It took more than four crazy years of bickering, but it’s finally official: Calistoga is an American Viticultural Area, or AVA. The Tax and Trade Bureau of the Treasury Department made the electronic announcement on March 17, marking the end to years of contention.
In September, 2006, James Barrett, the owner of Chateau Montelena, who spearheaded the effort to make Calistoga an AVA, told me officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (TTB’s predecessor agency) told him the California proposal was “the least controversial one they’ve ever done” and was likely to be approved quickly.
Not! Things got muddled when a few wineries, who used the word “Calistoga” in their brand names but did not include actual grapes from Calistoga in their wines, challenged the AVA application. Things got so weird that, in 2007, the TTB stopped approving all AVA applications.
With Calistoga now an AVA, Napa Valley officially contains 15 appellations (in addition to Napa Valley itself). Still in the TTB pipeline are applications for Coombsville and Ink Grade (in the Vaca Mountains, east of Howell Mountain), and there’s talk of a Soda Canyon AVA. The Napa Valley Vintners’ Communication Director, Terry Hall, gives most of the credit for pushing Calistoga through to the area’s Congressman, Mike Thompson. “Cong. Thompson did a yeoman’s job of staying with the project over the years, and we couldn’t have come to this conclusion without his great support.”