A Deeper Look into the Potential New US AVA’s


The US wine scene is always growing and changing, and that's especially true when we talk about the special areas known as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). These areas are all about the special spots where grapes are grown, each with its own special soil and climate that make the wine taste a certain way. We're looking at new AVAs like Rancho Guejito or Columbia Hills. This means more variety and more unique tastes for everyone who loves wine.

From the cool climates of the West Sonoma Coast and Carmel Coast to the rich soils of Columbia Hills and Hickory Sands District, these changes promise exciting new flavours for wine lovers. And with places like Highland Valley and Suscol District getting noticed, it's clear that the map of American wine is getting bigger and more interesting. In this article, we have a deeper look into the potential new us ava's

What is an AVA?

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Only producers who craft wines with these characteristics may place the name of the AVA on the wine label.

The establishment of an AVA allows vintners to describe the origin of their wines to consumers more accurately and helps consumers identify wines that meet their preferences. Unlike the wine appellation systems in some other countries, an AVA specifies only a geographical location from which at least 85% of the grapes used to make the wine must have been grown.

Most Relevant AVAs in the US

AVAs vary widely in their climates, soils, and altitudes, all of which contribute to the unique characteristics of wines from those regions. Here's an introduction to some of the most relevant and recognized AVAs in the United States:

  • Napa Valley (California): Internationally recognized, Napa Valley is synonymous with high-quality wine production. It is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, among other varietals.
  • Sonoma County (California): Sonoma County is home to several important AVAs, including the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, and Dry Creek Valley, which are known for producing a diverse range of high-quality wines, with grapes such as Pinot Gris.
  • Willamette Valley (Oregon): This AVA is celebrated for its outstanding Pinot Noir. Its cooler climate perfectly suits this grape variety.
  • Finger Lakes (New York): The Finger Lakes AVA is known for its excellent Rieslings, benefiting from the moderating effects of the lakes on the local climate to produce crisp, aromatic wines.
  • Columbia Valley (Washington and Oregon): Spanning parts of Washington and Oregon, this large AVA is known for producing a wide variety of wine grapes and styles, from Merlot to Syrah and beyond.
  • Central Coast (California): This sprawling California AVA, which climate and topography is influenced by the Pacific Ocean, is recognized for the quality and diversity of its wine production, with notable areas like Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County producing everything from Chardonnay to Grenache.
  • Texas Hill Country (Texas): One of the largest AVAs in Texas, this region is gaining recognition for its robust wine industry, which focuses on Mediterranean grape varieties.
  • Walla Walla Valley (Washington and Oregon): Straddling the border of Washington and Oregon, Walla Walla Valley is esteemed for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot wines.

These AVAs, among many others, underline the richness and diversity of the American wine landscape, offering a wide range of wine styles and flavours influenced by their distinct geographic conditions.

Potential AVAs and Their Unique Contributions to Viticulture

The landscape of American viticulture is set to expand with the introduction of several proposed AVAs, something that can change the wine tasting experience. These potential AVAs highlight the diverse geographies, climates, and soils that uniquely contribute to the United States wine production. Here's a deep dive in some of these promising regions.

Rancho Guejito (California)

Rancho Guejito, a sprawling estate tucked away in the diverse landscapes of San Diego County, California, stands on the verge of gaining recognition as an AVA, an acknowledgment that spans an expansive 32,360 acres. This prospective designation is a tribute to the area's ability to yield wines with a unique character, enabling vintners to pinpoint the origins of their products with greater precision. Consequently, consumers benefit from enhanced insights into the selection of wines, fostering a deeper connection between the wine's provenance and its sensory profile.

The initiative to designate Rancho Guejito is driven by stakeholders within the wine industry. It highlights the region's significance and distinct vinicultural attributes. This move reflects a broader recognition of Rancho Guejito's unique environment and its potential to contribute to the diversity of California's wine landscape.

West Sonoma Coast AVA (California)

The West Sonoma Coast, a distinguished AVA nestled within the larger Sonoma Coast AVA, distinguishes itself by emphasizing the unique influence of its coastal vineyards. This region is renowned for producing outstanding Pinot Noirs, the result of a concerted effort among local vintners to highlight the specific terroir shaped by cooler vineyard sites and the surrounding marine influences. By doing so, the West Sonoma Coast AVA plays a pivotal role in underscoring the area's dedication to crafting wines of exceptional quality while also providing consumers with a clear understanding of the distinct wine-growing conditions that set this region apart. 

