. Rue Vineyard is also here, planted in the 1910s. It is now the site of Croix Estate Winery.

Carlisle, where Mike Officer lives, was once called Pelletti, planted in 1927 by Alcide Pelletti. The grapes have gone in Carlisle wines, but also in wines by DeLoach and Novy.

Saitone, a 33-acre vineyard still on St. George rootstock that was bought by Williams-Selyem in 2016, is among the oldest sites on Olivet Road, first planted in 1895. Maffei is on Olivet Road between Piner and River roads, planted in the 1920s. Maffei grapes have gone to BACA, DeLoach and Gary Farrell.

Near it is Mancini, also planted in the 1920s (during Prohibition), a 16-acre head-trained, dry-farmed site with a mix of 20-some varieties, including whites like Palomino, in addition to Zinfandel. Ridge, Carlisle and Joseph Swan have sourced the fruit.

On Piner is Montafi, planted in 1926, which did go into a few White Zins in the 1980s before being discovered by Carlisle, Williams-Selyem and others; a traditional field blend, it is now owned by Seghesio Family Vineyards. Papera, planted a year after Repeal in 1934, has been seen on labels by Carlisle, Bedrock, DeLoach and Williams-Selyem; it is now an estate vineyard for WS.

The Russi Vineyard, originally planted in the 1900s, is now farmed by Comstock Wines; owner Chris Russi replanted 220 vines to the St. Peter’s Church clone in 2018.

On Martinelli Road closer to Forestville is Jackass Hill, a 3-acre Zin vineyard planted at a 60 to 65-degree angle of non-terraced slope. It is farmed by the Martinelli family, who have farmed in Sonoma County since the 1880s. Near it is another site farmed by the Martinellis formerly called Banfield, whose Zin has gone to Limerick Lane (Banfield Chardonnay once went to Arista).

In the northeastern reaches of the Russian River Valley, on a relatively warm knoll south of Healdsburg, is Limerick Lane. The oldest producing part of its vineyard dates back to 1910. Carlisle, Biale, Bedrock Wine Co. are among the wineries that have made a Limerick Lane.

Across the highway is Ponzo, a consistent vineyard-designate for Ridge fewer than five miles south of its Lytton Springs winery. First planted in 1912, the vineyard is now owned by Jesse Katz of Aperture Cellars, who makes an Aperture Estate Vineyard 1912 Red Blend with the grapes.

Dig deeper into the work of the Historic Vineyard Society and its registry of vineyard sites to learn more and support these sites by buying wine from producers that continue to keep these old vines in the ground.

Sustainable Labeling

“The Good Stuff”

Sustainable labeling

September 14th, 2022

SCW News Events Archive - Page 2 of 12 - Sonoma County Winegrowers (9)

With 99% of vineyards certified sustainable in Sonoma County, the next step was to communicate to the world that sustainable matters when they are trying to choose a bottle of wine to buy and enjoy.

A Sonoma County sustainable wine logo that could be placed on a producer’s wine label debuted with the 2017 vintage. It is now seen on more than 34 million bottles of Sonoma County wine and signifies that the wines were made with a minimum of 85% certified sustainable grapes.

Participating producers include Francis Ford Coppola, Sonoma-Cutrer, Dutton Estate, Dutton-Goldfield, Ferrari-Carano and Gary Farrell, among many others, representing 443 different kinds of Sonoma County wine.

This is a meaningful visual cue for consumers, who may or may not know of the region’s commitment to sustainable farming yet care where their dollars go.

An increasing number do care. The CEO of Wine Intelligence Lulie Halstead presented a survey at the Sustainable Winegrowing Summit in 2019 (updating the survey in 2020) and found that “younger consumers of legal drinking age are significantly more engaged with sustainability and view it as increasingly important to protect future resources. Communicating sustainability values is vital in helping to raise awareness of the wine industry’s significant efforts.”

Halstead’s research also found that consumer perceptions of sustainable winegrowing, particularly by Millennials and Gen Z, included a high interest in purchasing sustainably produced wine in the future, with a favorable perception of sustainable certification programs and certification logos.

