Written By Treve Ring Libations / Wine Festivals / Wine Travel Feb 22, 2013 Wines of Worth – California’s AVAs SHARE VIA: Facebook Twitter Pinterest WINES OF WORTH – CALIFORNIA’S AVA’S The Vancouver International Wine Festival kicks off next week, meaning it’s full on GO time for every wine professional in Vancouver and environs. Wine professionals travel from across Canada and in from around the world for the event, regarded as one of the top wine festivals in the world. 2013 is the festival’s 35th anniversary, and features 175 wineries from 15 countries pouring 1,850 wines at 55 events to a projected 25,000 guests. There are still tickets to some events available – in particular, to the International Festival Tasting Room. The heart of the festival, this year shows 763 wines on offer to the public running Thursday through Saturday evenings. More than 900 additional wines are served at special events, which include the Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction, wine seminars, wine minglers, winery dinners, and lunches and brunches.This year’s theme region is California, and since you’ll be seeing and tasting a large amount of California wines throughout the week I wanted to provide a road map to some highlights of the undeniably most Golden State. 1300km of coastline exposes western vineyards to Mother Nature’s air conditioning via fog and Pacific ocean breezes, cooling the hot California temperatures enough to accommodate cool-climate friendly grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In sites with little or no ocean influence, many winemakers are using higher altitude sites to keep grapes protected from summer temperatures. Soils are very diverse, due to California’s evolution through millennia of shifting and thrusting plate tectonics. This soil diversity is one of the reasons why California has so many different and distinct winegrape growing areas, or American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s). There are over 100 officially designated AVA’s in California, and it can be confusing to wrap your head around them all as many large AVA’s envelop smaller ones and some even overlap. As a basic framework to set your compass to and help you navigate the bottles you’ll encounter next week, I’ve listed California’s main AVA’s, as well as the smaller areas that fall within them.NORTH COASTThe coolest wine growing region in the state, and home to more than half of California’s wineries, including the most famous. Napa Valley www.napavintners.comProduces 4% of all California wineIncludes 16 AVA’s and 600 wineries, the most concentrated in the StatesGained international attention by taking top honours at the Judgement of Paris in 1976Grapes first planted in 1838Cabernet Sauvignon is KingHome to Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Stags Leap, Yountville, Mt. Veeder, Atlas Peak.Sonoma County www.sonomawine.comThough often thought of as little sibling to Napa, Sonoma was actually planted to grapes earlier – in 1812Includes 13 AVA’s and 500 wineriesHome to Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River ValleyMendocino County www.mendowine.comHotbed for organic, biodynamic and sustainable viticultureContains 10 AVA’s and 100 wineriesFirst planted in 1850’sHome to Anderson Valley, Mendocino, Redwood ValleyLos CarnerosStraddles Napa and Sonoma, granted AVA status in 1983Recognized for Chardonnay, Pinot NoirCENTRAL COASTCentred, at least symbolically, by San Francisco, with the first grapes planted in the state here. Franciscan monks were the first to cultivate grapes in the late 1700’s.San Luis Obispo County www.slowine.com Home to Paso Robles, the states fasted growing wine region, and home to the fabled Rhone RangersKnown for Syrah and Viognier, as well as Pinot NoirAlso home to Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande ValleyPaso Robles www.pasowine.comFirst vineyards here in 1790’sOver 180 wineries80% red grapes hereSanta Cruz Mountains www.scmwa.com Vineyards up to 800 metres, one of California’s first AVA’sMonterey County www.montereywines.orgContains 9 AVA’s and 16,000 hectares under vineHome to Carmel Valley, San Antonia Valley, San Lucas, Santa Lucia HighlandsLivermore Valley www.lvwine.orgFirst planted in 1840’s, and first site in California to label Chardonnay, Petite Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc as single varieties.Santa Barbara County www.sbcountywines.comThough propelled into fame through the 2004 movie Sideways, the area has been growing grapes since 1782Miles would be happy to know that nearly one quarter of all grapes grown here are Pinot NoirContains 4 AVA’s, and 175 wineriesHome to Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Rita Hills CENTRAL VALLEY / INLAND VALLEYSCalifornia’s largest wine region stretches for 480 km from the Sacramento Valley south to the San Joaquin Valley. This one region produces nearly 75% of all California wine grapes and includes many of California’s bulk, box and jug wine. That doesn’t mean there aren’t pockets of premium and boutique winemaking however. A move towards quality has lead to a rebranding – watch for Inland Valleys to gradually replace the Central Valley.Lodi www.lodiwine.com Home to some of California’s top old vine ZinfandelsSan Joaquin ValleyThe largest winegrowing region in the state, and planted to vine for more than 100 yearsMadera County www.maderavintners.comThe heat contributes to this region’s renown for dessert and fortified wines SIERRA FOOTHILLSMarked by dramatic landscapes like nearby Yosemite National Park, these very old wine growing region is rooted in the gold rush and wild west.Amador County www.amadorwine.com First planted in the 1800’s, the area is known for old vine Zinfandel, Barbera, Surah, Sangiovese and ViognierSOUTHERN CALIFORNIASo.Cal is not all movie stars and beaches (though that does count for a lot). This is also a historic grape growing region, with great diversity in grapes and altitude.San Diego County www.sandiegowineries.orgHome to the state’s oldest grapes, at Mission San Diego de Alcala, in 1769Home to a Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard at 1300 metres – the highest vineyard elevation in CaliforniaTemecula Valley www.temeculawines.orgMaking wine since the late 1700’sNow home to 30 wineries and known for Italian and Rhone grapesFor more information on California AVA’s, grapes and history, visit www.discovercaliforniawine.comCaliforniaVIWFWines of Worth SHARE VIA: Facebook Twitter Pinterest Written By: Treve Ring Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ... 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