The establishment of this AVA serves as a testament to the collaborative spirit of the West Sonoma Coast's wine-growing community and its commitment to expressing the unique characteristics of its terroir.

Pocket Peak (California)

The proposed Pocket Peak AVA is strategically positioned to establish its identity within the eastern highlands of the Alexander Valley AVA, Sonoma County, California. Led by a coalition of local winegrowers, this area, which spans roughly 30,755 acres with 2,915 acres dedicated to vineyards, is acclaimed for its elevated vineyard sites. The application for AVA status is grounded in a thorough examination of the region's distinct topography, climate, and soil composition, distinguishing it from the broader Alexander Valley AVA.

Named after a notable summit in the vicinity, the Pocket Peak initiative aims to illuminate the region's viticultural prowess and unique characteristics, promoting an understanding of its potential to produce wines with a distinctive identity.

Columbia Hills (Washington)

Columbia Hills, pending approval, aims to secure its place within the southern expanse of Washington's Klickitat County, nestled between the Columbia Gorge AVA to the west and the Horse Heaven Hills AVA to the east. This prospective AVA is characterized by its notable elevation, a critical factor in defining the region influenced by the historical Missoula floods. These cataclysmic floods deposited a rich tapestry of soils, fostering a viticultural environment with a complex and diverse soil profile that is particularly conducive to grape cultivation. 

Columbia Hills' unique terroir is poised to enhance the region's viticultural diversity, contributing to the production of wines that reflect the distinct environmental conditions.

Llano Uplift (Texas)

The proposed Llano Uplift AVA is set to distinguish a geologically unique area within the Texas Hill Country AVA, covering an expanse of 1.3 million acres. This region is notable for its foundation of granite and metamorphic rocks, setting it apart from the limestone-dominated areas nearby. This geological variance results in a diversity of soil types, providing a distinct terroir favourable for vineyard development. The Llano Uplift is characterized by a relatively cooler and drier climate compared to surrounding areas, complemented by beneficial sub-aquifers that offer ideal conditions for vine growth. 

The area has seen successful experimentation with Italian grape varieties such as Sangiovese and Aglianico, producing wines that boast ripe fruit flavours, nuanced spice notes, and a distinctive herbaceous quality. These wines thereby enrich the Texas wine landscape with their unique profiles.

Carmel Coast (California)

Distinct from the Carmel Valley appellation within Monterey County, California, the proposed Carmel Coast AVA is envisaged to encompass approximately 4,127 acres, with a focus on around 90 acres cultivated by six dedicated growers. This area is celebrated for its pronounced maritime influence, which engenders a cool climate and soil conditions optimal for producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These wines are notable for their balanced acidity and complexity, echoing the finesse of Burgundian wines yet imbued with a distinctive character that reflects the region's unique chalky soil composition and extended grape hang time. 

The establishment of the Carmel Coast as an AVA would not only highlight the exceptional quality of wines produced in this region but also underscore the nuanced differences that geographical and climatic conditions can impart to wine.

Kaw Valley (Kansas)

The soon-to-be Kaw Valley AVA, representing a pioneering American Viticultural Area in Northeast Kansas, encompasses a significant portion of the northern bank drainage basin of the Kansas River. This unique geographical feature is marked by its rich soils, primarily derived from glacial deposits left behind by the last Ice Age, offering a terroir that is unparalleled elsewhere within the state's borders. 

Spanning an area of 5,493 acres that includes 33 vineyards and dedicates 500 acres specifically to viticulture, this AVA is poised to focus on cultivating hybrid grape varieties such as Chambourcin and Vignoles. These varieties are particularly chosen for their resilience to the cold Kansas winters, and show the AVA's strategic approach to adapting to the challenging climate while striving to produce distinctive wines.

Champlain Valley (Vermont)

The Champlain Valley of Vermont AVA, gracefully stretching along the eastern shores of Lake Champlain, enjoys a warmer microclimate, which affords it more growing degree days than its neighboring regions. 

This advantageous climate facilitates the cultivation of cold-hardy grape varieties such as Marquette and La Crescent, which were developed at the University of Minnesota. This AVA's focus on such varieties underscores Vermont's dedication to fostering high-quality wines that reflect the state's premium agricultural prowess. 

The strategic selection of grape varieties showcases the AVA's capability to produce exceptional wines that reflect Vermont's rich agricultural heritage and its commitment to quality.