This also included a willingness to pay more for wine that has been sustainably produced – $3 more per bottle according to her findings.

It also showed that consumers seek easy ways to identify sustainable wine, thus a logo like Sonoma’s is critically important.

Regenerative Organic Certified and California Certified Organic (CCOF) seals also exist as ways to tell consumers more about the grapes that have been sourced to make the wine inside the bottle.

Newer still is B Corp certification. The B in B Corp stands for Benefit for All, a non-profit network of for-profit companies looking to balance purpose and profit. It currently includes 5,697 companies across 158 industries across the world, with an aim “to harness the power of business, and balancing profit for the purpose of transforming the global economy for the benefit of all people, communities and the planet.”

B Corp Certification entails operating in accordance with rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. This includes participation in policies, tools and programs aimed at shifting company behavior, culture and structure, with the goal of creating an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy.

There are 24 wineries across the world that are members of the B Corp network, including Sonoma County-based Cartograph Winery and Ron Rubin Winery, which announced its B Corp status earlier this month.

Night Harvesting

Good Stuff

Night Harvesting

September 7, 2022

Was 2012 the year night harvesting of wine grapes truly arrived? In Sonoma County, it seems like it might be.

The second-largest and richest wine grape harvest in history here at the time, and 25% bigger than the crop in 2011, 2012’s total tonnage was 232,000 tons, worth an estimated $423 million.

Growers like David Rafanelli, John Pedroncelli and the late Joe Rochioli Jr. were quoted in local newspapers saying the harvest was “as close to a perfect year as we might ever see,” with clean fruit, desirable sugar and acid levels, and the promise of beautiful wines.

The 2012 harvest had been warm but not too hot, with no temperature extremes – unlike what we’re experiencing right now. Ten years ago, Sonoma growers in mid-late September were in the midst of harvesting Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, with Chardonnay on the horizon. Other grape varieties were still waiting for sugar levels to inch up.

The 2012 harvest was universally celebrated as excellent in terms of both quantity and quality. So if you go back and read the press accounts of the time, what sticks out most to me is the mention of night harvesting just starting to gain in popularity.

It’s rather insane to think that only 10 years ago this was only a growing trend and not the norm. But it just wasn’t. Reading between the lines I’m sensing that it’s precisely because there was so much fruit and it was of such high quality that night harvesting was as much a necessity as a luxury, and that it wasn’t just about machine harvesting at night anymore.

A decade before, in a 1989 Press Democrat story about harvest, Napa Valley-based Domaine Chandon was credited with having pioneered nighttime grape harvesting in the North Coast, with 60% of the harvesting done mechanically with a $130,000 harvesting machine that Chandon’s vineyard manager at the time called, “real Star Wars stuff.”

Described as better for the grapes, with the end result better wine, night harvesting was also said to be “an ominous sight on a moonless night,” with lurching harvesters looking like hovering spaceships.

What’s unclear is whether in the late 1980s Chandon was inspired by a new winery in Yolo County called R.H. Phillips, which called itself a “pioneer in night harvesting.”

At R.H. Phillips, one of the biggest winemaking operations in its area until it closed in 2009, the push for night harvesting is traced to founding winemaker Clark Smith, an MIT and UC Davis grad and former assistant to Roger Boulton at the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. Smith felt that the best way to deliver chilled grapes was to pick them at night.

In a Santa Rosa Press Democrat column by Dan Berger, Smith is also credited with designing harvesting bins that could hook to a tractor lit by fluorescent lights 2 feet off the ground to avoid shadows.

Not that having chilled grapes was entirely a new notion. Winemaking textbooks for decades had advocated for grapes to be delivered to the crusher cool.

But for many wineries this meant creating a chilling area for when the grapes arrived; that could be expensive to build and not everyone even had the space; refrigerated trucks were also a major innovation; but also expensive and not always easy to find. Grapes that are cooled naturally from nighttime temps also mean less energy use in the winery.

