Updated: Jan 9
“Someone once pointed out to me that a lot of regions get fog, but the Petaluma Gap owns the wind,” Ana Keller of Keller Estates says.
The Petaluma Gap is one of the newer California AVA that is being carved out of the massive and varied Sonoma Coast AVA. Dominated by the influence of the Pacific ocean with it's fog and cool breezes, winemakers and wine drinkers are finding that there are many areas within the Sonoma Coast that exhibit unique and distinctive characteristics.
Ana Keller was one of the drivers for the creation of the Petaluma Gap AVA which was officially recognized in 2017. The Petaluma Gap AVA encompasses about 200,000 acres which hosts over 70 vineyards. The AVA is centered around the town of Petaluma and stretches west to the Pacific and down to the San Pablo Bay. This configuration follows a gap in the mountains of Sonoma and Marin counties that creates a wind tunnel from the ocean to the bay.
The Petaluma Gap is characterized by rich soils which, for large portions of th AVA, were raised from the seabed of an ancient San Pablo Bay. Mornings in the Gap are dominated by dense fog which burns off around midday, revealing bright, warm sunshine. Temperatures can swing 50% during the day. And in the afternoon the winds from the Pacific come barreling through the gap - constant as a clock.
Ana Keller thinks the wind is a defining factor of the AVA, creating a uniquely tough growing environment. The fruit develops thicker skins and retains higher acidity. With the cooling influences, the fruit can stay on the vines longer, leading to more intense flavors and aromas with defined minerality.
Wind is a defining factor in many grape growing regions around the world. The mistral in Southern France shapes the wine growing practices and the wines of the Southern Rhone. The Rioja in Spain is dramatically influenced by the cierzo which flows out of the Pyrenees. And the Petaluma Gap is our newest American tribute to this often overlooked influence for intense and complex wines. In fact, the AVA adopted the tagline of "Wind to Wine".
Varietals to look for from the Petaluma Gap include Pinot Noirs that exhibit savory spiciness, cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Gris with pronounced mineral and bright citrus, and amazingly powerful, peppery Syrah.
cover photo// Keller Estates