Pax Wine Cellars was founded in 2000 by Pax Mahle, a self-trained winemaker, and Joe Donelan, an investor and wine collector who owned 55% of Pax Wine Cellars. The Sonoma County winery became a cult producer of single-vineyard Syrahs. But in 2008 the founders had a falling out, and Pax Mahle left the company. Mahle went on to found Wind Gap Wines, and Donelan changed the name of Pax Wine Cellars to Donelan. Donelan makes Syrah, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a Rhone-style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
Sonoma County is not an AVA, but it is a commonly used informal designation for wines made outside of more specific AVAs within Sonoma, which is a large wine producing region just west of Napa Valley. Though Sonoma is often overshadowed by its glamorous neighbor Napa Valley, it has a long history of wine production. The area specialized in jug wine until the mid-20th century, when Sonoma producers took a cue from Napa and started improving quality. Unlike Napa, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, Sonoma specialized in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, though excellent Cabs are produced too. There are at present 16 AVAs within Sonoma County, and, like much of the West Coast of the United States, new AVAs are created in Sonoma County with regularity. Some Sonoma appellations, such as the Russian River Valley, are renowned for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.