But if you could harvest at night, when temperatures can drop as much as 40 degrees F from daytime highs, you’re considerably ahead of the game, especially if the crop is big and the wineries are backed up.

It buys time. Time for aromas and flavors to concentrate, sugar and acid levels to stabilize and oxidation to be avoided. Cooler temperatures are better for people, too.

Benziger Winery once posted a video of its night pick during a Supermoon, when a full moon makes its closest approach to earth. They barely needed lights. It is estimated that today around 90% of the Sonoma County vineyards are night harvested.

Picking at night was at least something to aspire to and a marketing plus in a 1980 Sebastiani Vineyards ad. There, above Sam J. Sebastiani’s signature was the boast that “we can never predict just when a vineyard will be ready – so we must be ready at all times – even if it means picking at night.”

Thank goodness it’s now the norm.


Is Karissa Kruse president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers? ›

Karissa Kruse is CEO & President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world's premier grape growing regions.

What is Sonoma County known for? ›

Our beloved Sonoma County, California is renowned for amazing wines and legendary vineyards, as well as gorgeous organic produce and sustainable farming. Our natural beauty is our calling card, from our mountains, forests, rivers, valleys, and meadows, to all 55 miles of our Pacific Ocean coastline.

What AVA is Healdsburg? ›

Alexander Valley AVA

Alexander Valley is located just north of Healdsburg, housing many wineries and vineyards. It is also the largest and most fully planted singular wine region in Sonoma County (Northern Sonoma is a combination of a few AVAs)!

Who owns Sonoma best? ›

Stacy and Ken Mattson, proprietors of Sonoma's Best at 8th St East and East Napa Street.

Who owns Lake Sonoma? ›

It is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and, through management of the Sonoma County Water Agency, is the main source of water for more than 600,000 residents and businesses in the North Bay.

What famous people live in Sonoma? ›

What do actress Winona Ryder, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and comedian Tommy Smothers have in common? All of these iconic figures have, at some point, called Sonoma County their home.

Which is better Napa or Sonoma? ›

If you buy pricier wines, then go to Napa. If you mainly drink Cabernet Sauvignon, buttery Chardonnay, and Merlot, then go to Napa. If you buy more reasonably priced wines, then go to Sonoma. If you mainly drink Zinfandels, Pinot Noirs, Sparkling Wines, Red Blends, and Unoaked zesty Chardonnays, then go to Sonoma.

What is the most planted grape in Sonoma? ›

Cabernet Sauvignon

The most widely planted red grape in Sonoma County, Cabernet is concentrated and structured, with flavors of black currant, anise, and cedar. Often best after a few years of aging.

Who owns Duke's in Healdsburg? ›

Founding investor David Ducommon (nicknamed “Duke” and the bar's namesake) will continue to be involved in the business, according to Aaron Flores (formerly of Brass Rabbit), who was recently tapped as the new general manager of Duke's.

What wine is Healdsburg known for? ›

Here are the wines Healdsburg is renowned for: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc wines. Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Rosé, Syrah, and Petite Sirah are also well-established Healdsburg wines.

Who is the richest person in Sonoma County? ›

Sonoma County wine mogul Jess Jackson is worth an estimated $1.85 billion, making him the 193rd richest American, according to Forbes magazine.

What is the oldest winery in Sonoma? ›

Step back in time at California's oldest premium winery at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. The Buena Vista was founded in 1857 by "Count" Agoston Haraszthy.

What is the most popular winery in Sonoma? ›

13 Award-Winning Wineries in Sonoma County
  • Truett Hurst Winery, Healdsburg. ...
  • Matanzas Creek Winery, Santa Rosa. ...
  • St. ...
  • Ram's Gate Winery, Sonoma. ...
  • Korbel Champagne Cellars, Guerneville. ...
  • Lynmar Estate, Sebastopol. ...
  • Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville. ...
  • Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Kenwood.

