The Rockpile region has a rich history of tribes, outlaws, sheriffs and even actors! The most historical information can be traced back to the 1850’s to a thriving Pomo Indian tribe at the base of Rockpile Peak, who named the area “kabe-chana”, meaning a place with many rocks. Today, you can still find petroglyphs in the area, especially within our Rockpile Ranch Vineyard.
In 1867, the Sonoma County Sheriff, Tennessee Carter Bishop founded the area as Rockpile Ranch. Bishop is said to have used prisoners to carve out a 15 mile road, now known as Rockpile Road, from his door step to Dry Creek Road. Bishop brought sheep to the mountainous area, which became one of the most successful regions for sheep ranching.
Wine grapes were first planted in the area around 1872, by Bishop, but became fallow due to the enormous amount of work due to the rugged terrain. It wasn’t until 1992 when Rod and Cathy Park planted Cabernet Sauvignon that wine grapes were once again growing in Rockpile.
Two years later, Jack Florence Jr. planted his Zinfandel vineyards in the southeastern end of the appellation. In somewhat poignant coincidence, the Zinfandel used to bud Jack’s vines came from a vineyard planted during the 1870’s, making it a peer to Bishop’s ancient planting. Planted by McElarney & Smith, this Cloverdale vineyard, now owned by the St. Peter’s Church, is one of the oldest surviving vineyards in California and is the source for most of Rockpile’s Zinfandel.
In 2002, Rod and Cathy Park, along with the Florence family, collaborated with a few winemakers to apply for, and establish, the Rockpile AVA designation. Rockpile is one of the smallest AVA’s in the nation, producing ultra-premium hillside fruit for local wine makers.
*Information regarding historic Rockpile Ranch and Native Americans provided by Cathy and Rod Park