West Sonoma Coast is one of the world’s best and newest regions for growing cool-climate grape varieties. So far, its vineyards primarily grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Syrah is notable too, but the acreage is much lower.
For those familiar with California, the term “West Sonoma Coast” may seem redundant. The California coast is all on the west. However, the large Sonoma Coast AVA reaches well inland. The newly approved West Sonoma Coast AVA, which lies within the Sonoma Coast AVA, is more focused, including only land close to the ocean. The pre-existing Fort Ross-Seaview AVA is within the new AVA. The Petaluma Gap AVA, part of which is also coastal, is to the south of the new AVA, not included within it.
By the numbers
Acreage Under Vine (Acres)
Acreage Under Vine (Hectares)
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah
Warm-summer Mediterranean, Winkler Region I
Key Soil Types
Franciscan Complex-derived sedimentary with thin, well-draining topsoil
The Pacific Ocean adjacent to Northern California is cold year-round and often very foggy. So too the land nearest the ocean. It’s so cold, in fact, that vineyards close to the shore need to be at high altitude, so as to be above the fog and low-lying clouds. Otherwise, attaining ripeness in the vineyard might be impossible.
Just a few miles inland from the ocean lies the Coastal Mountain Range. Those mountains substantially isolate areas further east from frigid ocean influences. The climate is warmer and that gives the grapes, and the wine they produce, a different, and often riper, character.
The Sonoma Coast AVA includes both areas. The West Sonoma Coast AVA includes only the coolest zones.