The Amazing Women Behind the Petaluma Gap AVA
Who knew it was primarily a team of women that were the driving force behind creation of Sonoma County’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA) sub-appellation?! Could this be another first in the wine industry for women? We searched them out to learn why they felt the Petaluma Gap, a vast plain area coming off the Pacific Ocean, perpendicularly to the coastal range, deserved its own AVA designation.
Eager to tell the story of this unique geographic area and the wine it produces, we enlisted the women behind the Petaluma Gap AVA’s inception, application and formation, as well as those who’ve worked the land and made the wine from grapes grown in this windy area. Meet our guests, members of the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance:
Bruliam Wines’ Kerith Overstreet, Keller Estate’s Ana Keller, Trombetta Family Wines’ Rickey Trombetta and Dr. Liz Thach, MW, Distinguished Professor of Wine & Management at Sonoma State, joined us to discuss the terroir, climate, wind and wine of the Petaluma Gap.
First, Ana Keller took us through a typical summer day in the Gap: Mornings are cool, crisp and accompanied by a layer of fog. The sun’s heat disperses and chases away the fog blanket. The grapes and vines soak up the warm air and bright sun’s rays. By mid-afternoon, this weather pattern reverses: the temps cool and the fog seeps back through the gap across the Petaluma Plain down toward Richardson Bay and the Carneros. In fact the temperature change and shift is so speedy that the wind regularly rushes at top speed through the Gap in mid-afternoon.
The wind influence reduces crop yields, keeps sugar levels lower and slows the speed of ripening. All of these conditions contribute to ideal levels of acidity, intense flavors, and unique, highly desirable properties in their wines.
Next, we dug in (or rather sipped in) on “verifying” their touted, exemplary results and weren’t disappointed. Rickey Trombetta’s Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay was crisp, refreshing and carried notes of green apple. Kerith Overstreet’s Bruliam Sangiacomo Roberts Road Pinot Noir showed smooth integration of cherry, cranberry and hints of black fruit in this delicate red wine.
Megan Cline (who couldn’t join us at the last moment) shared the Cline Cellars’ Estate Pinot Noir, demonstrating how the terroir closer to the Carneros District reveals nuances in the flavor profile distinctly different from vineyards further north and west from Cline’s. While the bulk of the Gap’s vineyards produce Pinot Noir, a grape that growers originally thought unsuitable for the land a century ago, we finished off our virtual Gap tasting with Keller Estate’s Rotie, a Syrah-based proprietary blend, developed in homage to the wines of the Rhone in France. Ana Keller’s story about how her family planted Syrah and found it did surprisingly well in the specific vineyard sites of the estate is worth listening to…
All in all since the AVA was formally recognized, and producers began adding “Petaluma Gap” proudly to their labels in early 2018, they’ve garnered 93 wines with 90+ ratings. This, after ushering the region from informal “hidden gem” status to a highly respected, formal viticultural area, with distinctive and desirable properties. In fact, it is the only AVA with boundaries defined by the wind!
Tune in to learn the details. For more on the Petaluma Gap, the wines and guests, visit:
Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance
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Show date: July 31, 2020