And Then There Were 12: Paso Robles Gets 11 Sub-appellations

Map via

Map via

In a week of AVA-shuffling galore, the TTB announced today via the Federal Register that 11 new AVAS, all of them sub-regions of the Paso Robles AVA, have been approved. The AVAs will be “official” one month from today, on November 10th, 2014.

The petition for the 11 sub-regions was originally filed in 2007. The petition turned out to be the longest and most detailed proposal ever filed with the TTB, due to the scale of the proposal and the depth of the information need to support each individual AVA.

A close inspection of the climate data surrounding each new AVA shows the diversity of the region – average annual rainfall ranges from 11 to 29 inches, elevations range from 600 to 2,400 feet above sea level, and climate regions II to IV are represented.

The 11 new AVAs, all sub-appellations of the Paso Robles AVA, are as follows:

  • El Pomar District – Climate Region II, 740-1,600 feet in elevation, average of 15 inches rainfall.
  • At the Justin Winery in Paso Robles

    At the Justin Winery in Paso Robles

    Paso Robles Willow Creek District – Climate Region II, 950 – 1,900 feet in elevation, average of 24-30 inches rainfall.

  • Santa Margarita Ranch – Climate Region II, 900 – 1,400 feet in elevation, average of 29 inches rainfall.
  • Templeton Gap District – Climate Region II, 700 – 1,800 feet in elevation, average of 20 inches rainfall.
  • Adelaida District – Climate Region II-III, 900 – 2,200 feet in elevation, average of 26 inches rainfall.
  • Creston District – Climate Region III, 1,100 – 2,000 feet in elevation, average of 11.5 inches of rainfall.
  • Paso Robles Estrella District – Climate Region III, 745 – 1,800 feet in elevation, average of 14 inches of rainfall.
  • San Miguel District – Climate Region III, 580 – 1,600 feet in elevation, average of 11 inches of rainfall.
  • San Juan Creek – Climate Region III-IV, 980 – 1,600 feet in elevation, average of 10 inches of rainfall.
  • Paso Robles Geneseo District – Climate Region III-IV, 740 – 1,300 feet in elevation, average of 13 inches of rainfall.
  • Paso Robles Highlands District – Climate Region IV, 1,600 – 2,086 feet in elevation, average 12 inches of rainfall.

Map of Paso Robles and sub-appellations, climate data via

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator

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A New AVA in Mendocino County!

Map of the proposed (now approved) Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA, from the TTB's original docket (see link below)

Map of the proposed (now approved) Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA, from the TTB’s original docket (see link below)

Not even one day old….today – October 9, 2014 – the Federal Register published a new rule establishing the 21,000 acre Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA.

This new AVA, which will become “official” one month from today, is located entirely within the North Coast AVA – it is not, however, located within the Mendocino AVA, nor is it a subregion of the Mendocino AVA.

The Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA is located adjacent to, and to the west of the eastern “wing” of the Mendocino AVA. As a matter of fact, the Mendocino AVA and one of its subregions, the Redwood Valley AVA, both had their boundaries moved. Each had its acreage reduced by about 1,500 acres. This was to eliminate any overlaps, and because the TTB was convinced that the area in question has more in common, terroir-wise (and especially climate-wise) with the newly-approved area than it has with its former parents.

Here are a few more things you might want to know about the Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA:

  • The name of the AVA was approved as “Eagle Peak Mendocino County” as opposed to just “Eagle Peak” for good reason: while a 2,700-foot high mountain known as “Eagle Peak” is indeed a major feature of the region, there just so happen to be 47 other mountains in the US that are named “Eagle Peak.”
  • mendocino-fogAnother reason the long version of the name was required for approval is that there was some concern that an AVA named “Eagle Peak” might confuse consumers, and/or might infringe upon the “Eagle Peak Merlot” brand produced by Fetzer Vineyards.
  • The new AVA is located 125 miles north of San Francisco. The nearest city in this mountainous region is Ukiah; the AVA is situated about 10 miles north and slightly to the west of Ukiah.
  • There are currently at least five commercial vineyards operating in the area, with a total of just over 115 acres of vines.
  • The region’s many streams feed into the headwaters of the Russian River, which flows through Mendocino and Sonoma Counties on its journey to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Soils are shallow and composed of mainly sandstone and shale.
  • The typical climate conditions of the area include: marine fog and breezes, cool temperatures in the spring, warm-to-hot summers and gusty winds.

For more information, including all of the details on the Federal docket, click here.

For a shortcut to the map submitted with the application, click here.

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.


The Legacy of Peter Jahant

Map via

Map via

If you are studying for the CSW Exam, you might recall that the Lodi AVA, located in northern California, has seven sub-regions:  Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Clements Hills, Cosumes River, Mokelumne River, Sloughhouse, and the smallest of the seven, Jahant.

I’ve always been intrigued by the interesting name of the Jahant AVA, so this morning I decided to do a bit of research. This is a small area and  information is somewhat difficult to come by, but I did find out who the area is named for, as well as quite a few interesting details about the soil and climate of the area.

The area’s namesake is a former gold prospector turned family farmer named Peter Jahant. Peter was born in France in 1827 and moved to Akron, Ohio with his parents when he was six years old. In 1850, lured by gold fever,  23-year-old Peter took off with for Sacramento with three or four friends, intending to prospect for gold. After a few years of variable success in gold mining , he bought a livery stable and settled down. He eventually married and established a family farm in the Acampo area. In 1912, Peter Jahant’s son, Charles, planted 130 acres of grapes on the original family farm and gold prospectoradditional purchased land. The Jahant name is well-entrenched in the area, with Jahant Road, Jahant Stables, and Jahant Slough (a stream) all part of the local landscape.

