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Appellations of Sonoma County

Appellations on wine labels indicate where the grapes were grown. Some appellations are more specific than others, with some having a distinctly identifiable and unique combination of terrain, soil, and climatic conditions. Sonoma County stretches from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Mayacamas Mountains in the east and from Mendocino County in the north to Marin and Napa counties in the south. The map below shows 12 of the appellations of Sonoma County. The appellation that is not depicted is the Northern Sonoma AVA which includes several of the other AVAs and encompasses everything in Sonoma County north of Santa Rosa. This appellation exists for no other reason than to allow wineries with vineyards in multiple appellations to label their wines as “estate bottled.” By Federal definition, a winery must be located in the same appellation as the vineyards to use the estate bottled designation.

The western Sonoma County AVAs are Pinot Noir country. Referring to the map below, they include Sonoma Coast (lime green, 7,000 acres/5 wineries), Russian River Valley (turquoise blue, 10,000 acres/50 wineries), Green Valley (brown, 1,200 acres/10 wineries), and Sonoma Carneros (pink, 8,000 acres/22 wineries). The eastern Sonoma County AVAs include Rockpile (orange, 200 acres), Dry Creek Valley (purple, 10,000 acres/28 wineries), Chalk Hill (bright green, 1,000 acres/5 wineries), Alexander Valley (yellow, 15,000 acres/28 wineries), Knight’s Valley (blue, 2,000 acres/2 wineries), Bennett Valley (dark blue, 850 acres/2 wineries), Sonoma Valley (dark green, 13,000 acres/42 wineries), and Sonoma Mountain (dark orange, 800 acres/3 wineries). Some Pinot Noir is grown in specific sites in the Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Mountain appellations. If an AVA is named on a label, at least 85% of the wine’s grapes must originate from that AVA.

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