Moon Mountain Wine Region and Appellation

Moon Mountain Wine Region and Appellation

Moon Mountain Wine Region and Appellation

Soaring more than 2,000 feet above Sonoma Valley, the highest vineyards in the Moon Mountain District American Viticultural Area (AVA) enable clear-day views of San Francisco from 50 miles away, skyscrapers gleaming in the southern distance.

Moon Mountain, Sonoma County, California

One of the few AVAs in the Mayacamas mountain range—which divides Sonoma County from the Napa Valley—the Moon Mountain District inhabits the eastern hills of the central Sonoma Valley AVA, directly opposite the east-facing Sonoma Mountain AVA.

The Lay of the Land

The Moon Mountain District’s vineyards generally face southwest, receiving ample exposure not only to afternoon sun, but also crosswinds from the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay. At elevations ranging from 200 to 2,200 feet above sea level, vines here grow in a variety of soils, mainly rocky and of volcanic origin, on slopes and ridge tops of the Mayacamas Mountains.
Map of the Moon Mountain District AVA in Sonoma Valley
Map of the Moon Mountain District AVA in Sonoma Valley

Though only designated an AVA in 2013—with only 1,500 of its 17,663 acres planted to grapevines—the Moon Mountain District contains one of Sonoma County’s oldest and most prestigious vineyards.

Monte Rosso

One of the AVA’s most famous vineyards was originally called Mount Pisgah, first planted with grapevines by San Francisco grocers-turned-vintners Emmanuel Goldstein and Benjamin Dreyfus in 1886. When legendary Napa Valley vintner Louis M. Martini bought the vineyard in 1938, he renamed it Monte Rosso (Italian for “red earth”).

Monte Rosso Vineyard
Monte Rosso Vineyard

Some of California’s top heritage clone vines have their roots in this  vineyard, prized for the volcanic influence and mineral content of its iron-rich, loamy soil. Especially iconic at Monte Rosso are its complex, high-acidity, and age-worthy old-vine Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Top Grapes

Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are undeniably the most important varieties in the Moon Mountain District, but Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec are also found here. Chardonnay is prominent, and you’ll even find some Pinot noir growing in the cooler, southern end of the AVA, at the Hanzell Vineyards estate.

Old-vine Zinfandel growing in Monte Rosso Vineyard
Old-vine Zinfandel growing in Monte Rosso Vineyard 

At the AVA’s higher elevations, grapevines respond to the more intense solar radiation and wind by growing smaller, thick-skinned grapes that make for intense color and flavor characteristics. Farming on this mountainous terrain is an expensive proposition, which is why Moon Mountain District AVA is known for high-value grapes.

Notable Wineries

Headed by renowned Sonoma County winemaker Richard Arrowood, Amapola Creek offers estate wines and an illuminating Monte Rosso Zinfandel.

Bismark Vineyard
Bismark Vineyard

Set even higher than Monte Rosso, HANNA Winery & Vineyards’ tufa-etched Bismark Mountain vineyard produces Malbec, Cabernet blends, Zinfandel, and even a tiny bit of Riesling.

Kamen Estate Wines' vineyard in the Moon Mountain District AVA
Kamen Estate Wines

In Kenwood, seek out B Wise and Ty Caton, and be sure to visit the stunning Kamen Estate in Sonoma. Also look for Monte Rosso wines from Sonoma’s Bedrock Wine Co.

Hanzell Vineyards
Hanzell Vineyards

Hanzell Vineyards, founded in the 1950s by Ambassador James Zellerbach, is an appointment-only winery that requires some planning to visit; for the serious student of California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay history, it’s worth the pilgrimage.

Restaurants and Lodging around Moon Mountain

Sante at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Sante at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Moon Mountain District is located directly above an historic, rambling stretch of the Sonoma Valley whose culinary offerings include a mix of taquerias and sidewalk grills with highly rated restaurants like Santé at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa.

Beer tasting at Olde Sonoma Public House
Beer tasting at Olde Sonoma Public House

When taking a break from great mountain-grown wine, take in the long list of world and craft brews at Olde Sonoma Public House, which encourages patrons to order in from Sonoma favorite Mary’s Pizza, across the street.

Glamorous pool at Olea Hotel in Sonoma Valley
Pool at the Olea Hotel

Top lodging choices include Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Kenwood Inn & Spa, and Olea Hotel.

Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight

Sonoma County Appellations (AVA):

Alexander Valley
Bennett Valley
Carneros – Sonoma
Chalk Hill
Dry Creek Valley
Fort Ross – Seaview
Fountaingrove District
Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Knights Valley
Moon Mountain
Northern Sonoma
Petaluma Gap
Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak
Russian River Valley
Sonoma Coast
Sonoma Mountain
Sonoma Valley
West Sonoma Coast

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