The aptly named Rockpile AVA is a remote, high-country growing area, where the unforgiving terrain and soils stress the vines into ripening. The demanding landscape brings out the best in Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, but it seems less hospitable to man, having yet to attract any resident wineries. Perched at elevations up to 1,900 feet, Rockpile is too far upland for the penetrating fogs that influence other Sonoma appellations. This exposes grapes to more California warmth and sunshine, boosting their ripeness and richness. Only recognized as an AVA in 2002, Rockpile is a northern extension of the Dry Creek Valley AVA. However, Rockpile is not a come-lately area, as it has been the source of intense, highly-defined red wines since 1872. Several of California’s elite ZIN-ophiles make the annual pilgrimage to Rockpile, seeking its exceptional fruit to craft powerful Zinfandels.