Home California Visiting the Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile AVAs Overlap: The Mauritson Family Vineyards

Visiting the Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile AVAs Overlap: The Mauritson Family Vineyards


Visiting Mauritson Vineyards, the Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile AVAs Overlap

Some Ancient traditions referred to heaven as “Summerland”–a place of peace, full of light, that we go to after we die and rest happy. Visiting the Mauritson property at the Northern reach of the Dry Creek Valley AVA, and the Southern point of Rockpile AVA, it’s easy to imagine such a place is real.

The site stands over Lake Sonoma, a formation gathered by the containment of Dry Creek. Rockpile AVA is defined by the fog that gathers above the lake, with its boundaries being elevation dependent–elevation consistently above the fog line. Only vineyards planted above 800 ft in elevation fall within the Rockpile zone. Though the land that sits inside the outer bounds of the drawn AVA include more than 15,400 acres, the plantable-to-Rockpile zone (above 800 ft) measures at only about 300 acres with approximately 160 currently under vine. Currently 11 vineyards meet the requirements. [post-edit: this section originally stated that 160 was plantable, instead of currently planted. this has been corrected]

Looking South, over Lake Sonoma and some of the Mauritsons’ younger vines

The Mauritson family was kind enough to drive me to their vineyards above Lake Sonoma first thing in the morning in order to capture the view above the fog line.

Looking Northwest into one of the arms of Lake Sonoma, and over Mauritson vineyards

These photos show the importance of the fog effect–with the resulting inversion layer, temperatures above the fog remain warmer at night, and cooler during the day than below, offering a narrower overall temperature range for vines to grow.

Looking North

The Mauritson plantings reach to just above fog’s reach. The land through this area remains from the original family homestead, 700 acres not taken by Eminent Domain to build the dam–the land pictured here appears in the final image featured in yesterday’s write up on the family’s vineyard history: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/12/03/the-history-of-dry-creek-valley-lake-sonoma-and-rockpile-meeting-the-mauritson-family/

View from the top of the property


Though I’d originally intended to post both the photos and tasting notes today, I’ve decided to separate the two–tasting notes for the Mauritson family Loam series will appear tomorrow.

Thank you to Ashley Mauritson for bringing me to the vineyard site for morning photos.

Thank you to Kyrsa Dixon.


Part 1: The History of Dry Creek, Lake Sonoma, and Rockpile: Meeting the Mauritson Family: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/12/03/the-history-of-dry-creek-valley-lake-sonoma-and-rockpile-meeting-the-mauritson-family/

Part 3: Tasting the Soil: Meeting Clay Mauritson’s Passion for Loam and Cabernet: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/12/05/tasting-the-soil-clay-mauritsons-passion-for-loam-and-cabernet/

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  1. Do I understand correctly that, within the Rockpile AVA, there are only 160 acres that could be planted (presumably because of slope) and meet the elevation requirement for the AVA? Or is it 160 acres that are under vine currently?

    • Hi Cody, Thanks for your comment. That was a typo–there are currently 160 acres *planted*, but there are still believed to be only about 300 acres that are plantable (including the already established 160)–this is due to both elevation requirements and difficult terrain. Sorry for the error (doesn’t usually happen)–it’s been corrected with a post-edit. Thanks for catching it with your question!

        • Thanks, Cody! Rockpile is also the smallest (and one of the youngest) AVA in California, even with such a huge portion of land falling inside the drawn boundaries. It’s a fascinating area. The area is also incredibly dry so with all the various elements intersecting the berries out of this AVA tend to be pretty small. A real dedication, it seems, for people to keep growing in the region.

  2. Refreshing, delightful website, thanks to photos, comics, and writing that embraces whimsy, fact, and poetry. It’s so different. Seems the preference is to describe rather than judge the wines. But what do you say when the wine is flawed? It was recently said about the industry, “bottle variation is the wine industry’s elephant in the room.” (James Cabbine, CUBE Communications.) I love Mauritson and Ridge wines for example, but have had flawed bottles from both. Usually it’s a bad cork, but winemaking or cellaring decisions also can be responsible.

    • Hi Richard, thank you very much for your comment. I appreciate hearing your perspective, and appreciate your question as well.

      I taste or drink a lot more wines than I ever write about. On this website I have written about flaws in wine before. In the case of a larger side by side tasting focusing on a particular wine type, for example. If I am doing a write up on a particular person, family, or company in wine, however, it is most likely the case that I am writing about their relationship with wine, rather than individual bottles of their wine.

      As another example, and one of the more challenging cases my work focused an entire write-up on wines that some people think of as only flawed–http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/03/14/thinking-frank-cornelissen-considering-wines-natural-drinking-window-via-munjebel-7-white-red-and-contadino-8/ . Cornelissen wines have a strong cult following, even with their strangeness, and I wanted to do the work of considering sincerely what is behind that. (Incidentally, his winemaking style has changed recently and the newer wines differ from the ones I wrote about.)

      In that case, my goal was to start with the assumption that the wines must have something to offer, and to ask myself to step into the perspective that could give me insight into what that was, then critique the quality of the wine from that perspective. It’s a technique I learned from having studied poetry writing. There I learned that the best way to develop ones own writing ability, and ones understanding of another’s poem was to assume the poem already had something it wanted to be, so to speak, and if I was to help the poem fully inhabit its own goals my duty was to take up the perspective of the poem itself. It was only after I’d achieved that unique perspective that I could legitimately comment on where the poem had succeeded, and where it might improve. Otherwise I was only ever demanding a poem be what *I* wanted it to be, which seems to me immoral, to put it strongly.

      With wine I have a similar approach. That said, this does not fall to relativism. A wine does have coherence, or not; is balanced, or not; is flawed, or not–we can make such claims either from the standards the wine itself seems to take up (Zinfandel has quite different standards from Pinot Noir, to use Talia Baiocchi’s example), or more self-servingly from the perspective of our own narrow palate desires. The point is, I always start by moving myself into the perspective of the wine as made, or the person I am listening to, then analyzing how well that wine (or the person’s story) holds together.

      In the case of samples sent to me, on this website I choose not to write about wines on which I do not have something productive to comment. If I have purchased the wine, I will feel free to criticize it. Through other venues where I have been asked to speak to the quality of a wine more directly, I will provide more obvious criticism as well. In such cases, I take it that is part of what I am being asked to do–provide critical insight. Here, on my own website my goals are different. They include considering and sharing what we can learn in terms of experience, ethics, and knowledge from the encounters we have with people in the world of wine, and their wines as well.

      Thanks again for your comment. I very much appreciate you taking the time, and appreciate hearing your thoughts as well. I look forward to hearing from you again! -Elaine

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