Can you swim in Lake Sonoma? ›

While visiting Lake Sonoma you are welcome to swim almost anywhere you can safely enter and there are several coves on the shoreline where boats must limit speed to 5 mph. Please remember there are no lifeguards on duty at Lake Sonoma and swimming is at-your-own-risk.

How deep is Lake Sonoma? ›

Who gets water from Lake Sonoma? ›

The majority of Sonoma Water's water supply water comes from the Russian River. Sonoma Water distributes this water through an aqueduct system to water contractors in Sonoma and Marin counties, including to the City of Sonoma and the Valley of the Moon Water District in Sonoma Valley.

Who is the largest employer in Sonoma County? ›

Major Employers
Company NameCategoryEmployment
County of SonomaGovernment4834
Kaiser PermanenteHealth Care2,640
Santa Rosa Junior CollegeEducation3,625
St. Joseph Health SystemHealth Care1,578
6 more rows

What Native Land is Sonoma on? ›

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 Native Americans lived in what is now Sonoma County prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The local tribes included the Pomo, Coast Miwok and Wappo.

Where do famous people stay in Napa? ›

Meadowood Napa Valley Resort

Last summer, baseball great Derek Jeter tied the knot with Hannah Davis and 100 of their closest friends at this luxurious hotel. Even John Legend has gone on record saying that Meadowood is his number one place to visit thanks to their world-renowned restaurant and picturesque gardens.

What is the blackest county in California? ›

Solano County had the highest percentage of those reporting Black or African American as their race (14.6 percent), and they surpassed 10 percent in two other counties: Alameda (12.5 percent) and Sacramento (10.2 percent).
Black or African American1.1%
Native American10.4%
49 more columns

Is Sonoma County wealthy? ›

Sonoma County is a relatively affluent county.

What is the most famous winery in Napa? ›

Sattui Winery St. Helena, Napa. This is the most popular and most visited winery in all of Napa.

What is the coldest month in Napa? ›

The cool season lasts for 2.4 months, from November 29 to February 10, with an average daily high temperature below 60°F. The coldest month of the year in Napa is January, with an average low of 40°F and high of 56°F.

What are the best months to go to Napa? ›

The best time to visit Napa is August through October or March through May. Napa's peak tourist season corresponds with the region's harvest season (August through October). During this busy time, expect crowds and high prices for just about everything, especially accommodations.

What is the hardest grape to grow? ›

Being noted as one of the most difficult grapes to grow, the Pinot noir grape possesses a rather thin skin that makes it susceptible to infections, disease, and deterioration from a harsh terrior.

What is the easiest grape to grow? ›

Concord grapes would be ideal for a beginner gardener who's not looking to produce wine. European grape varieties are susceptible to a host of diseases and are less cold-tolerant than native varieties. However, they have excellent wine-making characteristics.

What is the best table grape to grow? ›

The four most popular are Thompson Seedless, Menindee Seedless, Crimson Seedless and Red Globe. While these public varieties are still very popular in domestic and export markets, there is a growing number of innovative and unique PBR protected varieties developed by commercial breeders.

What bar was drugged in Healdsburg? ›

April 13, 2022 Updated: April 13, 2022 7:48 p.m. Maya Joye alleges she was drugged at Duke's Spirited Cocktails in Healdsburg. Nine similar police reports have been filed.

What land did Dukes own? ›

The Dukes' landholdings and subsidies
TitleLand (acres)
Duke of Norfolk49,86646,000
Duke of Richmond, Lennox, and Gordon286,41112,000
Duke of Roxburghe60,41865,600
Duke of Rutland70,13726,000
22 more rows
May 8, 2017

Did Healdsburg police investigate report of drugging at Downtown Cocktail bar? ›

A cocktail bar in downtown Healdsburg took to social media on Wednesday to assuage patrons' safety concerns as police investigate a report that a customer's drink was spiked.

Is Healdsburg expensive? ›

Healdsburg is an escalated, expensive real estate market. The word ecology comes from the Greek etymology: “house study.” Healdsburg is my home.