Rancho Santa Fe (California)

The proposed Rancho Santa Fe AVA, defined by its natural boundaries of waterways and trails, sprawls across 15,827 acres in the heart of Southern California's chaparral. It is notably home to a significant eucalyptus tree forest, an ecological feature introduced by the Santa Fe Railroad in the early 20th century. 

This unique botanical presence contributes a distinctive, recognizable character to the wines emanating from this region, often described as having a "fresh" or "minty" aroma. The integration of these eucalyptus notes into the wine's profile adds a layer of complexity and uniqueness, setting apart the wines produced within the proposed Rancho Santa Fe AVA from those of other regions.

Hickory Sands District (Texas)

Located in the heart of Mason County, Texas, within the broader confines of the Texas Hill Country AVA and the proposed Llano Uplift AVA, the Hickory Sands AVA is named after the predominant Hickory Sandstone formation characteristic of the area. According to texas winemakers, this region boasts sandy soils that are particularly conducive to producing grapes with concentrated flavours, a quality that has become synonymous with the wines from this AVA.

With nine commercial vineyards and nine bonded wineries, the AVA covers an area of 190.1 acres dedicated to vineyards. The regional climate, marked by hot, dry summers and mild winters, complements the terroir, contributing to the distinctive flavour profiles of the wines produced here.

Mill Creek-Walla Walla Valley (Washington)

Situated at the eastern frontier of the Walla Walla Valley AVA in Washington, the Mill Creek-Walla Walla Valley is notable for its unique elevation and the prevalence of loess soil layers. These environmental attributes play a crucial role in defining the area's terroir. Additionally, the region benefits from a distinct diurnal temperature range, significantly influenced by the cool air descending from the Blue Mountains. This climatic feature is particularly favourable for the cultivation of grape varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc, resulting in wines characterized by their plush tannins and refined texture.

Highland Valley (California)

Perched several hundred feet above the San Pasqual Valley and to the east of the Ramona Valley, Highland Valley celebrates a viticultural legacy that spans more than a century. The region's cooler average temperature, a consequence of its westerly location and the cold air drainage from the Ramona Highlands, plays a pivotal role in its viticulture. The pronounced nighttime cooling and the influence of marine air currents significantly benefit the viticultural process, fostering a wide array of grape varieties. 

The diversity of grape varieties cultivated by local winemakers reflects the area's versatile terroir, making it challenging to associate the AVA with a singular  grape varietal. Instead, the selection of the most suitable grape variety often depends on the individual winemaker's preferences and the specific vineyard plantings.

Mount St. Helens (Washington)

The proposed Mount St. Helens AVA, encompassing an extensive area of 2,100 square miles across parts of Clark, Cowlitz, and Lewis counties in the southwest of Washington state, is home to approximately 140 acres of wine grapes and 30 wineries. Named after the iconic volcano, this region is distinguished by its cool-to-moderate climate, which is well-suited for the cultivation of Vitis Vinifera grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. 

The area's rocky soil composition, a remnant of the Missoula Floods, shares similarities with the terroir of the Willamette Valley. This geological heritage, coupled with the accolades received by local wineries, underscores the region's burgeoning reputation for producing wines of exceptional quality.

Suscol District (California)

The Suscol Junction AVA, nestled within the Napa Valley, stands out as one of the area's smallest AVAs, covering a total of 3,394 acres, with 890 acres under vine. This AVA is characterized by its predominantly Hambright soils, which are derived from basalt, resulting in a relatively uniform soil profile across the region. Its unique climatic conditions place it in a transitional zone, cooler than Coombsville yet warmer than Los Carneros, offering a distinct microclimate for viticulture. Despite the absence of wineries or tasting rooms established within its bounds, the region's soil and climate are conducive to high-quality grape production.

Sebastopol Hills (California)

Sebastopol Hills, situated in the southwestern corridor of Sonoma County and recognized since 1999, is in the process of attaining AVA status. The area, which spans 10,320 acres with approximately 1,000 acres devoted to vine cultivation, is celebrated for its cool climate. This climatic condition is largely influenced by the area's proximity to the Petaluma Gap, fostering an environment ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

The predominant soil type in Sebastopol Hills is Goldridge sandy loam, which, in conjunction with the marine layer that frequently envelops the area, helps grape growers to obtain fruit that gives wines from Sebastopol Hills an unique character. This terroir, combined with the unique microclimate, positions this proposed AVA as a noteworthy contributor to the viticultural diversity of the Russian River Valley.

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A Deeper Look into the Potential New US AVA’s

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