When I visited Paso Robles this summer on an excursion before the Wine Bloggers Conference, I attended a special session sponsored by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. The subject was plans to establish 11 new viticultural areas within the greater Paso Robles AVA.
In the US, wine regions are called American Viticultural Areas or AVA. An AVA can also have sub-regions (also called AVA) provided that these smaller regions have climactic, geologic and/or historical attributes that make them unique as a grape growing area.
On October 9, the US Department of the Treasury announced its final ruling establishing the new areas. This historic announcement concludes a seven-year process by a dedicated group of Paso Robles vintners and winegrape growers who created a unified approach to develop a comprehensive master plan for the greater Paso Robles American Viticultural Area.
The 11 AVAs are as follows: Adelaida District, Creston District, El Pomar District, Paso Robles Estrella District, Paso Robles Geneseo District, Paso Robles Highlands District, Paso Robles Willow Creek District, San Juan Creek, San Miguel District, Santa Margarita Ranch, and the Templeton Gap District.
This is a big deal. Until the ruling, Paso Robles was the largest unsubdivided AVA in California with about 614,000 acres. By comparison, Napa Valley is about one third the size and has 16 AVA within its boundaries. Just as Stags Leap, Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder and Rutherford have created unique identities in Napa, these new AVA provide the same opportunity in Paso.
“These new AVAs will be a powerful tool for wineries to explain why certain grapes are particularly well suited to certain parts of the appellation, and why some wines show the characteristics they do while other wines, from the same or similar grapes, show differently,” said Jason Haas, general manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard and Paso Robles AVA Committee member. “Ultimately, the new AVAs will allow these newly created sub-regions to develop identities for themselves with a clarity impossible in a single large AVA.”
AVA labeling provides information to consumers and trade about what is in the bottle, helping them make a better informed buying decision based on expectations of the region. Thanks to a conjunctive labeling law spearheaded by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance in 2007, the Paso Robles AVA retains top billing on a wine label with the individual districts serving as a way to fine-tune location and potential character of wines.
"Our AVA is an incredibly diverse region that has taken its rightful place on the world wine stage,” said Steve Lohr, chairman and CEO of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and former chairman of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “These sub appellations will allow growers and vintners to tell their stories more clearly, which in turn will give consumers and the trade a much greater understanding of Paso’s diversity and complexity."
The official map of the 11 Viticultural Areas, as well as a comparison grid detailing climate, rainfall, topography, etc., is available on www.pasowine.com/media-center/the-avas-of-paso-robles.php.