The Yorkville Highlands appellation consists of approximately 40,000 acres straddling Highway 128 between the Alexander Valley to the southeast and the Anderson Valley to the northwest.
The appellation was first approved in 1998 and has since increased its acreage nearly six-fold, with its largest plantings in Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.
To see a copy of the appellation approval, go to the Federal Register.
There are 23 vineyards totalling just over 400 acres; all of them family-run and many are private, selling directly to wine makers.
There are currently 21 different wine grape varietals planted.
Of the total acres planted 83% are reds; compared with the rest of Mendocino County, where Chardonnay is the most planted varietal.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted varietal.
Just 1% of the land mass is planted in vineyards.
There are approximately 50 wines that are produced from Yorkville Highlands grapes; all produced in very limited quantities.
The vast majority of the Yorkville Highlands vineyards are planted on a continuous string of bench land between 1,000 and 2,200 feet in elevation. As the warm afternoon air begins to turn hot, cooling breezes blow up into the region from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The bench land vines benefit from this cooling effect, which protects the fruit from over-ripening and causes some of the coldest evening temperatures along the North Coast. These frigid nighttime conditions are essential for preserving grape acidity. The moderated temperatures allow for an extended growing season, with the majority of the fruit being picked late in the season. Mature tannins in the red wines are the result; they are long and complex without being overpowering. Most winemakers of the region agree that Yorkville Highlands fruit can ripen evenly, with acidity, structure and richness balancing each other in the wines of the appellation.
It rains quite a bit more in the Yorkville Highlands than it does in either of its neighboring appellations. In a typical decade we averaged nearly 68 inches (that’s 5’8″ or 1.73 meters). Seattle only averages 37 inches! The good news is that it doesn’t rain much or often during the harvest season. Generally, we don’t get more than a few sprinkles until the last week of October. This “Indian Summer” allows our grapes to hang until full maturity and helps us avoid washed-out vintages.
The Yorkville Highlands soils also play an instrumental role in grape development. The gravel and ancient brittle rock characteristics found in the thin soils on the high benches force the vines to dig deep into the soil. This poor and gravelly soil type probably explains the mineral characteristic of many Yorkville Highlands wines.