Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Wine Region and Appellation
"Like islands in the clouds," is how grape growers describe the view from Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak in the morning, when much of Sonoma County is swathed in a silvery blanket of fog.
Rising to an elevation of 2,600 feet above the small town of Cloverdale, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA (American Viticultural Area) is one of the highest and most remote winegrowing sub-regions in Sonoma County. Of its 4,600 acres, just 230 acres are planted with grapevines.
The long season and high sunlight exposure here favor red wine grapes; Cabernet Sauvignon is the undisputed sovereign of the mountain, accounting for some 80 percent of vineyard acres, while Merlot and Malbec are a distant second and third. Alternative red varieties include Sangiovese and Lagrein, and the occasional white variety, such as Muscat or Riesling, is grown here, too.
The Lay of the Land
The AVA is situated northeast from the town of Cloverdale along Pine Mountain Road, a former stagecoach route once haunted by infamous "Gentleman Bandit" Black Bart. Cattle grates across the road evidence the ranching history of the area, which the vineyards and olive groves still share with some cattle and sheep. On the Sonoma County side, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak is part of the larger Alexander Valley AVA; the northern section is shared with Mendocino County.
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak begins at an elevation of 1,600 feet and continues to nearly 3,000 feet. Much of the land is covered in scrub, madrone, and oak woodland, interspersed with lush stands of ferns and spring-fed ponds.
Many of the vineyards are located at such a high elevation that the peak of Pine Mountain itself, studded with a lone pine, appears as just a bump in the near distance. To the north, Cloverdale Peak is partly forested.
Far below, the town of Cloverdale and the wide, flat vineyards stretching along the Russian River appear hazily distant. Here, the viticultural situation is the opposite of the warm days and cool, foggy nights touted by winegrowers in the valley appellations. Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak is all about cooler, lightly breezy days, but warmer nights.
Split Rock Springs Ranch, on Pine Mountain, grows certified organic olives and produces organic olive oil under the name Split Rock Springs Ranch. Silverwood Ranch also produces olive oil as well as growing winegrapes on Pine Mountain.
Imagery Estate Winery has made a major investment in Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak terroir, fine-tuning their experimental vineyard block-by-block, choosing different soils and exposures for unexpected varieties like Riesling. Their tasting room is located in Glen Ellen.
Captûre Wines makes a Cabernet from their estate Tin Cross Vineyard, site of the area's pioneer vineyard planted in 1855.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery sources extensively from Silverwood Ranch for their Alexander Valley wines; top blend Archimedes bears the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak appellation. Jackson Family Wines, which oversees Sonoma County brands like Kendall-Jackson, La Crema, and Copain, has invested in its own 100-acre vineyard in the AVA.
Because of the remote nature of this mountain appellation, there are no wineries and tasting rooms open to drop-ins, but there is one that may be visited by appointment. The folks at BobDog Wines & Sky Pine Vineyards are friendly, don't take themselves too seriously, and offer something for furry four-legged visitors, too.
Restaurants and Lodging around Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak
Cloverdale is a quiet town with a walkable main street and Wine Country amenities. Start the day with a latté at Plank Coffee or a breakfast sandwich at MoE's Eagle's Nest Deli. Enjoy slow-cooked brisket, baby back ribs, pulled pork, or chicken at World Famous Hamburger Ranch & Bar-B-Que. Learn about other Places to Eat in Cloverdale.
For more ideas, read 5 Fun Things to Do in Cloverdale and Wine Tasting in Cloverdale. Overnight in Cloverdale, or make it your wine tasting base camp at bed and breakfast inns like Kelley & Young Wine Garden Inn, or the Cloverdale Wine Country Inn & Suites, and other hotels.
Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight
Sonoma County Appellations (AVA):
Carneros - Sonoma
Dry Creek Valley
Fort Ross - Seaview
Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak
Russian River Valley
West Sonoma Coast