Timeline: Pine Mountain AVA
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Appellation comprises the northern flank of the Mayacamas Mountain Range that separates the Napa and Sonoma wine growing regions. It rises 3,000 feet above the Alexander Valley floor, and has been home to viticulture since its earliest settlement in the mid-1800s.
Today, our high elevation grapes are sourced for ultra-premium California wines that set the bar for quality worldwide. These small-lot, artisanal wines are being crafted by vigneron-winemakers, who begin their projects years ahead of harvest in carefully planted, meticulously farmed vineyards.
Over the past decade, the best of these vineyards have been developed on mountaintops, where diurnal temperatures are extreme, the soil is thin and rocky, and water is plentiful. Mountain grapes are much more difficult and expensive to produce, but deliver deeper colors, richer flavors and more complex wines.
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peaks's growers are at the cutting-edge of this movement. From a rich past, to a promising future, our mission is to provide winemakers access to beautiful high-elevation vineyards, farmed with sustainable, organic methods, to produce the highest quality fruit.
1870s and 1880s
- George Allen plants the first mountaintop grapes on the site of today's Tin Cross Vineyards
- Black Bart, the "Gentleman Bandit," robs stagecoaches up and down Pine Mountain Road
- Faith healer Madam Preston's mountain commune produces medicinal wines, wine bitters and brandies
- John Kolling taps the mountain's artesian wells to produce Pine Mountain Mineral Water
- Prohibition closes over 200 wineries in Sonoma county, and collapses the market for grapes
1980s and 1990s
- The Judgment in Paris wine tasting establishes the modern era of California wine making
- Wines made from Pine Mountain grapes take home of Gold and Silver medals
- Mountain fruit gains prominence as the essence of California's artisan and cult wines
- The Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA is approved, recognizing our unique, high-elevation terroir
The Earliest Pioneers
Though settlers were surely bivouacked on Pine Mountain before the Bear Flag Republic was born, the first recorded land ownership was granted under Thomas Jefferson's Ordinance Act to veterans of the 1832 Blackhawk Wars.
Pine Mountain (Oak Mountain in those days) was gradually developed alongside the neighboring valley-floor communities of Cloverdale and Preston, both founded on its western flank in the mid-1800s.
The First Mountain Grapes
California's first vines were planted by the Spanish priests, as they established missions up and down the coast in the 16th and 17th centuries. As these mission grapes matured, French vineyards in Bordeaux and Burgundy were setting the first standards for fine wines.
In 1855, at Napoleon III's Exposition Universelle in Paris, the French government unveiled its historic classification of Bordeaux wines, ranging from Premier Crus, through Cinquiemes Crus.
In the same year, Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy founded Buena Vista Winery on the Sonoma Valley floor, and George Allen planted his first grapes on Pine Mountain. Allen's grapes, on the site of today's Tin Cross Vineyard, were certainly among (and may have been) the very first mountaintop plantings in the Napa and Sonoma wine regions.
Wild and Wooly Outlaws
Pine Mountain was the wild frontier in the days following the Gold Rush, and it's commanding position between San Francisco, the lumber capitals of the north, and the gold fields, put it directly in the path of some of California's most famous outlaws.
While Joaquin Murrieta, Three Fingered Jack and Tiburcio Vasquez all committed crimes nearby, it was Black Bart that put Pine Mountain in the headlines with a series of daring stagecoach robberies from 1862 through 1864. Bart, known as the "Gentleman Bandit" repeatedly robbed the coach along Pine Mountain Road (christened "the longest 30 miles in the world"), as it wound through the narrow passes between Cloverdale and Lakeport.
Always impeccably mannered, the outlaw dropped a lace handkerchief at his last robbery site, which was traced through a laundry mark to the dapper Charles Boles, of Nob Hill in San francisco.
Mystics and Healers
Since pre-historic times, Pine Mountain's clear artesian wells and sulphur hot springs have been a sacred destination for the native Pomo Indians. Beginning in the 1870s, a new band of religious seekers, led by mystic and faith healer Madam Preston, discovered the mountain.
The charismatic Preston claimed to have photographic evidence of Heaven and Hell, and an ability to heal by "seeing through the human body as if it were a glass bottle." With the help of her husband, a successful local attorney, she attracted a large colony of followers, built an industrious village, and accumulated a rather large fortune on the slopes of Pine Mountain.
Madam Preston and her acolytes grew fruit trees, tilled vineyards, and produced medicinal wines, wine bitters and brandies that were sold all over the world. The Russian River Flag reported in 1875 that the colony has "10,000 gallons of wine in its stores, and another 4,000 to be made." The 1889 harvest was 40 tons of grapes.
The Preston commune and vineyards have long since vanished, but the elaborate Victorian mansion, church and many farm buildings remain.
Utopian Ideals and Mineral Waters
Madam Prescott's followers were not the only dreamers in the vicinity. In 1881, Icaria-Speranza, a utopian community based on the writings of French philosopher Etienne Cabet was established near Cloverdale. This experiment in solidarity and agrarian economics, founded by French immigrant families, was the last of seven colonies established in the United States. The movement faltered soon thereafter, and the settlement was abandoned by 1890.
In the late 1800s, an enterprising businessman named John Kolling negotiated the water rights and an easement to pipe the mineral-rich spring water from the top of Pine Mountain to the valley below. Pipes were installed and run across the river at the old covered bridges.
Pine Mountain Mineral Water was sold as a health tonic, and was one of (if not the) first bottled mineral waters in California, pre-dating the well known Calistoga brand by 30 years or so. The company operated until the early 1950s.
Artisan Winemakers and Cult Wines
Aside from the decade-long great experiment of Prohibition, California has enjoyed over 150 years of innovation and increasing success in viticulture and wine making. In 1976, the watershed Judgment in Paris wine tasting established that California wines can compete with the best in the world, and the years since have been full of leadership and achievement.
Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak's rich history includes over 150 years of growing premium grapes in mountaintop vineyards. As California's modern wine industry continues to mature, we are proud to be in the vanguard of the movement to high elevation fruit, a farmed with sustainable, organic and bio-dynamic methods.