What is the most famous winery in the world? ›

World's Best Vineyards
  • Château de Berne. ...
  • Bodegas Vivanco. ...
  • Donnafugata-Marsala. Sicily, Italy.
  • Jordan Vineyard & Winery. Sonoma County, United States.
  • Tokara Winery. Stellenbosch, South Africa.
  • Quinta do Noval. Douro Valley, Portugal.
  • Penfolds Magill Estate. South Australia, Australia.
  • Schloss Gobelsburg. Kamptal, Austria.

What is the most famous wine of California? ›

1. Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. Screaming Eagle is the most collectible California wine, based on its secondary market value and average price appreciation.

Who is the Sonoma County Ag Commissioner? ›

The commissioner:

Tony Linegar was appointed Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer in 2012. Prior to that, he'd served as commissioner/sealer in Mendocino County since 2009. Linegar started his career in 1995 as an Agricultural Inspector I with the Shasta County Department of Agriculture.

Who is running for Sonoma County superintendent of schools? ›

County Superintendent of Schools
Aug 11, 2022

Who are the supervisors for Sonoma County? ›

Sonoma County is comprised of 5 supervisorial districts.
  • 1st District. District Supervisor: Susan Gorin.
  • 2nd District. District Supervisor: David Rabbitt.
  • 3rd District. District Supervisor: Chris Coursey.
  • 4th District. District Supervisor: James Gore.
  • 5th District. ...
  • Map of Districts.
  • District Lookup.

Who owns Piper Sonoma? ›

Piper Sonoma was founded in 1980 by the Marquis d'Aulan family, direct descendants of the Piper family form the Champagne region of France.

How many deputies are in Sonoma County? ›

There are approximately 140 deputies assigned to our Patrol Bureau and patrol the larger portion of 1,604 square miles of land and the 63 miles of the Pacific shoreline that make up the County of Sonoma. Approximately 500,000 people live in Sonoma County with nearly a third residing in the unincorporated cities.

Who is the Sonoma County assistant district attorney? ›

Anne Masterson - Chief Deputy District Attorney - Sonoma County District Attorney's Office | LinkedIn.

Who is the Commissioner of Agriculture for the state of South Carolina? ›

Commissioner Hugh Weathers

ACRE houses a unique research platform devoted to addressing specific challenges for industries that can provide more market opportunities to South Carolina agribusinesses and farmers.

How long has Chris Reykdal been superintendent? ›

Since taking office in January 2017, Chris has centered OSPI's work on equity, supporting the whole child, and providing excellent customer service and transparency to school districts, the Legislature, news media, and community members.

Who is over the superintendent of schools? ›

The boss of the superintendent is the school board of the school district. However, the school board is not in a position over the superintendent. Superintendents are the chief executives of a school system.

How many schools are in Sonoma County? ›

Sonoma County is divided into 40 school districts for kindergarten through twelfth-grade (K-12) educational services. There are 31 elementary, 3 high school, and 6 unified districts.

What is the salary of Sonoma County Board of Supervisors? ›

The board is composed of five supervisors, each elected to serve four-year terms. Members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors receive a salary of $160,958 per year.

Who is James Gore? ›

James Gore proudly serves his community and the larger County family in the following areas: Second Vice President, National Association of Counties (NACo) Chair, NACo Programs and Services Committee. Former Chair, NACo Resilient Counties Advisory Board.

Who owns most of Napa? ›

The two biggest names are Diageo--a U.K.-based giant that also owns Burger King--and the Australian beer brand Foster's. Between them, Diageo (Beaulieu Vineyard, Sterling and Mumm Napa Valley) and Foster's (Beringer, St. Clement and Stags' Leap) by themselves own or control more than 10% of Napa vineyards.

Who is the owner of Napa Valley? ›

Daniel Cresine - Founder & CEO - Napa Valley Wine International | LinkedIn.

Who bought Clos du Bois winery? ›

Gallo acquired Clos du Bois earlier this year as part of a $810 million mega-deal with Constellation Brands, the country's third-largest wine company.


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