Home Industry News Releases Winemakers in Sonoma County Introduce Petition for Sebastopol Hills Appellation Recognition

Winemakers in Sonoma County Introduce Petition for Sebastopol Hills Appellation Recognition

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Proposed AVA would provide additional labeling options, benefitting producers and consumers alike

Sebastopol, CA – (July 13, 2023) – Led by the Sebastopol Hills Winegrowers Association (SHWA), a petition to establish the Sebastopol Hills in Sonoma County as an American Viticultural Area (“AVA”) has been submitted to the Tax and Trade Bureau of the United States (TTB). This new AVA would allow vintners and winegrowers in the area the added option of labeling their wines “Sebastopol Hills” in addition to existing AVAs.

Delineated entirely within the Russian River Valley, Sebastopol Hills, located southwest of the City of Sebastopol, covers about 10,320 acres and includes 1,000 acres of planted vines across at least 50 vineyards. The region is characterized as being one of the coolest in the area, receiving significant wind and fog influences from the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Petaluma Gap to the south. The Sebastopol Hills is made up almost entirely of Goldridge sandy loam soil on top of the Wilson Grove formation, a fine-grained, shallow marine quartz sandstone that formed in an embayment of the ocean 3-5 million years ago. This unique combination of soil and weather, found only in the Sebastopol Hills, produces wines unique to this region.

Sebastopol Hills is currently recognized as one of six “neighborhoods” by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers, is considered a “marketing area” for the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, and has even been discussed in previous AVA petitions filed to the TTB. However, these informal mentions carry no legal status nor the ability to list “Sebastopol Hills” on an actual wine label. Codifying Sebastopol Hills as an AVA builds upon the exceptional work done over the last 40 years by a generation of passionate vintners to establish the Russian River Valley and neighboring AVAs as premier and diverse winegrowing areas. “Through working in my own small vineyard in Sebastopol Hills, it became obvious to me that this region is distinct, and special, and deserving of formal recognition as a geographic indicator. Establishing Sebastopol Hills as an AVA gives a more complete sense of Russian River Valley’s identity, without taking anything away from it,” explains Joe Rogoway, Managing Partner at Rogoway Law Group and legal counsel to the SHWA.

The boundaries proposed for the Sebastopol Hills include the series of hills directly west and south of the City of Sebastopol, south of Bodega Hwy (Hwy 12), east of Barnett Valley Road, north and northeast of Blucher Creek, and west of Highway 116. Full details on the specifics of the appellation and petition can be found at https://sebastopolhillswinegrowers.org/.

Longtime, local farmer turned winegrower, John Balletto, Founder & President of Balletto Vineyards, has lived through the area’s many changes. “There is no grape growing region like Sebastopol Hills. I have been living and farming in the Sebastopol Hills for more than 30 years, and I can tell you that everything changes as you climb up into the hills outside of town. And the wines from here are like no others. It’s a place that I’m proud to call home.”

“Working with John Balletto, I’ve had the pleasure to design and plant several vineyards in the Sebastopol Hills. Now, we can go back and taste more than a decade of finished wines from these sites, and it’s obvious that the region is a winemaking standout. Truly world class,” says Vice President & Winemaker for Balletto Vineyards, Anthony Beckman.

Esteemed winemaker, known for his terroir-driven approach, Ted Lemon, Founder & President of Littorai Vineyards adds, “In 2003 we purchased our Gold Ridge Estate outside of Sebastopol. We had never worked with vineyards in the Sebastopol Hills before. What a revelation it was! This small jewel of a region produces wines with a distinct regional character, wines of great acidity, vibrancy and freshness.”

Alex Kanzler, Sebastopol native and Winemaker at Kanzler Vineyards, offers, “This petition simply requests formal recognition for what we as local grape growers and winemakers all already know: the Sebastopol Hills are a unique terroir and the resulting wines taste like the place where they’re grown and nowhere else. Sebastopol Hills deserves to be named on the bottle.” 

The Sebastopol Hills Winegrowers Association was formed by John Balletto, Anthony Beckman, Ted Lemon, Alex Kanzler, and Joe Rogoway. The petition was submitted by Joe Rogoway, Managing Partner at Rogoway Law Group and legal counsel to SHWA. For more information, visit https://sebastopolhillswinegrowers.org/.

About Sebastopol Hills Winegrowers Association

The Sebastopol Hills Winegrowers Association is a collective of winegrowers and winemakers dedicated to showcasing the unique terroir and exceptional wines of the proposed Sebastopol Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA). The association comprises a group of esteemed founding members who have played a vital role in shaping the viticultural landscape of this distinct region. It is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization.

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