The Sebastopol Hills area is located just south and southwest of the town of Sebastopol. Not an official AVA, it is an area that became part of the Russian River Valley appellation when that AVA was expanded south to include Jackson Estates’ Bloomfield vineyard in 2005.
This 2005 expansion created a segment of the AVA that is very different from the more northern—and warmer—Green Valley, Santa Rosa Plains, and Middle Reach portions of the Russian River Valley. So different, in fact, that many growers are beginning a push to establish the Sebastopol Hills with its own AVA status. It is not uncommon for premium producers sourcing fruit from this area to actually label the wine “Sonoma Coast”—as wines from the area are often more characteristic of the cooler Sonoma Coast AVA than the Russian River Valley AVA. The cool climate of the Sebastopol Hills is due to the area’s close proximity to the Petaluma Wind Gap—the estuary that allows cool and brisk winds and fog to move into the interior Sonoma County valleys from the Pacific Ocean.
Since the Sebastopol Hills is not officially an AVA, there is no approved, defined boundary map. We consider the boundaries to closely track the portion of the Russian River Valley AVA situated south of Sebastopol and Bodega Hwy. However, we draw the southeastern boundary as the area surrounding the premium vineyards off Sebastopol’s Blank Road: Sonatera, Rice Spivak and Peterson. If AVA status is gained in the future, the actual boundary may include the new boundaries resulting from the 2011 expansion of the Russian River Valley AVA to include Gallo’s Two Rock vineyard just west of Cotati—though we exclude properties with Cotati and Petaluma addresses from our definition.
The Sebastopol Hills is almost entirely hilly terrain. Unlike Freestone-Occidental and Green Valley, elevations here are more moderate, with most vineyards at a range of 200 to 500 feet. As a result, virtually every vineyard in the area is impacted by fog. The hilly terrain and relatively small parcel sizes—plus the area’s close proximity to the town of Sebastopol—make the Sebastopol Hills an attractive location for rural estate residences. So, like Green Valley, vineyard properties here often include a considerable residential component.
The central portion of the Sebastopol Hills is predominantly Goldridge Fine Sandy Loam soils. As you move south and west along the hills that border the Petaluma Gap, many vineyards are planted on Steinbeck and Los Osos Clay Loams. The eastern portion of the area, as the hills transition to flatter ground toward Hwy 116, is mostly Sebastopol and Cotati Sandy Loams.
Three large vineyard developments make up the central portion of the Sebastopol Hills: Sonoma-Cutrer’s Owsley Vineyard; Balletto’s Burnside Road Vineyard; and Martinelli-Bondi Home Ranch. Beyond those, the area is comprised of much smaller premium vineyards,
ranging from the 1-acre Halleck Vineyard in the extremely cool far southwest, to Merry Edwards’ Meredith Estate Vineyard. Other notable vineyards with much sought-after fruit include Peters Vineyard, Jenkins Ranch, Benovia’s Falstaff Road, Rayhill, Umino, Kanzler, Thorn Ridge, Suacci, and Littorai’s new winery and estate Pivot Vineyard.
The Sebastopol Hills, to us, is perhaps the most promising growth region for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the North Coast. It is somewhat undeveloped relative to other cool-climate Sonoma County areas—there is still a significant amount of acreage in apple orchard in comparison to Green Valley, and there is more suitable, undeveloped and potentially plantable land than Freestone-Occidental and the true Sonoma Coast. The area’s cool weather produces exceptional quality of fruit, and the relatively protected hilly terrain allows growers to obtain higher yields than the more extreme areas further out west.
Wineries that have sourced from Sebastopol Hills-area vineyards: (* indicates vineyard is winery-owned)
- Anthill Farms: Peters Mukaida
- Baker Lane Vineyards: Hurst, Home Estate*
- Balletto Vineyards: Burnside Home Ranch, Sexton Hill
- Cobb Wines: Rice Spivak
- Emeritus Vineyards: Pinot Hill
- Failla: Pearlessence
- Freeman Vineyards: Rayhill, Thorn Ridge
- Hall Wines: Yellow Rock
- Halleck Vineyards: Winery Estate*
- J Vineyards: Ross Ranch, Canfield
- Jackson Family Estate: Bloomfield, Marshall
- Kanzler Vineyards: Winery Estate*
- Kosta Browne: Jenkins, Kanzler
- Kutch Wines: Falstaff Road, La Jons
- Littorai Wines: Winery Estate*
- Martinelli Winery: Bondi Home Ranch, Burnside Road
- Merry Edwards Winery: Meredith Estate
- Patz & Hall Wines: Jenkins
- Rhys Vineyards: Falstaff Road
- Schramsberg: Hawk Hill
- Soliste: Sonatera
- Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards: Owsley
- Whetstone Wine Cellars: Bella Vigna, Jenkins
- Williams Selyem: Hawk Hill
- Zepaltas Wines: Kennedy Road, Sucacci