Rugged Rockpile – Above Lake Sonoma
Rockpile is a small wine appellation (AVA) above Lake Sonoma in the Dry Creek Valley. By the looks of it, you would hardly expect any vines to grow here. Yet, in Rockpile the vines are stressed to the max and produce big, full-flavored and complex wines. One can drive through the Rockpile area, but there are no wineries to visit. If you are a wine country geek, it is worth the drive through the area. There are only eight growers in Rockpile.
Rockpile AVA features
Rockpile received its AVA status in 2002. What sets this small AVA apart as a wine region is its elevation, climate, steep terrain, and soil. All the vines are from 800 feet to 2000 feet elevation. During the summer months, the Pacific Ocean brings in a daily dose of fog far inland, but it rarely tops the 800-foot elevation. During the growing season, Rockpile enjoys sunshine from morning to dusk.
The Pacific Ocean provides windy conditions in the afternoon to Rockpile. This cools the vines. The soil is mostly rocky and the vines grow on steep terrains. The wind factor and the soil factors stress the vines. This reduces the crop yields and intensifies the flavors in the small number of grape clusters.
Most of the vineyards in Rockpile are Zinfandel grapes. Other red grapes in Rockpile vineyards include Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot. Winemaker Clay Mauritson, of Rockpile Vineyards and Mauritson Vinyards, makes a Port from a small acreage of grapes that are traditional Porto grapes: 25% Tinto Cao, 25% Tinta Madeira, 25% Touriga Nacional, 25% Sousão.
Because the Mauritson Family owns the most Rockpile vines, it produces the most cases of Rockpile wines. Other well-known wineries producing Rockpile wines are Carol Shelton, J.C. Cellars, Rosenblum, Rock Wall Wines, and Segheseo. These producers contract with Rockpile growers. The grape production is small; therefore, the Rockpile wines are in limited amounts.
Once the wine country is again open to travelers, visit one of these wineries to taste the unique style of Rockpile. Mauritson is on Dry Creek Valley Road and has an excellent tasting room and staff.
Rockpile wines are also available at fine wine shops. Use Wine-Search.com and the Keyword “Rockpile” to search for these wines selling near you. Here is a full list of wineries producing Rockpile wines.