Moon Mountain gets its own American Viticulture Area

The puzzle map that makes up the Sonoma County American Viticulture Area got a new piece this month. After years of petitioning, Moon Mountain District – Sonoma County was officially added to the map. With rocky hillsides and cooling coastal breezes, proponents say it’s significantly different than the Sonoma Valley appellation, and thus deserving of its own AVA.

“It’s all about the fact that it’s a mountain,” said Christian Borcher, who has his own private 7-acre vineyard on Trinity Road, and led the effort to establish the Moon Mountain AVA. “It made sense to carve it off from Sonoma Valley because it’s not a valley. It’s a different climate up on the mountain.”

Made up of 17,663 acres total – including 11 wineries and 40 vineyards representing 1,500 acres of wine grapes, Moon Mountain District – Sonoma County is a long, narrow sliver on the western slope of the Maycamas Mountains that ranges in elevation from 400-feet to 2,200-feet at its highest point. Until recently, it was an unnamed peak that was colloquially known as Moon Mountain because it’s accessed by Moon Mountain Drive. In 2007, residents successfully petitioned the U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names to officially designate the peak Moon Mountain, opening the door for the AVA process.

“There had been two or three attempts to get this done in the past 25 years before we were successful,” Borcher said.

He explained that the vintners on Moon Mountain worked collectively for more than a year to secure their own designation on the AVA map, with petitions to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau. The group had a shared financial motive. Thanks to its steep, rocky terrain, the cost to farm the mountainous region is significantly higher than in other areas, both in planting the vines and harvesting the fruit.

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