By Virginie Boone

Caren Hatton co-founded Arietta Wine with partner Fritz Hatton in 1996. Based in Napa, Arietta focuses on Bordeaux varietal wines from the Napa Valley, primarily Hudson Vineyards in Carneros, from which it sources Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. Arietta also makes a deliciously impressive white wine from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, sourcing the Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma Mountain to go with the Hyde Vineyard Semillon.

Sonoma County grapes have been a part of the Hattons’ world for some time. Still, when Caren decided she wanted to launch her own Pinot Noir brand – something she’s dreamt of doing since the beginning of Arietta – she looked very specifically to the cooler regions of Sonoma County.

She found what she was looking for in the Sebastopol Hills at Corpuel Family Vineyard. A 7.6-acre vineyard along Bloomfield Road, it was planted originally by Ulises Valdez in rich Goldridge Sandy Loam soils to three heritage clones of Pinot: Pommard, Swan and Vosne-Romanée.

“I always wanted to make a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir because I love the style that the cooler weather and Goldridge soil helps create,” she says. “The Sebastopol hills produce great examples of the wines I’ve always dreamed of making.”

Working with winemaker Patrick Nyeholt, part of Andy Erickson’s winemaking team that also makes Arietta, Nestweaver Wines was born with the 2021 vintage, its first.

Nestweaver is named for Michigan-native Caren’s grandmother, whose home always felt like a warm cozy nest to her as a child. The wines offer similar comfort in their grasp of Sonoma County’s cool-climate aromatics, complex juicy red fruit and the lovely texture of Goldridge soil-grown wines. The label is an illustration by Caren’s daughter, Hattie.

Of course Hatton is not the only Napa Valley-based vintner allured by Sonoma County grapes. Mark Aubert was raised in St. Helena and came back to the Napa Valley after college to found Aubert Wines with his wife Teresa in the late 1990s. A Chardonnay specialist, Aubert’s Lauren Vineyard in Forestville is named for the couple’s daughter and lies between two other Aubert estates, Park Avenue and CIX. Powder House is also in Forestville. Aubert also has Eastside Vineyard in Russian River Valley, and UV and UV-SL, planted in coordination with the late Ulises Valdez.

Duckhorn’s Migration makes Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Rosé of Pinot Noir, while its Decoy label centers around two Alexander Valley estates, Ridgeline and Brownell.

Robert Mondavi’s grandsons Carlo and Dante Mondavi grew up in the Napa Valley but came to Sonoma County to start RAEN, a Pinot Noir-focused domaine. RAEN produces a Bodega Vineyard Pinot from Freestone-Occidental and a Sea Field Vineyard Pinot from Fort Ross-Seaview as well as a Charles Ranch Vineyard Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay as well as two Sonoma Coast appellated wines.

“In a remote, raw territory where the forest and meadows meet the Pacific Ocean is where the story of RAEN begins,” they say. “These hills of the Sonoma Coast provide a diversity of soil, elevation and climate that allow for wines of incredible expression, elegance and length.”

But of course Sonoma County Pinot Noir is not the only draw. Kirk Venge is another Napa Valley native who grew up in a winemaking family and is a high-in-demand winemaking consultant across the region who also owns his own brand, Venge Vineyards, based in Calistoga. In 2016, he founded Croix Estate in the Russian River Valley, next door to Fanucchi Wood Road Vineyard, to make Sonoma County Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

The original vineyard at Croix was planted in 1904 to a field blend of Zinfandel, Carignan and other hearty red grapes common to the era. Over time it was split into separate sections; Venge bought the 10-acre section known as the Robert Rue Vineyard.

The Far Niente folks in Oakville wanted to make Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir enough to launch a separate brand, EnRoute, which sources from across the appellation to make several wines. Amber Ridge Vineyard, Northern Spy, Manzana and Black Emerald are all estate sites.

Chappellet of Pritchard Hill made its name in Napa Valley Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon beginning in 1968 before adding Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir, Sangiacomo Chardonnay and several other vineyard-designated Sonoma County wines, including a Carneros Viognier, to its Grower Collection Portfolio.

In 2009 the Davies family of Napa Valley’s Schramsberg Vineyards started making non-estate wines under the Davies Vineyards name, starting with Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir had been of interest since Schramsberg’s early beginnings given its focus on sparkling wines. Nobles Vineyard and Keefer Ranch are now vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs for Davies, who also source Pinot from several other vineyards in the county.

Not far from Schramsberg along Highway 29 near St. Helena, AXR Wine makes a Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay from AXR rootstock planted in 1972 in Goldridge and a Pinot from the Petaluma Gap.

Amici Cellars is another Napa Valley-based producer that loves Sonoma County grapes, including Ritchie Vineyard, Heintz Vineyard, El Diablo and Flora Marie, all for Chardonnay, and Lytton Annapolis Vineyard Pinot Noir from the West Sonoma Coast. It also makes a Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc. Its sister brand, Olema, began with Sonoma County grapes –“the most diverse wine region in the world,” it says – where it gets Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

WALT Wines is a sister brand of Hall Wines in St. Helena, both founded by Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hall. Kathryn’s parents were winegrowers once upon a time and the wines are made in their honor. Bob’s Ranch in the Sonoma Coast appellation is an estate vineyard planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. WALT also sources from Gap’s Crown and the Sangiacomos’ Green Acres Vineyard.

The Hall family also started the BACA brand to highlight Zinfandel, basing it in the Dry Creek Valley and sourcing from Rockpile and Russian River as well.

Zinfandel is also what brings Bob Biale of Napa-based Robert Biale Vineyards to Sonoma County for grapes. He has long sourced from the Bedrock Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, Valsecchi Vineyard in Carneros, Monte Rosso on Moon Mountain, Pagani Ranch in Sonoma Valley and Limerick Lane in Russian River Valley.

Luc Morlet has worked at Peter Michael Winery since 1999, first as the winemaker, moving on to a consulting winemaker role in 2006. In 2008 he planted the Mon Chevalier Vineyard in Knights Valley for Morlet Family Vineyards in St. Helena; he makes a Mon Chevalier Cabernet Sauvignon blended with small percentages of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Morlet has also worked with fruit from the Bavarian Lions and Blau vineyards in Knights Valley. A native of Champagne who also trained in Burgundy and Bordeaux, Morlet also consults for Linked Vineyards in Knights Valley

The Morlet Ma Princesse is a Russian River Valley Chardonnay; Ma Douce is a Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay; and the Coup de Coeur a Sonoma County cuvée of the best barrels. Morlet also produces three Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noirs and a Bennett Valley Syrah. His La Proportion Dorée blends Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle from Sonoma County, while Billet Doux is a late-harvest white from Alexander Valley.

Whether it’s cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, historic old-vine Zinfandel or anything in between, Sonoma County draws in winemakers from near and far.