11 New Paso Robles AVAs to be approved by TTB tomorrow

Just saw that the TTB is formally approving the 11 new AVAs within the existing Paso Robles AVA:
TTB Establishes 11 New Viticultural Areas Within the Paso Robles Viticultural Area

There’s a map of the new AVAs on the Tablas Creek website from a blog post about a year ago: Paso Robles Proposed AVA Map

Seems similar to what Lodi did a few years ago, and I still don’t have a handle on all their new AVAs. I can see the positives and negatives to these new AVAs - some vineyards and wineries will take advantage of the potential marketing opportunities and some will not. I suspect this will confuse people more than anything, at least in the short term - what do other people here think about this?

That’s exactly what I think, and not just in the short term.

They just made a mockery of the area.

Glad to see this come to fruition.

Creating sub-AVAs is an important part of distinguishing some of the premier sites in the region. Far and away, the Adelaida and Willow Creek districts produce the greatest proportion of quality wine in the region. This should play a critical part in protecting the branding of numerous Paso Robles producers and differentiating the Robert Halls, J. Lohr and Estancia from some of the quality, smaller producers who have recently gotten into distribution. Beyond that, there’s a substantial different in terms of climate and topography around Paso Robles.

From Tablas Creek’s Blog:

"…Average rainfall varies from more than 30 inches a year in extreme western sections (like where Tablas Creek is) to less than 10 inches in areas farther east. Elevations range from 700 feet to more than 2400 feet. Soils differ dramatically in different parts of the AVA, from the highly calcareous hills out near us to sand, loam and alluvial soils in the Estrella River basin. The warmest parts of the AVA accumulate roughly 20% more heat (measured by growing degree degree days) than the coolest; the average year-to-date degree days in the Templeton Gap since 1997 is 2498, while in Shandon far out east it’s 2956. This difference in temperatures is enough to make the cooler parts of the AVA a Winkler Region II in the commonly used scale of heat summation developed at UC Davis, while the warmest sections are a Winkler Region IV. This is the equivalent difference between regions like Bordeaux or Alsace (both Winkler II areas) and Jumilla or Priorat (both Winkler IV areas).

[A quick aside. The southern Rhone is classified as a Winkler III region… and the fact that our proposed Adelaida District is a transitional Winkler II/III jibes with our experience that the same grapes ripen here slightly later than they do at Beaucastel.]"

This will probably be like Lodi: no one will use them

Will it make the wine taste better? If not, why should I care?

If you find a certain granularly delimited region that makes wine consistently in a style that you like the appellation can help you find wine that tastes better to you. So in a way yes?

Because it might cost you more money. :astonished:

For the last 6-7 or so years that I’ve been visiting Paso Robles it has been distinguished between west side and east side (of the 101). This is one of the most basic distinctions of the Paso Robles AVA and has been informally used for as long as I’ve been tasting the wines. The sub-AVAs are a better articulated and more scientifically backed expression of some of that east-west divide.

Besides - I’m not sure those who haven’t visited the region understand the dramatic topography. The elevation between some areas in the Adelaida District and the Estrella District are similar to those of the Rutherford to Howell Mountain. The top of La Vista Vineyard for example is 2000 feet above sea level. That’s higher than many of Dunn Vineyards plantings.

See the contours / topography here. (Apologies - the image I created exceeds 1024 pixels).


I say, Temecula is next -

Taylor, I’ve been visiting Paso Robles to taste wine there for over 20 years, and while I certainly understand the distinction between some of the new AVAs, I have little idea about the distinction between others. To those who have less experience with Paso wines, most of these AVA distinctions will be utterly meaningless. That’s certainly not to say there aren’t legitimate climate and soil distinctions, but I think that few wine drinkers know or care much beyond “Eastside - Westside” at this point (and I realize very well that “Eastside - Westside” is an overly simplistic way to look at Paso).

I alsolutely think that there is a need to distinguish some parts of the large and diverse Paso AVA from each other, but I don’t know that splitting it into so many parts was a wise idea. Why not just distinguish those specific areas that are producing fruit that is widely recognized as being superior quality? The finer distinctions of all 11 new AVAs may mean a lot to some in the local Paso wine community but mean little to those outside of it. I do think that given time this will change to some extent, but I also suspect that we’ll never see more than a few of the 11 new AVAs ever listed on wine labels. Is there really any marketing advantage to labeling a wine as “San Juan Creek - Paso Robles”?

