New California AVA Approved

Fort Ross-Seaview gets the Federal greenlight.


After 10 years of disputes, the Federal government has approved the Fort Ross-Seaview American Viticultural Area. The new AVA, at 27,500 acres, was carved out of the 480,000-acre Sonoma Coast AVA, which has been criticized as too big since its approval in 1987—it actually extends as far inland as the Napa Valley border. Fort Ross-Seaview is unofficially part of the “true Sonoma Coast,” which lies above the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.

The petitioners made the case that the terroir of Fort Ross-Seaview is distinct from the greater AVA in that much of the area is mountainous, placing it above the fogline that shrouds much of the remainder of the Sonoma Coast appellation. At the same time, nighttime temperatures fall away rapidly due to the elevation.

“We began getting together as a group in 1999, preparing a petition,” says Linda Schwartz, president of Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery, referring to their campaign for a carve-out of the greater Sonoma Coast AVA. “But there was huge infighting about boundaries, who was in and who was out, and also what the new AVA would be called.”

In 2003, vintner David Hirsch presented a formal petition calling for AVA approval; the new AVA takes legal effect on January 13, 2012.

Despite the government’s approval, though, it’s not clear that vintners will embrace the new name. “I’m not sure we’ll be changing to the new appellation on our labels, primarily because it’s not known,” says Bob Cabral, winemaker at Williams Selyem, who purchases fruit from the Hirsch, Precious Mountain and Peay vineyards, all of which are included in the new AVA. “People know the Sonoma Coast appellation far better than this new one,” he says, adding, “I just think it might confuse the consumer.”

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Reader Comments:
Dec 15, 2011 02:12 pm
 Posted by  Linda @ Fort Ross Vineyard

When a new AVA is launched, its newness initially might confuse consumers until the respected media can explain to their followers the reasons why the area is worthy of being defined as an AVA. With this additional knowledge wine buyers can make educated decisions about a bottle of wine based on its vineyard of origin as wines from each viticultural area have much in common with each other. The mountainous Fort Ross-Seaview AVA has very limited planted acreage and the yields are very low. Few wineries will produce wine made from grapes that are grown exclusively from this AVA so the added knowledge of this particular AVA will tell the consumer a great deal about what is in the bottle.
Linda Schwartz
Fort Ross Vineyard
Meyers Grade
Fort Ross, CA

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