The Jahant AVA is located in the center area of the larger Lodi AVA, about 7 miles south of the city of Lodi.  The region is bordered by the Dry Creek River in the north and the Mokelumne River in the southwest.  There are currently 8,000 acres of the area’s total 28,000 acres planted to grapes.

While the Jahant sub-region has a slightly cooler, dryer, and windier climate than the surrounding areas, the main difference, and the defining factor in establishing the boundaries of the area, is the soil.  The distinctive pink soil, referred to as “Rocklin-Jahant,” is a mixture of sandy loam and clay left by river flooding within the last 20,000 years. The clay component makes the soil excellent for retaining water  to the point that dry-farming is possible, even during the summer.  These dry-farmed vines produce grapes of great concentration, deep color and firm tannins; the nearby Sacramento Delta provides enough cooling breezes to maintain a good, balancing level of acidity.

Tempranillo,  Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel are among the most widely planted grapes of the Jahant AVA.  The Viaggio Estate Winery and Michael David Vineyards both have vineyards in the area.  White grapes also do well; the Lange Twins Family Winery has a lodi grape vinevineyard in the area planted to Sauvignon Musqué, a clonal variant of Sauvignon Blanc that produces grapes with a more pronounced floral aroma – and less of the herbal/cut green grass character – of a typical Sauvignon Blanc.

For more information about the Jahant AVA, click here. 

Click here for the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –

A New AVA for Santa Barbara

14956727_lThere’s a new AVA in Santa Barbara County! Officially approved on October 1, 2013, the new Ballard Canyon AVA is located within the existing Santa Ynez AVA.  With this new addition, there are now a total of five AVAs located within Santa Barbara County:  Santa Ynez Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Valley, and the newest member, Ballard Canyon.

Santa Barbara County, located a 90-minute drive north of Los Angeles, sits on the Southern California coast between San Luis Obispo County to the north and Ventura County to the south. The area is geologically unique in that it is one of the few places on the California Coast where both the coastline and the mountain ranges – including the Santa Ynez Mountain Range (located near the coast) and the San Rafael Mountain Range (further inland) run east-west as opposed to north-south.

The transverse nature of the region creates an east-west flow of ocean breezes off of the Pacific Ocean, as well as a diversity of soils from diatomaceous earth near the shore and chert and limestone further inland.  With such diverse terroir, it makes sense for the region to host five AVAs.

santa barbara vineyardsSanta Maria Valley – The Santa Maria Valley, 35 miles north of Santa Ynez, is the northernmost of Santa Barbara’s five AVAs, and was the first area to be officially recognized as an AVA.  The often foggy and windswept region has complex soil conditions and is known for cool weather grapes including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The oldest commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County, the Nielson Vineyard, was planted in 1964 in Santa Maria Valley.

Santa Ynez Valley – The region’s largest AVA, Santa Ynez Valley, is a long, east-west corridor with a diversity of climates; the cool temperatures near the coast become progressively warmer inland. Many types of grapes and wine are produced in this region, from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and botrytis-affected wines in the west to Bordeaux and Rhône varieties in the west.

Sta. Rita Hills – The Sta. Rita Hills AVA sits mostly within the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA, on its western border, and therefore much cooler than the inland areas. Located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, the area generally sits under marine layer clouds and fogs in the morning.  By 10 am, the fogs burns off and gives way to a few hours of calm sunshine.  In the afternoon, the on-shore breezes pick up, giving this region an overall maritime climate well-suited to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Located between the towns of Buellton and Lompoc, the area is intersected by the Santa Ynez River.

Ballard-Canyon-IdentityBallard Canyon – Located in the center of Santa Ynez Valley, with Sta. Rita Hills to the west and Happy Canyon to the east, the area’s newest AVA enjoys the hot, sunny days of its relatively inland position, and the cool nights brought in by post-sunset ocean breezes.  At 7,800 acres (560 of which are planted), Ballard Canyon is by far the smallest AVA in Santa Barbara County.  (By comparison, Sta. Rita Hills is 64,000 acres.) Ballard Canyon is planted heavily towards the Rhône varieties of Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, and Viognier, as well as Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, and other international varieties.

Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara – First recognized as an AVA in 2009, Happy Canyon is located to the east of the Santa Ynez Valley, making this one of the warmest areas in Santa Barbara County.  Summertime temperatures often reach the low to mid-nineties.  The region specializes in Bordeaux and Rhône varietals.  Local lore suggests that the name of the region comes from the time of Prohibition when bootleg alcohol was produced in the region, prompting folks to “take a trip to Happy Canyon.”

Some beautiful maps of the AVAs of Santa Barbara can be found on the website of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association:

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –


It’s an AVA! Moon Mountain AVA Approved in Sonoma County

New AVA 2You heard it here first…a new California AVA was approved on October 1, 2013.  The new AVA, named Moon Mountain District – Sonoma County, is the 16th AVA in Sonoma County and the fourth sub-appellation of the Sonoma Valley AVA.

The Moon Mountain District is located in a long, narrow region along the western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountain range between 400 and 600 feet in elevation.  The district has significantly cooler temperatures than the vineyards on the valley floor due to a bend in the adjacent Valley of the Moon which funnels cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay around the area.

The Moon Mountain District covers 17,633 acres east if Highway 12.  There are currently 1,500 acres of commercial vineyards planted in the region. One of California’s most historic vineyards, the Monte Rosso Vineyard, originally planted in the late 1800’s, is part of the new AVA as well.

Welcome to the world!

To read the federal doucments regarding this new AVA, click here:!docketDetail;D=TTB-2013-0002

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