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

Map via PasoWine.com

Map via PasoWine.com

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 PasoWine.com

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

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The Wines that Made America

22947164_mlWhat do Lincoln’s top hat, Neil Armstrong’s Space Suit, and Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay have in common?

They are all part of a new collection curated at the Smithsonian Institution called “101 Objects That Made America.” Chosen from among the Smithsonian’s collection of over 137 million artefacts by Richard Kurin, the Under Secretary for Art, History, and Culture, these 101 objects tell the cultural history of America.

Other artefacts chosen include the American Buffalo and the Bald Eagle from among “Wild America” and Lewis and Clark’s Compass, representing “Discovery.” Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and FDR’s microphone were chosen to represent “The American Voice.”

101-Objects-America-vintage-california-wines-88-963Vintage California wines, represented by Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 and Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 were chosen as emblematic of “America in the world. The bottles of wine, which are currently on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, are accompanied by the story of the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” wine tasting that brought California wines to the world’s stage for the first time, as they won first place in a blind tasting contest featuring California wines vs. French wines, as evaluated by Fench judges on French soil.  Often referred to as “the vinous shot heard ‘round the world,” the event shocked the Old World wine establishment to the core and set the stage for California wines, and other wines of the new world to come into their own.

See the website of the Smithsonian Institution and Smithsonian Magazine for more information.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

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: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=TTB-2013-0002

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Water and Wine: Clear Lake, Lake County

Lake County VineyardsLake County, California, has some mighty impressive wine country neighbors.   The region shares its borders with Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino; collectively the four regions make up the North Coast Regional AVA, a relatively neat  if somewhat irregular “rectangle” north of San Francisco.

Located at the intersection of the Vaca and Mayacamas Mountains, Lake County is only 10 miles from Calistoga, yet the drive along the winding roads takes an hour. The namesake lake of the region, Clear Lake, is the largest freshwater body of water in the state of California. The presence of this lake buffers the temperature and provides great diurnal temperature swings, which promotes good acid retention in the grapes grown in the area.  Surrounded by rollings hills and (hopefully) inactive volcanoes, the diverse volcanic soils provide excellent drainage througout the region.

Before Prohibition, Lake County accounted for more grapes than Napa, but with no rail service, it wasn’t able to recover after repeal the way other areas of California did. Cheap land values sparked resurgence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and now the area is producing award-winning wines and has nearly 8,500 acres planted with vines, with continued growth anticipated.

The average elevation of Lake County’s vineyards is 1,500 feet, with some reaching up to 3,000 feet above sea level. The high elevation coupled with good air quality (the purest in California, according to the Environmental Protection Agency) maximizes the solar potential, resulting in higher levels of ultraviolet light. Consequently, the grapes develop thick skins, with high levels of anthocyanins, polyphenols, and tannins and low levels of pyrazines. This low-pyrazine producing  attribute made Clear Lake a popular region for growing Sauvignon Blanc, which until the region’s recent resurgence was the most widely grown grape in the region.

Lake County Wineries

Lake County has five designated AVAs:

  • Benmore Valley AVA was named for Benjamin Moore, a 19th century cattle rustler.  This area is cooler than the surrounding areas.  As there are currently no wineries located in the Benmore Valley AVA; grapes grown here are sourced by several local wineries.
  • Half of the area in the Clear Lake AVA is taken up by the lake itself.  The lake moderates the temperature of the vineyards in the area, minimizing the diurnal temperature swings as compared to the surrounding regions.
  • The High Valley AVA is located in the eastern part of the county at elevations ranging from 1,600 feet to 3,000 feet above sea level.
  • The rolling hills of the Red Hills Lake Country AVA lie along the southwestern shores of Clear Lake, at the foot of Mount Konocti, an extinct volcano.
  • Established in 1981, the Guenoc Valley AVA was the first AVA granted to an area with just a single winery. Geologically, Guenoc Valley is a small inland valley extending from upper Napa County.

Cabernet Sauvignon is currently the most widely planted grape in Lake County, followed by Merlot at a distant second, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. Petite Sirah, while not being one of the most widely planted grapes in the area, does exceedingly well here…fans of P.S. should keep their eyes open for award-winning wines from Lake County!

To learn more about Lake County Wines:  http://www.lakecountywineries.org/

Lake County Winegrape Growers’ Association:  http://www.lakecountywinegrape.org/lcwc/