Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak Elevating the Taste of Wine

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Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak, one of Sonoma County's newest ultra-premium grape growing regions, recently hosted its first official tasting event at AQ Restaurant in San Francisco. The theme of passion for wine, nature and quality was reflected in the comments from the attendees and the winemakers producing wine from these grapes.

"The sky is the limit for this area and it is where one of our signature vineyards is located," says Joe Benziger, Imagery Estate Winery.

The Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak (PM-CP) Appellation Winegrowers Association recently hosted its first official tasting event at AQ Restaurant in San Francisco. The happy attendees included members of the wine industry, media and marketing people from around the bay area and wine educators from San Francisco Wine School and elsewhere.

The program began with a welcome from Barry Hoffner, president of the PM-CP winegrowers organization sponsoring the event. He expressed the sentiment of the appellation growers that PM-CP grows very special grapes under the most arduous of growing conditions, in terms of terroir, temperatures, elevation and isolation.

Mr. Hoffner was followed by Joe Benziger (Imagery Estate Winery) and Mark Burningham (Vice President, Winegrowing for Benziger Family) who talked about their 15 years of making wine from Pine Mountain grapes with a particular focus on Bordeaux Reds. They explained that this Bordeaux focus is the best use of the soft tannins, dark colors and distinct flavors resulting from the long hang-time possible on Pine Mountain. They also talked about the beautiful nature that exists in this fairly isolated and relatively undisturbed mountain.

The wines available for tasting, all made from Pine Mountain grapes, included several Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings from Coppola, Ampère, Treasure Island Wines, Bergeron Monks, Respite Wines, Miro Cellars, Captûre Wines and Arbios Cellars. Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc from Imagery Estates as well as a Chardonnay from Captûre were also offered.

The growers on the mountain include Oak Ridge Ranch and Vineyards, Pine Mountain Vineyards, Reichel Vineyards, Silverwood Ranch, Sky Pine Vineyards and Tin Cross Vineyards. All are very serious growers focused on ultra-premium grapes. About half of those produce their own wines including Sky Pine Vineyards (Bob Dog Wines), Reichel Vineyards (Respite Wines), Tin Cross Vineyards (Captûre Wines) and Pine Mountain Vineyard (Ampère). Many employ renowned winemakers to exploit the exceptional fruit produced on Pine Mountain. Winemakers May-Britt Malbec, Denis Malbec and Thomas Rivers Brown, among others, are producing amazing Cabernet Sauvignon. (The only winery actually on the mountain is Bob Dog Wines which is owned by Kandy Ward the proprietor of Sky Pines Vineyards.)

Matt Semmelhack, co-proprietor of AQ Restaurant, (1085 Mission Street, San Francisco) described the food preparations that were being offered at the event. All the vegetables, game and olive oil were obtained from or produced with Pine Mountain farm/ranch-to-table items. The Smoked Wild Boar Sausage and the Wild Boar Rillettes (with Crostini and Raisins) used wild boar from Split Rock Springs Ranch on Pine Mountain. The vegetables came from Hoffner's Silverwood Ranch while olive oil from Split Rock Springs Ranch and Silverwood Ranch was served for tasting and used in the preparations. Other menu items included: Autumn Vegetable & Goat Cheese Frittata, Wild Boar Sliders with Tomato Jam and Aged Cheddar, Local Farmstead Cheeses and Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup.

The common theme from the feedback received at the event was how consistently good the wines poured and paired at the event were. Other comments identified the intense concentration, velvety tannins, consistency in structure and fruit profile among the reds and black fruit combined.

Perhaps most astute were the comments about the "feel" of the appellation, the community, and the similarities in terroir among the wines offered. That feeling is likely created by the community of Pine Mountain residents, ranchers, farmers and winegrape growers.

In addition to the focus on growing premium high-elevation winegrapes, Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak members are passionate about preserving the abundant and special natural environment and history that has long been known as Pine Mountain near the town of Cloverdale. The Winegrowers associations prides itself on having a number of members who are not winegrape growers like Matt Semmelhack (Longview Ranch). Jamie White and Joakim Silvanderson, the owners of Solliden on Pine Mountain (soon to be an ecological retreat with Scandinavian sensibilities) are also members. They are bringing their artistic skills and PM-CP supporter-friends into the fold to help with the marketing of the new AVA and in the process, creating a strong community of sustainable ranchers/farmers.

"The sky is the limit for this area and it is where one of our signature vineyards is located," says Joe Benziger.

Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak AVA was approved by the Federal Tobacco, Tax & Trade Bureau for AVA designation in December 2011 and is highlighted by a small number of growers using sustainable vineyard practices on their high elevation vineyards.

For more information on the Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak AVA, please see

For additional media reports regarding Pine Mountain - Cloverdale Peak AVA please see:

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