Occasionally in the Tasting Room I find myself using a term or two that could probably use some definition. We have so many industry-unique words and abbreviations that sometimes I forget not everyone has the same level of understanding of those words.
I’ve focused on two terms below that come up daily in our discussions with winery guests.
The first is AVA, which stands for “American Viticulture Area”.
American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) are federally recognized and designated grape growing regions that are able to demonstrate distinctive growing conditions that are not present in neighboring regions. While AVA’s can be defined by county or state boundaries, they must demonstrate their ability to influence grapes produced in the designated area by differences in climate and soil. The boundaries of AVAs are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury.
Surprisingly, the first AVA in the United States was the Augusta AVA surrounding the area around the town of Augusta, Missouri, gaining the status on June 20th, 1980. Napa Valley was second 8 months later, which was granted its approval on February 27th, 1981.
As of June 2018, there were 242 AVAs in the United States. California has the highest number of AVA’s with 139. Talley owns vineyards in two AVAs –
“Arroyo Grande Valley AVA”: Rincon (including East Rincon), Rosemary’s, Monte Sereno, and Las Ventanas; and,
“Edna Valley AVA”: Stone Corral and Oliver’s.
“Estate Bottled” wines
Talley’s “Estate Bottled” Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are two of our most popular wines. But what makes them “Estate”? According to Tax & Trade Bureau regulations, “Estate Bottled” means that 100% of the wine came from grapes grown on land owned or controlled by the winery (even if they're actually owned by someone else) which must be located in a viticultural area.
The wine is made entirely on the winery's property—it doesn't ever leave the property during fermentation, aging, or bottling, so the winery must crush and ferment the grapes and finish, age, and bottle the wine in a continuous process on their premises. The winery and vineyards don't have to be contiguous, but they have to be located in the same viticultural area.
So, for Talley, our 2016 Estate Chardonnay comes from all four of our vineyards in the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA, and our 2016 Estate Pinot Noir comes from two of our vineyards in the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA - Rincon and Rosemary’s, and all of our processing is in the same AVA, thus making them both truly “Estate Bottled” wines!
If we use any terms in the tasting room that you have a question on please ask, and we’d be happy to define them for you!
(Several references were used for this blog, including – Amanda Ashley in “Winefrog”, “Wikipedia”, “Wine Spectator” and documents from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau.)