The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance (PGWA) has announced that a petition has been submitted to the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) asking for official recognition of the unique character and high quality of the grapes being grown in the region known as the Petaluma Gap. The proposed AVA (American Viticultural Area) would cover some 200,000 acres in southern Sonoma County and northern Marin County. The Sonoma County portion would be considered a sub-region of the current Sonoma Coast AVA. Grapes have been farmed in the Petaluma Gap area for over 150 years and there are presently 80+ vineyards comprising more than 4,000 acres of vines. Primary varietals grown in the proposed AVA are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.
"We began this process two years ago" says Ana Keller, President of the Alliance. "We felt that the Sonoma Coast AVA was too broad and that a separate Petaluma Gap AVA would help consumers recognize the special character of this area. Over the past two years we began assembling information outlining why this area is so special. In addition to the cool climate and morning fog, the daily afternoon wind roaring into the area through the Petaluma Gap is really what defines us. We documented the data and have now sent our petition on to the TTB for consideration."
Former Alliance president from 2010 to 2012, Paul Clary, of Clary Ranch Wines, adds "The years of groundwork that made this moment possible involved a great many hours of effort by our team of directors and community volunteers, with the overall goal of increasing awareness and respect for the region."
The Petaluma Gap AVA petition was put together by the Alliance's AVA Committee, chaired by Alliance vice president, Doug Cover. A longtime resident and vineyard owner in Petaluma, Cover said, "The petition addresses topography, geology, soils, watershed/groundwater, and climate. While all of these contribute to the distinctiveness of the Gap, topography is a key factor since that is what creates the "wind tunnel" effect. It is the regularity and intensity of the afternoon wind during the winegrape growing season that makes the Gap unique to surrounding areas from a viticultural perspective."
The petition will be put under review and comments will be accepted by the TTB regarding the request. "We're hoping for a quick and favorable answer from the TTB" says Keller. "We don't overlap any other AVAs, our constituency is mainly growers, rather than wineries, and there's really no reason for any opposition. Our Board of Directors and the general membership are of the same mind as to how important being granted this AVA designation will be to the area. To be able to see labels with 'Petaluma Gap AVA' printed will be a great moment."
The PGWA is in the planning stages for an area-wide tasting on August 8, 2015 that will showcase the efforts of its members. Only wines produced with fruit grown within the proposed AVA's boundaries will be poured. Details will be announced as they develop.