The destruction of the American wine industry would come not from an entomological pest, but from a political one. While it took a hundred years instead of 20 to complete its course, the results were even more devastating. It didn't spread from vineyard to vineyard, but from town to county to state to the entire nation. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism and their related problems were much more widespread and affected a radically larger share of America's population in the early and mid-1800s than they do at present day. Excessive use, rather than moderate use, was the norm in an era of fewer entertainments and diversions. The first Prohibition law went on the books in Indiana in 1816, forbidding the sale of any alcohol on Sunday (still enforced to this day). By the 1840s, towns and counties in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York and Ohio had gone legally "dry". In 1851, Maine enacted the first statewide law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor and, by 1855, thirteen of the thirty-one United States had followed suit.
The Industrial Revolution led from local to large-scale brewing and mass marketing, with intense competition. A proliferation of saloons drove owners to seek side profits by pursuing illegal and unsavory vices such as gambling and prostitution. As another beverage containing alcohol, wine began to suffer the successful excesses of beer. In 1880, Kansas became the first entirely "dry" state, followed by Iowa, Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia. Although the laws allowed winemaking to continue for sale elsewhere, few wineries in these states could compete without selling their wines locally. Most closed their doors and abandoned their vineyards. The Drys went so far as to have any mention of wine expunged from school and college texts, including Greek and Roman classic literature. Medicinal wines were dropped from the United States Pharmacopoeia. They even tried to prove that praises for wine in the Bible were actually referring to unfermented grape juice. Thirty-three states had gone dry at the outbreak of World War I. Wartime Prohibition was enacted in 1919, followed by the Volstead National Prohibition Act and the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, forbidding the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors."
Through a loophole allowing each home to "make 200 gallons of non-intoxicating cider and fruit juice per year," thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens became home winemakers and bootleggers. Prices for fresh grapes shot up, because of the increased demand and a railroad shortage of refrigerated freight cars in which to ship them. Growers began replanting fine wine variety vineyards to juice grape varieties that shipped well. Planted acreage nearly doubled from 1919 to 1926. Vineyard land climbed from $200 an acre in 1918 to $2,500 an acre in 1923. Prosperity for the growers lasted five years. In 1925, the railroads finally had enough cars, too much fruit was shipped and it rotted on the Eastern docks. In 1926, vineyard land fell back to $250 per acre. The massive plantings produced a constant surplus of California grapes that persisted until 1971. By the time of National Repeal, effective December 5, 1933, the industry was in ruins. Although some wineries managed to survive by obtaining permits to make wines used for medicinal, sacramental and non-beverage additive purposes, production dropped 94% from 1919 to 1925.
The BATF issued its first legislation concerning climate and geography-based appellations in 1978
Each state is recognized independently, other generic appellations recognized as well:
American or United States
Blended or varietal from anywhere in the US (including PR and DC). May not carry a vintage date. The only wines shipped in bulk to countries.
For wines coming from multiple contiguous states. Percentage from each state must be clearly stated.
At least 75% of the grapes must come from the stated State (min 85% for Texas and 100% for Cali). Grapes may be shipped from one state to another which it shares a border and still be made from the 1st state. Ex: California grapes may be shipped to Oregon and, as long as they represent 75% of the blend, it may be labeled as California wine.
Grapes sourced from 2-3 contiguous counties, with % from each clearly state
All the counties north of San Francisco: Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano. Three ... [>] Read More million acres. Influenced by cool coastal air and fog from the Pacific Ocean. Favor production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Encompasses vineyards from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Appellation based on shared influence of Pacific Ocean. Chardonnay boasts most territory, Rhone varietals emerging.
Covers vineyards in the following counties: Alameida, Contra Costa, Monterey, San Benito, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz
Includes Orange County and western portions of Riverside and San Diego counties. Coastal influences moderate the warmth.
3,000 acres under vine, ... [>] Read Moremuch within the borders of sub-regions, the Temecula and San Pasqual Valley AVAs. Chardonnay dominated the acreage, but Rhone, Italian and Iberian grape production rising. Covers vineyards in the following counties: Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Orange
Inexpensive quality land. These foothills form a belt 170 miles long, ranging from 1,000-3,000 feet high. Covers 2.6 million acres, parts of eight of central Cali’s 12 counties. Zinfandels to Sauvignon Blancs. Warm days and cool nights; cooler here than Central Valley floor, less rain than neighboring appellations.
Soils of decomposed granite, formed by mountain erosion, vines go deep for nutrients and water.
Covers vineyards in the following counties: Yuba, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Tuolumne
San Francisco Bay
Covers 1.5 million acres. Affected by coastal fog and winds from San Francisco Bay.
Created in 1999 after petitioning by Wente.
