It happened earlier this month, and in celebration of the event I opened a bottle of Pfendler Chardonnay, an appropriate and worthy choice. I’m talking about the official recognition of the Petaluma Gap American Viticultural Area (AVA), and the people who’ve spearheaded the move deserve a round of applause. (For those of you who don’t know what an AVA is, click here.)

The Petaluma Gap AVA comprises 4,000 acres of vineyards and 200,000 acres of land; 75 percent of those vines produce Pinot Noir, while Syrah and Chardonnay make up most of the remaining plantings (other grape varieties come in at less than 1 percent of the total in the AVA). The area is known for the wind and fog that visit it daily, and generally slower ripening times, which can result in the development of some fine flavors and the preservation of natural acidity, something good for everyone.

Eighty or so winegrowers, along with nine wineries, call the AVA home, and one of them is Pfendler Vineyards, the producer of the bottle I opened to celebrate the AVA’s birth. Kimberly Pfendler, the founder of the winery, sent me some thoughts about the recognition of the area:

I’ve long called the Petaluma Gap the most exciting emerging wine region in California, and the AVA recognition is a big step towards building awareness for our wines. My late-husband Peter Pfendler was one of the original pioneers of the Petaluma Gap, and began planning grapes here as early as 1992 and was the first to plant what is now known as the Gap’s Crown. Unfortunately, our signature fog and wind, which make the Petaluma Gap so interesting, were not a good fit for the Cabernet vines he planted. When I started Pfendler Vineyards 10 years ago I made it our goal to capture the Petaluma Gap’s distinct cool climate in elegant-style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. We farm three estate vineyards on the western slopes of Sonoma Mountain. The combination of sun and fog results in wines with beautiful freshness and layers of nuanced flavors. 

Pfendler Vineyards, the source of some very good Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. (Courtesy Pfendler Vineyards)

Pfendler is right about the flavors and freshness; the celebratory Chardonnay I tasted, the 2015 vintage ($38, 14.3 percent alcohol, 400 cases, Clone 4 and Hyde-Wente) is a fetching golden yellow in hue, and offers a bouquet of bright apple and gentle spice. Peach, lemon, and a slight toasty quality round out the taste. The aforementioned acidity is satisfyingly present, leading to a balanced finish. Drink this with a good cheese, say, a Camembert or an aged Cheddar, or pair with crab cakes, as I did.

Up next, tasting the 2015 Pinot Noir from Pfendler.

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