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Wineries Growing in Penngrove


The so-called Petaluma Gap, though not an official site on the American Viticultural Areas map, has been recognized for years as a wine-growing region deserving of respect. And two new wine ventures in Penngrove hope to take advantage of this burgeoning reputation.

Indeed, says P.W. Scoggins, the Petaluma Gap is “one of the last best places that someone can make a start” as a winemaker.

Scoggins Winery, along with neighboring Sonoma Aperitif, have both taken up residence in the old Denman Creamery Building on Goodwin Avenue. Sonoma Aperitif was founded recently by Laura Hagar Rush, a former wine-industry reporter.

“Tired of just writing about great local wines, I decided to try my hand at creating some,” she says on her website.

Though the two are very different as winemakers, both share a similar vision: producing local wines within a lesser-known, but increasingly popular, slice of Wine Country.

Scoggins says he recognized his passion for food and wine early on. After college, he worked the harvest in Napa and Sonoma while also attending culinary school at City College of San Francisco. He continued his wine education by traveling to Australia to work in the vineyards.

Then, after looking around at various locations, he decided to try to make his mark in southern Sonoma County.

Scoggins says he is proud of the fact that he uses land and vines that have long been used for grape-growing, meaning he didn’t have to rip out any old crops. He leases various small acreages with existing vines, and uses no chemicals on his grapes or in the bottling process.

Because of the cooler temperatures in the Petaluma Gap, Scoggins says he can let the fruit hang longer on the vine. He believes that the real flavor of the grape comes out later in the season.

“Wine doesn’t come with excuses,” Scoggins says, by which he means: When it’s poured, it must stand on its own. He currently is bottling pinot noir, zinfandel and a lighter rose for the summer, with bottles priced at $15 to $30.

Right next door is Sonoma Aperitif, established and operated by Rush, who was introduced to aperitifs at a dinner hosted by a friend in Berkeley, an experience she describes as “transcendental.”

Aperitifs have been produced in home kitchens in Europe for the last 700 years. They are wine-based drinks infused with blends of fruit, flowers, nuts and herbs.

Rush uses seasonal produce, mostly gleaned from farmers markets and friends’ backyards. She says she has been able to find the most unusual ingredients by being open to “scavenging,” but also keeps a garden at her home in Forestville where she grows herbs, fruits and vegetables.

At the heart of these products are locally sourced Sonoma County wines, both whites and reds, with an alcohol content of around 16 percent.

Currently, the budding winemaker has six aperitifs on hand: white nectarine and roses, raspberry and Meyer lemon, green walnut, yuzu and owari tangerine, strawberry basil, and oro blanco grapefruit. They can be served alone or used as a mixer.

As for how she devises her formulas, “Accidents are sometimes the best batches,” Rush says.

Sonoma Aperitifs is not yet open to the public; Rush hopes to have the permitting process completed by late summer. However, the tasting room is open by appointment.