Moon Mountain AVA

Moon Mountain AVA

Moon Mountain adds to the list of Sonoma’s AVAs, now making it 16. Born October 1, 2013, it may be a mere infant in terms of recognition but plenty of winemakers and viticulturists have long known that its terrain is special.

East of Highway 12 on the Mayacamas range, Moon Mountain joins Carneros as the easternmost AVA in Sonoma. It covers 17,663 acres of which 1500 is currently planted to vines. There are 11 wineries and 40 vineyards. While still part of the larger Sonoma Valley and North Coast AVA’s, this designation allows the vintners to draw attention to the mountain terroir that favors Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The AVA stipulates that the vineyards must come from an elevation between 400 – 2200 feet.

As Morgan Twain-Peterson from Bedrock Wine Company has pointed out, the Mayacamas Mountain range already has several AVA’s including Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain, but they lie on the Napa side. “If those three AVA’s deserve to exist, then one that recognizes the unique soil and elevation elements of the new Moon Mountain AVA certainly does as well.” Made up largely of steep volcanic hillsides, the terrain is similar to the Napa AVA’s Twain-Peterson mentions.

His father, Joel, made wines from the Monte Rosso Vineyard on Moon Mountain for many years, and now he is making wines that are likely to wear this new badge honor from Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Originally tended by Louis Martini in 1938, Monte Rosso is now owned by Gallo.

While Moon Mountain has undoubtedly created a name for itself with Zinfandel, Syrah and the Bordeaux grapes, one of California’s most renowned Pinot Noir producers, Hanzell Vineyards, is tucked away in the appellation, on comparatively lower hillside land. Jean Arnold, the president of Hanzell is still unsure if they will use the new appellation of their labels. “I am very pleased there is recognition that the wineries in the new AVA have different farming challenges on the steep hillsides and the mountain. Always a little troublesome to know folks are envisioning Hanzell on the valley floor – not that the valley floor is not good but it is different on the hillsides.”

Christian Borcher of Repris Wines, renowned viticulturist, Phil Coturri and others who have been involved in the push towards ‘independence’ have not said much as the decision was made during the height of the 2013 harvest. Now that they are getting their wines into tanks or barrels for the winter, we may hear more soon. Nonetheless, the wines speak for themselves and now they have a brand new title to wear with pride.

Trivia Question: Louis M. Martini bought a hillside vineyard in 1938 and renamed it “Monte Rosso.” What was the original name? [answer: Mount Pisgah Vineyard]

What do you think of the Moon Mountain District AVA’s potential for fine wine, beyond Hanzell and Monte Rosso?

For more information on the Moon Mountain District Sonoma County AVA, see Fred Swan’s article at

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