Petaluma Gap looks to become AVA

Petaluma, Calif.—Growers in the Petaluma Gap region of Sonoma County have begun the process of applying for their own AVA. Located near the town of Petaluma, the cool region buffeted by regular and often strong winds is known for producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Anne Keller, the general manager of Keller Estate winery and president of The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance, said an AVA is needed to identify the region and help it stand out in Sonoma County. She said alliance members held a meeting about petitioning for an AVA in February and then decided to pursue an application in March.

The Petaluma Gap region runs from the coast to the San Francisco Bay, and the name comes from a 15-mile wide gap in the coastal hills, through which cool ocean air is drawn to warmer interior areas.

Keller said the group has set a fundraising goal of $25,000 to pay for its AVA application and designated Paul Clary, owner of Clary Ranch Wines and a former environmental consultant, to lead the committee working on the application. She said right now the group is working with its neighbors in Marin County, the Carneros AVA and other regions to establish boundaries. “We’re making sure that the borders make the best sense,” she said.

She outlined three main reasons behind the decision to pursue an AVA. The region, which is best known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, has established its reputation for grape quality, Keller said; a “Petaluma Gap AVA” makes the most sense with Sonoma County’s conjunctive labeling requirements, and an AVA gives the region a clear identity as the sprawling Sonoma Coast AVA is further divided.

Keller said there 70 to 80 growers in the area, and of those about 45 to 50 are members. She said the alliance would like to hear from everyone in the Petaluma Gap to gather insights and opinions about a possible AVA. “We need more vineyards to come forward, join and help,” she said.


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