Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA: Elevation and Climate
The Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Appellation is one of the highest elevation grape-growing regions in California. The AVA, which rises from 1,600 feet at its lowest point to 3,000 feet at the mountains peak, has grapes growing primarily at 1,800 feet and higher. The very high elevation of the mountain affects fog cover, hours of daylight, daytime and nighttime temperatures, rainfall, and wind virtually every climatic element influencing wine grape production.
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak growers record an average 12 degree drop in temperature, from the center of Cloverdale to the base of the mountain. Daytime temperatures tend to drop significantly further, as elevation increases to vineyards above 1,600 feet.
However, nighttime temperatures tend to increase, and gradually become warmer than the valley floor. This dramatically altered diurnal pattern is the result of heavier, cooler air dropping into the valley, displacing the warmer air and causing it to rise. The valley vineyards are chilly at night, while high elevation sites remain relatively warm.
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak temperatures are also affected by marine inversion, which occurs through the night and early morning hours, in regions exposed to coastal weather patterns. The inversion is created by heavy, moist, cold marine fog slipping beneath warmer air, trapping it well above the valley.
These patterns are typical in mountain and coastal viticulture, and work together to produce unique growing conditions, across a variety of micro-climates.
Longer Growing Season
The effects of cooler days and warmer nights include longer farming cycles, late ripening and delayed harvests. At 1,600 feet and above, bud break and bloom occur two to three weeks later than on the valley floor. In fact, the vines below will have normally set fruit before bloom is completed on Pine Mountain.
Though slower to the start, Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak vines catch up somewhat with valley-grown fruit over the growing season. Because the heavy fog that blankets the valley floor is well below 1,600 feet, the AVA is like an island above the clouds. As a result, our mountain vines are exposed to three to four hours of additional sunlight a day. While the valley shivers under fog until late mornings, the sun is up and brightly shining on the mountain; and again, when the fog returns late in the day, Pine Mountain vineyards are still basking in sunlight.
This exposure hastens ripening, but mountain fruit is harvested up to a month after the valley floor. This is a nail-biting time for mountain growers, as the longer season exposes the vines to a multitude of risks. Late rainfall, early cold and even frost are serious conditions to consider and plan for. Farming on the mountain is not for the faint of heart.
Thin and Rugged Mountain Soils
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Appellation vineyards are planted in the rocky volcanic soils of steep hillsides and ancient alluvial fans. Soils are shallow to moderately deep fractured shale and sandstone, very well drained through gravels. In general, soils are less than 3 feet deep, with over 50% at 12 inches or less.
These rugged soils are emblematic of the best mountain terroirs. They stress the vines, create unique growing conditions, and produce fruit that is more intense than can be grown on the valley floor.
Higher Winds and Precipitation
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak experiences higher and more frequent winds than occur in the valley. In 1995, at just above 2,200 feet, winds were recorded at over 110 miles per hour. Though challenging at times, our growers welcome these high winds, as they keep mountain vines free of mildew, which tends to thrive in areas of milder air currents
The mountain is also exposed to more rainfall, which ranges from 30% to 60% higher than in the valley below. Rainstorms arriving from the south tend to stall over the mountain, dropping extra rain on its slopes. Pine Mountain averages 45 to 50 inches per year, though over 90 inches of annual rain (and as much as 12-15 in a single 24 hour period) have been recorded.
Ideal Exposures and Micro-climates
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak stands northwest to southeast in orientation, providing vineyards with an ideal south to southwest exposure. Because mountain farming must follow natural contours, and no amount of technology or machinery can change the hand that nature has dealt. So, the fact that the mountain's orientation gives our vines the perfect exposure to sun and warmth, is an invaluable natural asset.
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Appellation vineyards are characterized by small plots, carved into steep hillsides and narrow terraces. This naturally creates a variety of starkly differing micro-climates, which produce grapes with complex and unique flavor characteristics. The best wine makers use this mosaic of flavor profiles as a palette to create beautiful and nuanced wines.
Documents related to the Federal establishment of of the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA. >