I’d rather listen to the opinions of others than hope that just because the grapes are from the same neighborhood the vines are trained and pruned the same, the grapes are picked at the same level of ripeness, and the winemaker uses exactly the same technique.

Makes sense.

Ken, I think the answer is that it’s political. Dividing eastside or westside is not a particularly palatable idea for those in the east who have played an important part of developing Paso Robles and its related organizations. Consequently, any sub AVAs would likely have to be based on a substantial objective/scientific basis to be viable. If that entails there’s 4 sub AVAs or 13 sub AVAs then that’s up to the science to bear out. I don’t think that 11 is arbitrary but is rather the conclusion reached upon the objective evidence - any less and that would suggest political machinations that many are trying to avoid.

Besides, with AVAs not having some type of stylistic or varietal constraints like those in other countries what’s the reason for any Sub AVAs at all? I think you could make a greater case for some of the Paso Robles sub-AVAs than those in Napa (and before that creates a firestorm, let me clarify that there’s plenty of distinct Sub AVAs in Napa). Eleven certainly seems excessive but there’s at least 5 with significant distinction. If the other 6 amount to little else than words on the TTB policy I imagine it was still well worth it.

I don’t dispute any of what you say, Taylor, and I know that creating “sub-AVAs” in Paso has been a difficult path. I know that a simple Eastside - Westside approach is neither realistic nor appropriate. But I have to say I prefer the path taken in Santa Barbara County, where regions that have shown themselves deserving of special notice have had AVAs created one at a time once they’ve displayed their distinction: Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon, Ballard Canyon. Those with even a modest interest in Santa Barbara County wines know these regions well and know how they differ from other nearby growing areas. But even after 20+ years of following Paso Robles wines, I have no idea of what distinguishes the wines sourced from Geneseo vs. Estella fruit or Creston vs. Paso Robles Highlands. Maybe the politics of wine in Paso Robles has made it difficult/impossible to take the Santa Barbara approach - in my opinion, that’s unfortunate.

Well, Jay…it’s probably a good thing to know where the grapes actually come from more accurately.
If the grapes for a Cabernet come from ToKalon…probably you’d care.

There’s an interesting discussion (to me, anyway) on the subject of sub-AVA’s on CharlieOlkens blog:

Like Ken points out on all the Lodi sub-AVA’s, they can be a little confusing and not always used.
We’ll see how it goes for Paso.

Is this how people see Paso Robles? I ask not because I’m intending to be confrontational, but I’m surprised by some individual’s reactions. With no disrespect to Lodi, Paso Robles is not Lodi. I personally believe that many producers in the region will immediately use the sub-AVAs. Those in the Willow Creek, Adelaida and Templeton Gap districts will certainly use it. It’s very likely that those in the Santa Margarita Ranch area will use it sooner than later as well due to their distance from the City of Paso Robles.

Paso Robles is a large AVA. Unless that AVA map was to be revised and many areas excluded from the AVA, then sub-AVAs are the more reasonable approach. My guess is that many wineries who have historically been producing under the Paso Robles label would prefer to continue to do so rather than be re-labeled exclusively under another name (without reference to Paso Robles) or be limited to a “Central Coast” AVA distinction. Sub-AVAs allow that.

The problem with sub-AVAs isn’t that there are no soil or climate differences within such large AVAs as Paso, or the Willamette Valley for example.

The problem with AVAs is that customers largely don’t care.

Actually Taylor - that was meant tongue in cheek. I guess my biggest issue is where does it stop. I am a big fan of Paso Robles wines, and feel that they produce some very serious Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel. But there is no way that I would be able to tell the difference between AVA’s. Especially when the fruit is being picked at such high sugar levels. I remember the West Side - East Side arguments, but never really got it. So yes, I think these new AVAs are a triumph for the people who own land in each AVA, but just more confusion for the consumers.

I seriously believe that Amador County has much more varied soils and terroirs than Paso Robles for example, should we break up that region the same way?

And I seriously believe that every vine in Temecula should be torn out and replanted with Sauvignon Blanc. I still have dreams of the incredible Sauvignon Blancs that Callaway used to make in the late 70s, early 80s.