petaluma gap

Petaluma Gap wines with Erica Stancliffe and Tom Gendall

The Petaluma Gap is the subject of today’s California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. Our guests are Erica Stancliffe from Trombetta Family Wines and Tom Gendall, Assistant Winemaker at Cline Family Cellars.

In 1989 Erica Stancliffe’s parents were home winemakers. In 2010 she and her mother started Trombetta Family Wines. Paul Hobbs was their consulting winemaker until 2014 when Erica stepped in.

Cline was started in 1982 with some old vineyards in Contra Costa County. They had Zinfandel, Mourvedre and others there. In 1989 he moved to a vineyard in Sonoma County. Today they make a lot of wines including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and several other varietals from the Petaluma Gap.

They have 650 acres in Petaluma Gap with Chardonnay, Viogner, Pinot Noir, Pinor Gris, and others. The Petaluma Gap is the newest AVA, getting its designation just two years ago.

Dan Berger says that Petaluma Gap is a well-defined appellation, designed specifically to define the cooler regions. It is different than Sonoma Coast. It has a series of winds that come from morning to evening, with different temperatures. These form different acid levels for the wines grown there. It’s defined by weather, rather than soil, being traced by the path of the wind. Erica describes the wind readings they took throughout the region The data they had on the consistent 11 miles-an-hour wind had a lot to do with the AVA approval.

They are predominately known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah, which are what the Gap is known for. Tom Gendall describes the other varieties they grow there.

Dan says that Cardonnay grows well in colder climates where the sugars don’t get too high. This appellation is yet to be discovered by many people. Erica describes several vineyards that are well known as sources for several major winemakers. The are is getting more and more recognition.

The more you leave the fruit on the vines, the better the quality of the fruit will be. They taste a Gap’s Crown Chardonnay, on the southwest facing slope of Sonoma Mountain. She describes the acidity, minerality and concentration. Dan says you don’t get this flavor profile in a warmer climate.

The aroma has a Burgundian cast to it, says Dan, with a faint tropical note burried under some squash-like characteristics. Dan “Lay It Down” Berger says this needs about two more years. The acidity it there to protect it in the cellar.

The Petaluma Gap AVA is large geographically but there are not a lot of acres planted. There are 6 tasting rooms and more being built. There are 202,000 acres in the area and only 4,000 acres are planted.

Tom and Erica describe a wine cruise on the Danube River that they are organizing for next year.

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