Discovering American Terroir

In its continued quest to deliver identity to North America’s varied appellations and the wines made from them, Appellation America has recently posted the results of two of its "Discovery Tastings":

Spring Mountain District in the Napa Region and Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino County.

For those unfamiliar with Appellation America’s Discovery Tastings, the organization brings together winemakers focused on the appellation under consideration to be guided through a tasting of the appellation’s wines The Discovery Tastings are undertaken blind (meaning the producer of the wines are not known, but the varietal and the region is) and usually focus on one varietal.

As the Appellation America website puts it: "The Appellation Discovery Program seeks to identify threads of
commonality and to pinpoint terroir based signatures in the wines of
each appellation, if such commonality exists, or is developing."

You have to be a realist when you undertake such a mission. That realism, I think, is best demonstrated with the acknowledgment that some appellations may or may not show "commonality" of character across its wines or that such a commonality is in development or changing.

Both Yorkville Highlands and the Spring Mountain District are somewhat obscure regions, with the Yorkville Highlands surely being known to fewer wine drinkers. It is interesting to ponder if this relative obscurity may have something to do with the fact that in the case of both tastings the moderators report very specific "signatures" and "commonalities" emerging from the wines they tasted.

There are two important developments winding their way through the California wine industry today. One is the emergence of more and more inexpensive quaffing wines and labels. The continuance of this trend will engage more people in the habit of wine drinking.

The second important development is the heightened interest in the characteristics of wines that are made in specific appellations, sub-appellations and single vineyards. We are at a point in the evolution of the Californian and American wine industries that suggests a certain maturity. Differentiation is one of the hallmarks of a mature industry in 21st century America. The focus on appellational differences is a result of this evolution.

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