Photo by George Rose It is rare enough for an appellation’s name to be so descriptive of its geophysical nature, rarer still to so closely adhere to the ancient adage that “the vine must suffer that the wine be distinctive.” In the northwestern most corner of Sonoma County, on stark, hardscrabble ridgelines overlooking manmade Lake Sonoma sits the county’s newest viticultural area: Rockpile. The name comes from Rockpile Ranch, that once counted 20,000 acres in cattle and sheep. Local lore has legendary Sheriff Tennessee Bishop putting prisoners to work grading roads to his mountain ranch. The cons dubbed it “rockpile,” and the story may well have the virtue of truth on its side. Viticulturally, Rockpile is known for the intense, highly defined red wines grown between rugged rock outcroppings since 1872. Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon evolve dramatically from the spare, demanding soils that are over 800 feet above sea level. Thus, though cooled by coastal breezes, it remains above the evening fog layer; the extra sun exposure ripens red grape varieties to peerless perfection.