Enompasses counties of San Francisco, San ... [>] Read More Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Alameda, as well as parts of San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.
American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)
For AVA status min 85% grapes must come from the AVA to be labeled as such
AVAs by major Region
The most northerly of California’s winegrowing regions, the valley lays ... [>] Read More just a few miles from the Oregon border in Siskiyou County. Borders the Klamath River at 1,700 feet, three acres planted to Riesling.
Fertile alluvial soil, with good water access on the valley floor. Geologically, the most interesting feature is deep piles of rounded rocks on the valley floor....actually, just ‘tailings’ from years of gold mining. These rock piles absorb and store heat during the day, offering protection from the erratic spring and fa,ll frosts that are common in the area. The Seiad Valley AVA exists today only on paper with the TBB.
Encompasses 96,000 acres surrounding Trinity and Lewiston lakes, which are man-made lakes created in the early 1960s to provide water to the San Joaquin Valley. It becomes effective April 29, 2005.
The earliest vineyard in the area was planted at the north end of Trinity Lake in 1981 by Mark Groves, owner of Alpen Cellars winery, a small family winery in Trinity Center, currently the only winery in the new AVA. A new winery called One Maple winery, on the southeastern edge of the AVA, has applied for a permit and hopes to be up and running by next fall.
According to Groves, just 30 acres are planted with vines in four small vineyards scattered throughout the area. About 1,440 acres are suitable for planting, according to his son, Keith Groves, co-owner of the winery. The high elevation and [cool] climate are particularly suitable for early-maturing vinifera varieties such as Riesling, Gewürtztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Merlot¸ Groves said.
County(s): Trinity, Humboldt
One of California’s most northerly viticultural areas is now also one of its least productive. When Willow Creek, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Has no wineries and only 10 acres under vine. The winery owners, who primarily grew Chardonnay here, migrated to more versatile growing conditions elsewhere.
The Mendocino appellation is roughly the size of Rhode Island. Encloses Anderson Valley, Cole Ranch, McDowell Valley, Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, and Yorkville Highlands AVAs. Applications in progress for Ukiah and Sanel valleys along the Russian River. Home to Mediterranean red varieties, including Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Carignan, Charbono and Grenache. Yet Mendocino’s Anderson Valley is also home to some of America’s most sought-after Alsatian whites, prestige sparkling wines, and high-octane Pinot Noir.
Now ranks with the top Pinot Noir regions in North America. Production is not huge, quality is soaring. ... [>] Read More An unusual transverse appellation -- cutting laterally through the coastal range rather than lying between ridges -- Anderson Valley is also a mere 10-15 miles from the cold Pacific Ocean. These factors result in a wide diurnal range, with daily high and low temperatures diverging up to 40 or 50 degrees. This enables Pinot Noir growers to keep acid development in line with sugar and flavor formation through long, warm Indian summers. Also superb Gewurztraminer and Riesling, giving rise to the valley’s annual Alsatian festival. Then there’s sparkling wine. With three methode champenoise sparkling houses, including the renowned Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley is bubbly paradise.
North America’s smallest appellation. This isolated viticultural area of less than one quarter square mile sits between the Russian River and Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Here a mere sixty acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Riesling vines are found tucked into the high hills ranging from 1,400-1,600 ... [>] Read More feet in elevation.
The recently approved Covelo AVA located in northern Mendocino... [>] Read More County bucks convention as there are currently only 2 acres of land under vine and no wineries. Presumably Mr. Ralph Carter, the petitioner for this AVA, believes an appellation should be defined purely on climatic conditions rather than any marketing objectives that may benefit from acquiring AVA standing. The TTB obviously agreed, delivering its final ruling on the matter and approving the Covelo AVA on February 16th, 2006.
The Covelo AVA is located about 45 miles north of Ukiah and encompasses Round Valley, Williams Valley, and the surrounding foothills. According to the petition, “the bowl shaped basin of Round Valley…is distinctly different from the long, narrow valleys more commonly found in Mendocino County. In addition…the soils in the proposed Covelo area are, for the most part, very deep, nearly level loam, which differ significantly from the soils in the surrounding areas.” The petition further explained that the high peaks surrounding the region effectively block any coastal influence, providing the Covelo AVA with a continental climate. The growing season here is shorter than other Mendocino growing areas such as Anderson Valley and the Yorkville Highlands and the region experiences greater fluctuations between daytime and nighttime temperatures relative to other Mendocino County appellations.
Located at the confluence of the Eel River and Middle Fork of the Eel River is known more for its white water rapids than its white wine. In fact, the lone winery in the AVA, Vin de Tevis, has only six acres under vine, almost exclusively planted ... [>] Read More to red varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.
