Celebrating The Best Defined Wine Growing Region in California
One of the criticisms of the American Viticultural Area (AVA) system (our appellation system) in the U.S. is that it imposes so few rules on the use of a place-name that buyers can have few expectations of what they will be tasting when they buy a bottle of wine with “Russian River Valley”, “Sonoma Coast”, “Dry Creek Valley” or any other AVA on the label. Beyond requiring that a certain percent of the grapes used to make the wine must come from a given AVA in order to place that AVA on a label, there are few other requirements to place an AVA on the label.
While in many cases if one understands the climatic and soil characteristics of an AVA something then can be assumed about wines that carry a particular AVA on the label, the noted criticism above is valid. This is why it’s important for consumers to take note of AVAs where a single variety of grape dominates planting. This tells you that the AVA likely produces very high quality examples of this kind of wine.
However, there are very few AVAs where one finds a single variety of grape dominating plantings. Napa with its Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Willamette Valley with its Pinot Noir are the two examples that should jump out at you.
However, perhaps the best example of the maxim that an AVA dominated by a single varietal means high quality wine is Anderson Valley in Mendocino County.
According to a 2010 census of vineyards in Anderson Valley, Pinot Noir accounted for 65% of all grapes counted. And I’d be willing to bet that this percentage has only increased since then. More importantly, an argument could be made that some of the best Pinot Noir in America is grown in Anderson Valley.
This makes the upcoming Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival (May 16-18) one of the most intriguing and worthwhile consumer wine events in the State. Add to this the absolutely stunning natural beauty of the Anderson Valley and this festival ought to provide wine lovers every reason they need to head up to this remote region tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the interior of Northern California.
This year’s Anderson Valley Wine Festival will highlight 50 different producers of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, providing the attendee with the opportunity to come away with a detailed understanding of the primary characteristics of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Additionally, the vast majority of wineries pouring are very small, hands-on, family run wineries that focus on producing unique, terroir-driven wines.
The Festival also sports a Friday Technical Conference in which a host of winemakers and grape growers will explore the details of the Anderson Valley AVA and winemaking techniques applied to the AVA’s grapes.
If you were to rank the California AVAs that with best defined personalities and highest quality wines, a very strong case could be made that none is more well-defined than Anderson Valley. This festival is highly recommended.