An appellation is a geographical area recognized for a distinctive combination of soil, climate, and identifiable regional wine character. The word appellation comes from the French Appellation d'Origine Controlee laws, which are laws meant to ensure quality within specific regions of France. These same principles have been used to create American Viticultural Areas (AVA) in the United States.


Sonoma Valley Appellation (AVA)

14,000 vineyard acres

55 wineries

Earned AVA status in 1981 (amended in ’85 & ’87)

The Sonoma Valley Appellation (AVA) centers on the Sonoma Valley.  It is also has the name of The Valley of the Moon in the southern portion of the county. The appellation borders two mountain ranges: the Mayacamas Mountains to the east and the Sonoma Mountains to the west.

Along with being the area where so much of Sonoma County’s winemaking history took place, the area is known for its unique terroir.   Sonoma Mountain protects the area from the wet and cool influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean. The Sonoma Mountains to the west help protect the valley from excessive rainfall. The cool air that does affect the region comes northward from the Los Carneros region and southward from the Santa Rosa Plain.

Because the valley cools from the north and south, it is different from other California north-south-oriented grape growing valleys in the interior.  The daily wind that makes its way into the northern and southern sections of the valley slows ripening.  This prolongs hang time and promotes natural balance in the wines. In the appellations of the North Coast, the wind is unique to Sonoma Valley and Carneros.

The soils of the Sonoma Valley, like the rest of the county are varied. One finds a wide disparity between valley floor and mountain soils.  Those found in flatter, valley areas tend to be quite fertile, loamy and have better water-retention. The soils at higher elevations are meager, rocky and well-drained.  In general, the structure, rather than the composition of the soil, is the deciding factor where grape plantings are concerned.  More Info.