Let Russian River Valley Take Over The World
The Feds are proposing to expand the Russian River Valley Appellation by 350 acres to the south, which will include Gallo’s acreage there.
Why the hell not!
It’s not as thought there is any real viticultural meaning the Russian River Valley AVA. The number of different climates, soils and rainfall totals you can find in this unwieldy appellation are probably too many to count on two hands. As it is currently configured, I don’t believe the Russian River Valley AVA will ever provide consumers with any real meaning whatsoever.
So why not just expand the appellation as far as the eye can see?
Historian William Heintz agrees with me, sort of:
"I agree … that the proposed expansion area and the main part of the
Russian River Valley viticultural area, which lies to the north, have
historically been part of one region in terms of common climate and
geographic features, settlement and the development of agriculture and
Of course the only problem here is that given the vast nature of the Russian River Valley AVA you could probably include nearly all of Sonoma County in any expansion and still claim it all has a common climate, geographic features, settlement and development of agriculture and transportation.
Of course Gallo wants to include its vineyards inside the AVA not because they think the vineyards fit into the geographic and climatic conditions that are supposed to define the appellation. They want to be included because the Russian River Valley AVA is gaining name recognition and name recognition means higher prices for wines that carry the Russian River Valley AVA.
It seems like wineries already making Russian River Valley-labeled wines would want Gallo to be included in their AVA. The more wine in the market that says "Russian River Valley" on the label, the more name recognition this vast swath of land has.
But, not all are in agreement:
“We’re pretty proud of our AVA (American Viticulture Area) and I think
what they are doing deteriorates it,” said grape grower Nick Leras."
I’m not sure that’s possible.
In any case, given that the real purpose of the Russian River Valley is to market a wine, not to give consumers an idea of what characteristics they’ll find in a wine that carries this appellation, I really do think it best to expand the RRV AVA to include all of Sonoma County. By doing so and by allowing all grapes grown in Sonoma County carry the Russian River Valley AVA label, the entire Sonoma County industry can benefit from the higher name recognition RRV has.