Located in southern Sonoma County, extending into northern Marin County, the Petaluma Gap AVA covers over 200,000 acres.
Four thousand of these acres are planted with vineyards. To the west of the region lies the Pacific Ocean.
Defined by the wind that allows direct access to cool Pacific coast breezes and fog, thanks to a gap or dip in coastal mountain ranges that sit between the region and the ocean, the vineyards in the Petaluma Gap are affected to a higher degree by wind than surrounding regions.
Additionally, the area is unique in that the elevation of the rolling hills that run from north (near Bodega Bay) to south (Tomales Bay) within the approximately 18 miles remains at 600 feet or lower throughout the region, setting it apart from surrounding regions with much higher elevation or no elevation/hills.
Whereas the fog and lower number of high temperature days or hours, as well as coastal influences, may more greatly affect the vineyards in a region like Green Valley, and the proximity to the ocean, elevation and exposure may be the factors that most greatly affect vineyards in the West Sonoma Coast AVA, it is the wind and the topography that are more prevalent when looking at factors that affect the ripening of grapes in the Petaluma Gap.
During a recent tasting of more than 20 wines from the Petaluma Gap, the three wines below stood out as stars, as they paint a distinct picture of the unique terroir, sites and cool climate conditions they hail from, while also being incredibly excellent and elegant wines.
2019 Dutton-Goldfield Chileno Valley Riesling
This riesling is grown just over the Marin County line in the Chileno Valley region of the Petaluma Gap AVA. The conditions in this chilly, windswept vineyard site are perfect for riesling, which loves a longer, cooler growing season and overall colder temperatures. The result? A fresh, bone dry riesling with a nervy tension; brilliant acidity; nuanced layers of white peach, apricot, and lychee aromatics and flavors; and low alcohol.
2018 Gary Farrell Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir, Terra de Promissio Vineyard
This pinot noir from Gary Farrell hails from the Terra de Promissio Vineyard, which is known for producing wines that display both elegance and purity of place. With its proximity to the San Pablo Bay, southwest exposure (which allows both sun exposure and access to the wind and fog of the Petaluma Gap) and excellent soils, this is considered to be one of the best sites for pinot noir in the Petaluma Gap.
On the nose, this wine displays fresh red and black fruit notes and baking spices. On the palate, it’s fresh and lean with the fruit at the forefront, leading to more earthy notes and a silky blue/black fruit finish, and continuing to open up in the glass to show its rounder, juicier side.
2018 Keller Estate Rotie
This syrah from Keller Estate is co-fermented with viognier, as is traditional in the Cote-Rôtie AOC of the Northern Rhone. The syrah grapes are grown in the mineral-rich, clay soils of Keller Estate’s La Cruz Vineyard, which lies at a lower elevation and remains protected from the Gap’s cold, high-speed winds. This wine is soft, elegant and balanced with red fruit (strawberries or strawberry compote), baking spices, and slight earthy and floral notes on the nose and palate, with underlying blue fruit tones.