One might instinctively presume that the owners of Vin de Tevis were behind the creation of this new AVA, in order to increase market awareness of their small winery. However, the Dos Rios appellation is actually the brainchild of Ralph Carter, a dedicated and passionate terroirist, who also penned the petition for the equally secluded Covelo AVA. Carter’s petition offered enough evidence to convince the TTB to grant a new AVA for Dos Rios. And a closer study of his work reveals that despite the lack of vineyard acreage in the region, the climate and soil conditions of Dos Rios are sufficiently different from other Mendocino County growing areas. Soils here are infertile, slopes are steep and the climate is a combination of maritime and continental. Carter, in his petition, describes it as a “transitional” climate, as the region would be quite warm if not for cool Pacific winds that flow through the Coastal Range via the Eel River and Middle Fork of the Eel River.
It is unlikely that this AVA will ever have the caché or attention enjoyed by most other California appellations, but for those seeking out wines with unique terroir character, it may well be worth the drive or river boat ride up to Dos Rios.
Dominated by a single winery, the McDowell Valley AVA is a tiny, high-sloping bench land that sits up to 1,000 feet above sea level. McDowell Valley Vineyards petitioned successully for appellation status in 1987. Overlooking the Russian River to the west, this little valley in southeastern Mendocino County covers only 540 acres. The region is slightly ... [>] Read More cooler than surrounding areas, creating conditions that are ideal for select varietals. McDowell Valley Vineyards specializes in Rhone red varietals like Grenache and Syrah (as well as Zinfandel), some coming from century-old vineyards. Characterful white Rhone varietals like Marsanne and Viognier complement the roster of big flavorful reds.
Adjacent to the Pacific, the lower areas of coastal Mendocino County are regularly blanketed with a cooling fog, except for the ridges. These non-contiguous peaks rise from clouds of fog, seemingly like islands, bringing uninterrupted ... [>] Read More sunshine to the scattering of tiny vineyards nestled amog Redwood and Douglas fir trees. The region covers more than a quarter-million acres of mountainous land. But only about one-third of this is above the 1,200-foot fog line, the minimum elevation at which land is included within the appellation. Of this eligible land, only a minute fraction is suitable for grape cultivation. Just 75 acres of the entire viticultural area is planted, with Zinfandel being the local specialty since the late 1800s when some of these ridge-top vineyards were first planted. The legacy of the early Italian mountain vignerons is honored today, as Mendocino Ridge is recognized for producing some of the very best, most distinctive Zin anywhere.
Located east of Mendocino's Redwood Valley, the upland Potter Valley AVA sits more than 200 feet higher than surrounding areas. The lack of population in this remote valley is only exceeded by its lack of resident wineries. The 1,000+ acres of vineyards here are utilized by producers in other, less isolated areas of the county. Great day-night temperature ... [>] Read More variations separate Potter Valley from other growing areas in Mendocino. Mid-day in this inland valley can be truly hot, but nighttime temperatures plummet. Under such conditions, varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and, increasingly, Pinot Noir flourish, developing strong but refined character. An added bonus of the Potter Valley -- resulting from the very high water table of the Eel River watershed -- is a desirable proneness to botrytis in certain vintages. This has drawn international attention to this appellation for its outstanding, albeit intermittent, botrytis Semillon and Riesling production.
Vineyards in the Redwood Valley AVA sit about 200 feet higher in elevation than those along the Russian River, further downstream in Ukiah and Hopland. Accordingly, the climate of this upland valley is slightly cooler, furthered by a gap in the coastal ridge which allows cool Pacific air currents to penetrate. These conditions lead to a gradual ... [>] Read More ripening of fruit that makes Redwood Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Barbera and Petite Sirah refined and complex. The notable red soil of the area also provides depth of color and flavor to the wines. The earliest vineyards in Mendocino County were planted here among the ancient redwoods by Italian immigrants, although this area did not gain official appellation status until 1997.
Flanking both sides of Route 128 connecting Sonoma’s Alexander Valley with Mendocino's Anderson Valley are the vineyards that comprise the Yorkville Highlands appellation. In 1998 the region was approved as an AVA, primarily because of its distinctive soils and temperatures relative to surrounding growing areas. Yorkville Highlands' rocky soils, ... [>] Read More with high-gravel content, differ from the loamy, clay soils common to neighboring appellations. These highly-porous soils allow for superior water drainage, forcing the roots of vines to dig deep for water. The result is low-vigor vines that yield concentrated fruit. Daytime temperatures here fall between those of hot Alexander Valley and cool Anderson Valley. However, at night Yorkville Highlands experiences greater cooling than either of these adjacent appellations. The moderate temperatures of the AVA are suitable for Sauvignon Blanc, and also show great promise for reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.