Newest AVA-Do you buy wines based upon an AVA?-Calistoga AVA

Calistoga AVA-Known for big Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandels as well as other wines:

On December 8th, 2009 the Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the Calistoga American Viticultural Area (AVA).  This designation was effective on January 7th, 2010.  The Calistoga AVA lies exclusively in the Napa Valley Appellation and is in the northern part of the Napa Valley.

A major reason for desiring an AVA designation is to assist vintners in the branding of wines from a specific region that can be uniquely defined by: nationally recognized regional name, specific boundary area defined by the USGS (United States Geological Survey maps), and geographical features that separate it from surrounding areas (climate, soil, elevation and physical features).  But, for a wine to be labeled with a viticultural area’s name or with a brand name that includes a viticultural area name, at least 85% of the wine must be derived from grapes grown within the defined area.

Mr. Bo Barrett, who owns Chateau Montelena Winery, was a major industry force behind the Calistoga AVA effort, when it started in 2003. The decision was made to apply for the AVA designation based upon the historic value of the area as a long established grape growing region, the uniqueness of its climate, soil, and a border area that could be geologically defined.

Calistoga AVA (Appellation) is the 15th to be designated in Napa Valley and encompasses approximately 7 square miles with 2,500 acres suitable for vineyards and includes 24 wineries within the boundaries of what is now called Calistoga AVA.  Remember, wineries outside of the boundaries may still produce Calistoga branded wines as long as 85% of the fruit comes from within the boundaries of Calistoga AVA.

The details to validate the Calistoga AVA

Name Evidence- To support the AVA application, 8 historic and current authors were involved to substantiate that the Calistoga area name goes back as far as 1857 and vineyards having been planted there in 1862.  “Calistoga is an established local and regional name historically associated with viticulture”, says the TTB.

Distinguished Features- The overwhelming and complex evidence concerning the specific features of Calistoga came from a report written by Dr. Jonathan Swinchatt of Earth Vision, Inc. 

“The entirety of the viticultural area is underlain by volcanic bedrock…are part of, or derived from, the Sonoma Volcanics.  These rocks comprise lava flows, ash-fall tuffs, mudslides…”  Further, Dr. Swinchatt states, “The proposed Calistoga AVA is topographically more diverse, but geologically more uniform than these other AVA’s that comprise the valley floor.”

Features of Calistoga include uplands that are excessively drained, gravelly loams, and are on steep slopes.  Coarse sediments are throughout the valley floor.

Climate information is important in a growing area because hot daytime temps provide color and big berry fruit, while cool nights provide good acid balance for structure and develop power in the wines.  Significantly, Calistoga is known for having the highest temperatures in the Napa Valley with hot days (often 100 degrees F) and cool nights, with breezes coming from the Russian River.  Though Cali has some of the warmest daytime high temps in the growing season—it has the coolest evening temps in the growing seasons—therefore the highest degree of diurnal fluxuation—as much as 50 degrees F.

Rainfall in the Calistoga area is highest in the mountains with 60 inches to a low of38 inches on the valley floor.

Defined boundaries-  These boundaries are so precise, based upon climate and geological consideration that some of the city of Calistoga, CA do not fall within the Calistoga AVA.  The TTB stated, “Evidence supports the establishment of the “Calistoga” viticulture area, with the boundaries described.  We find that there is sufficient evidence that the proposed viticultural area boundaries are associated with both a name and a set of geographical features (climate, soils, elevation, and physical features, that are common to the designation region and that distinguish it from other areas.”

The wineries within the new Calistoga AVA are listed alphabetically: Araujo Estate Wines, Atalon Winery, Barlow Vineyards, Bennett Lane, Chateau Montelena Winery, Clos Pegase, Coquerel Family Wine Estates, Dutch Henry Winery, Harris Estate Vineyards, Helena View Johnston Vineyards, JAX Vineyards, Jericho Canyon Vineyard, Jones Family Vineyards, Kenefick Ranch Winery, Larkmead Vineyards, Paoletti Estates Winery, Robert Pecota Winery, Schrader, Storybook Mountain Vineyards/Seps Estate, Summers Estate Wines, Switchback Ridge, Venge Vineyards, Work Vineyard, Zahtila Vineyards

 Sources: Federal Register/Vol. 74, No. 234/ Establishment of the Calistoga Viticultural Area (20003R-496P)

                   Napa Valley Vintners, St. Helena, CA

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