Green rolling hills in the foreground and a big, rocky mountain in the background
Rockpile AVA

Rockpile Wine Region and Appellation

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Basking in the sun like a lizard on a rock, Sonoma County's Rockpile AVA is perched high above Dry Creek Valley.

A suitably wild and rugged source for some of Sonoma County's brawniest Zinfandel wines, the terroir of Rockpile is also man-made in one significant way: the deep, 2,500-acre Lake Sonoma reservoir. Sheep ranching and hunting clubs dominated this area for 100 years before Rockpile's modern grape-growing history began in 1992.

The boundaries of Rockpile contain 15,000 acres of land, with just 160 planted to the vine. Rockpile received AVA status in 2002.

Top Grapes

Gnarly, old Zinfandel vines grow in rows with bright green cover crops between them
Zinfandel vines from Seghesio

Rockpile is Zinfandel country, as is Dry Creek Valley below. Furthermore, the AVA is famed for a 'signature clone' of Zinfandel, selected from the vineyard of St. Peter's Catholic Church in nearby Cloverdale by Ulises Valdez and Kent Rosenblum. Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and some traditional Port varietals round out the list.

The Lay of the Land

Vines grow above the fog in the valley below as thesun sets in Sonoma County
Seghesio Family Vineyards

Rockpile is located in the northwest corner of Sonoma County, directly to the northwest of Dry Creek Valley and above Lake Sonoma. In fact, some of that valley's viticultural legacy lies at the bottom of the reservoir, which was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1980s. If the lake is artificial, the view from the vineyards above it is no less dramatic.

Rockpile Road, an uncommonly over-built, wide road for rural Sonoma County, provides a good means of surveying the landscape (but few turnouts and no wine tasting opportunities).

At elevations ranging from 800 to 2,100 feet, Rockpile vineyards receive plentiful sunlight, with less fog thanks to an inversion layer created by Lake Sonoma.

Notable Wineries

In 1884, Swedish immigrant S.P. Hallengren planted grapevines in the Rockpile area - but the wines were only available in Sweden. Five generations later, his heirs run Mauritson Wines a few miles away in lower Dry Creek Valley, where Rockpile wines and more family history of the area may be found.

A bottle of wine, a glass of Zinfandel, and a meal of a chicken leg on top of vegetables
Seghesio Family Vineyards

In downtown Healdsburg, ask about Rockpile wines at Rockpile Vineyards, Seghesio Family Vineyards, and Williamson Wines. In Santa Rosa, seek out Rocky Reserve at Carol Shelton Wines.

Restaurants and Lodging around Rockpile

The outside of the old country store has cars parked all around
Dry Creek General Store

Rockpile may be reached from Healdsburg or Cloverdale with equal ease. The best way to lunch in the area is to order sandwiches and deli salads in either town, or the Dry Creek General Store, and picnic at Lake Sonoma. Then, survey the lake and environs from the lookout.

In Cloverdale, B&B and motor lodge options include Kelley & Young Wine Garden Inn and Cloverdale Wine Country Inn & Suites. Lodging options in and around Healdsburg include the gracious welcome and vineyard views of the Raford Inn.  

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