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Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA Prepares Vineyards for Winter Ahead of Schedule

Sonoma County's Highest Elevation AVA Expects Rain and Snow Each Winter, Even in Drought
October 27, 2014


Cloverdale, Calif. (October 24, 2014)---Winegrowers in Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA, the highest-elevation appellation within Sonoma County, are preparing their vineyards for the upcoming winter way ahead of schedule, thanks to an early harvest. The region, most known for growing premium cabernet sauvignon, had an incredible 2014 harvest; the crop was of exceptional quality, yields were above average, and water use was decreased thanks to better technology and a shorter ripening season.

Despite California’s severe drought, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak, which sits between an elevation of 1,600 and 3,000 feet, expects on average 50 percent more rainfall than the nearby valleys each year. Winter generally also brings light snowfall. This year, some growers were concerned that irrigation wells could run dry before the growing season ended, however the early harvest assuaged fears.

Because of the elevation and steep hillside vineyards, the biggest concern in winter for Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak is a risk of erosion. To prevent erosion, growers are putting down a cover crop of hay in the vineyards, which provides a protective cushion from hard rain. Many are also digging ditches, which help to divert rainfall away from the vineyards and collect the water in wells to later use for controlled irrigation.

Joe Benzinger and Mark Burningham, who grow grapes in the Upper Ridge Vineyard for Imagery Estate Winery, reported using 25 percent less water this year. Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak is less prone to winter frosts than nearby valleys; the appellation does not use heaters, windmills, or sprinklers in the vineyards for frost protection, though, according to Barry Hoffner of Silverwood Ranch, “We do wait until early February to prune, because we like the vines to bud late to minimize frost risk.”

Miro Tcholakov, winemaker at Miro Cellars and Trentadue, has produced a Miro Cellars Reserve Silverwood Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon since 2008. Tcholakov loves Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak, explaining “The grapes definitely react to the high elevation. The berries are smaller, with thicker skins and higher phenolic (tannin) content. There is also a distinct mineral, earthy component to the aromas and flavors. The wines from Pine Mountain have great structure and lean muscle, built for longevity.” Of the 2014 vintage, he said, “I believe this year may be the best vintage yet from Silverwood Vineyard. The vines are getting more mature and establish deeper root system and that really shows well in the quality of the fruit.”

California Cab lovers can anticipate phenomenal offerings from this young region in the coming years, with Jackson Family Wines, Francis Ford Coppola, and others beginning to produce premium wines with the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak designation.

About Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak

Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak is a sub-AVA of Sonoma County, officially recognized in November 2011. Of the region’s 310 planted acres, nearly 80 percent are cabernet sauvignon; 16 additional varieties comprise the other 20 percent. Pine Mountain-Clovedale Peak winegrowers employ best practices and “next” practices in sustainable, organic and bio-dynamic farming methods in order to preserve the region’s unique character and suitability for producing ultra-premium winegrapes.

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