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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Crossing the Border Guards

Wine appellations fascinate me because my of my interest and background in geography. I often feel like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding because I think almost everything has its roots in geography (I mean, describing the phenomena of the Earth is what geography is...). In particular, American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs for short, really intrigue me. Not because they are great in and of themselves, but that they reveal the cultural and political aspects of wine appellations more readily than those in Europe. And yes, culture and politics are just as geographical at heart as soil and climate.


Colorado has two AVAs. The Grand Valley AVA was designated in 1990 and the West Elks AVA was created in 2001. I've suggested to come local producers that Colorado should look at creating a few more. I think AVA creation can help consumers identify types of wines they appreciate and also give regions a media presence they may not have enjoyed in the past. The addition of nested appellations in Paso Robles sure gained a lot of attention. I don't like the term sub-AVA but prefer nested because it does not imply some sort of innate hierarchy. Even Idaho has gotten into the mix by proposing two new AVAs to join the Snake River Valley AVA. I think Colorado could add a few new AVAs, as well as better define the Grand Valley with a couple of nested AVAs.

What also fascinates me about AVAs is that they are not static creatures. A few years ago, the Russian River AVA was expanded due to lobbying by Gallo. Currently, there is a proposal to extend the eastern boundary of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in California. Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe Vineyards recently posted his letter to the TTB (the federal organization that oversees AVAs) in opposition of the proposed expansion on Wineberskers.com. He also posted a link to this excellent video that examines the issue:



I don't know what the outcome of the proposal will be (public comments are now closed), but I know this proposal won't be the last of its kind. The funny thing with drawing borders is that someone is always left out. No one likes to be left standing on the sideline when teams have been chosen.

Watching this video made me realize that I have very little experience with Sta. Rita Hills AVA wines. I know that the Santa Rita Hills AVA was created in 2001, but renamed Sta. Rita Hills AVA in 2006 because of a protest by a large Chilean producer with a similar name. I also know that it is located in Santa Barbara County and most known for pinot noir production. Other than that, I know very little about the region.

Looking through Delectable, I realized that I've recently consumed various bottlings from Kessler-Haak that came from Sta. Rita Hills that I've enjoyed quite a lot. As a side note, I purchased those Kessler-Haak wines through WineBerserkers' BerserkerDay. Each January, the forum members are offered killer deals on a plethora of interesting wines. I suggest that you (consumers and wineries) look into participating; it is a good way to find new wines (and highly engaged consumers).

However, each time I opened one of those KH wines, I was not specifically thinking about the AVA. So, a few days ago after reading Wes Hagen's letter, I went into my cellar and found a sample of Alma Rosa Pinot Noir. Alma Rosa was established by Richard Sanford in 2005 after he was bought out of his namesake Sanford Winery. Sanford was one of the founding members of the wine industry in the central coast of California, co-founding Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1971. He also was the narrator of the above video. Sanford sold (through bankruptcy filings) Alma Rosa earlier this year, but he remains the winemaker and face of the brand.

Alma Rosa 2012 Pinot Noir

I quite enjoyed this bottle. It was reminiscent of Bing cherries and strawberry jam, but with a strong presence of damp forest floor, sweet beets and a mild black tea. The earthiness was quite substantial at the beginning, but over the course of the evening it faded and pure fruit stepped up to the front. I also loved how the wine was bottled with a screw cap. I know that this type of enclosure still gets a bum rap, but I wish more wineries would make the move to screw caps. They are easy to open, easy to reseal a bottle, and remove almost all of the risk of having a corked wine. 14.9% abv. sample $35. Very Good

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