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Sonoma Coast
The Sonoma Coast AVA is one of the most controversial in all of California. While the name suggests the coastline of Sonoma, near the Pacific ocean, the reality is that some of this appellation is situated quite a distance east of the coast; indeed, some plantings are found near Santa Rosa, about 20 miles from the coast. Even if the AVA is limited to the coastal area, there are some growers and producers that believe the "true" Sonoma Coast should be a very small area, centered around the town of Annapolis, in the northern reaches of the appellation. As it stands today, the entire Sonoma Coast AVA covers about 500,000 acres, with only about 1000 planted acres.

Fittingly, cool climate varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dominate plantings (about 75% of the total); other varieties include Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Syrah and even a trace of Zinfandel. The finest examples of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are full-bodied wines with excellent richness on the palate and a powerful finish. These wines are striking examples of their type; Chardonnays are rich with tropical fruit and vanilla flavors, while the Pinot Noirs are powerful with distinct spice notes. These are highly complex wines for aging and are expensive; the finest Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are priced between $40 and $75 a bottle. Other Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs from further south and east are very well made wines and are less expensive. These wines do not have the intensity of those from the Annapolis area, so the term Sonoma Coast can have a lot of meanings. There is talk of splitting up the appellation into more AVAs, but for now, this remains a bit if an enigma, as far as California wine zones. (Wine/Appellations)