Do No Good Wines Come from the Valley?

One of my favorite Tempranillo’s came out of Lodi. Good stuff!

AuContraire, Monsieur Piggins. I think there are plenty of bloggers out there whose opinions are very much worth reading. Maybe
not Blinky’s blog…but there are some who are. Opinions that carry greater weight w/ me than Monktown attourneys.

Eggsactly, Drew. Blinky, like many folks, pretty much dismissed Lodi out of hand. Those ships are hard to change course. But I thought it was
to Blake’s credit that he went back, tasted some other wines, and acknowledged that maybe he pulled the trigger too soon.

Maybe we should sic Blinky on Temecula & see if the same thing happens?? [snort.gif]

Sierra foothills, or lower sierra foothills may be a distinction that someone in wine may try and make, but it’s certainly not a distinction anyone would make in any general sense. If Coarsegold isn’t part of the central valley, then what is the central valley? There’s a thermal belt (Sunset Zone 9) that runs along the base of the foothills, and then another band of climate (Zone 7) before you get to 1A (Mountain - Snow). Coarsegold falls into both the 7 and 9 climate zones and there is a commonality of tree species as well, varying on the microclimes. (Interior live oaks, digger pines etc).

Even more easterly areas upper into the Sierras are somewhat synonymous with the Central Valley, arguably nearly up to Yosemite in areas like Oakhurst and Mariposa where there is more likelihood of light snow, but otherwise look quite similar to the area surrounding cities like Fresno (and their north and east areas). Central Valley is about as general of a geographic area as “Southern California”. Malibu and Riverside may have entirely different climates, but they are both in southern California. That distinction is far, far greater than Coarsegold to an area like Fresno and Madera which aren’t dramatically different in terms of climate. (maybe rain from orographic lift in some areas).

Everyone will have their own idea about where limits of the Central Valley are located. Climate is only one aspect of the distinction. I would never consider Oakhurst or Mariposa to be part of the Central Valley. Coarsegold is certainly more borderline.

Come on Tom, you know I didn’t say there were no bloggers worth reading.

A lot of Bay Area residents and Southern California residents have a strong association of Interstate 5 (or maybe even Hwy 99) with the Central Valley. The Westside and Eastside are entirely different areas. Eastside residents often have vacation homes in areas like Bass Lake, Shaver Lake and Hume Lake which are at higher elevations than the aforementioned vineyards. Residents in Coarsegold, Oakhurst, Prather, Auberry and other areas surrounding the lower Sierras / foothills may commute into areas like Fresno or may shop there (even some for groceries at times). The plant biology isn’t particularly different until you start to get into the higher elevations, but they are all the same type of seasonal grasslands with a number of different oaks (valley oak, interior live oak, blue oak) and pines (digger pines, cedars). I couldn’t imagine a geographic description of a valley not including some of the surrounding hills and slopes.

I know the distinctions between west and east sides of the Central Valley - most of my travel through the area is east-west rather than north-south. We can differ on our own definitions of the Central Valley and mine come mainly from observations of landscape topography and vegetation. No question that the lower portions of what I consider the Sierra Foothills are a transition zone, but I associate most of that area more closely with the Foothills than the Valley - YMMV.

Taylor and Ken, in my opinion, the only reason to delineate new AVA lines or create an entirely new AVA is when the region(s) exhibit screamingly obvious differences in soil/climate/elevation (thus producing unique features in wines).

I think the American AVA system is a little faulty, as some regions do not yield distinctive wine features.

The recent pursuit of creating a new AVA (La Morinda), or expanding an existing one’s boundaries (Napa Valley & Sonoma Coast), intimates that the development of AVA’s is based on value-adding a product - wine.

The problem with the former (La Morinda) is that you should not, in my opinion, seek AVA status until after an identifiable baseline of quality and general (shoot, even local) recognition of regional distinctiveness is established. The AVA follows the creation of quality regional wines, not the other way around!

The problem of the latter case (Napa Valley & Sonoma Coast) is that expanding the geographic area of an AVA can be counter-productive. I don’t feel as though it increases the value of a few corporate wine products, but threatens to “water-down” the identity, therefore the associated quality, of the AVA system at large.

Ken, your most recent post* leads me to think like this: I do not feel like it is a good idea to draw AVA lines to separate the good from the bad.

If a winery is located in a region popularly regarded as lower-tier, then it’s prerogative is to improve its own individual quality. When enough wineries elevate the standard of growing and vinifying their grapes, the AVA will be held in higher regard by the wine-drinking world.

The countless sub-appellations in certain regions (Languedoc in France, Lodi or Paso Robles in California) remain widely ignored in preference for the greater appellation name.

One thing I will give credence to from Mr Hesford’s statements in the “Mourvedre Appreciation Society” thread is, in France, you do what you do in your given appellation; one cannot change the rules because he/she doesn’t like the area’s weather/grapes/reputation/whatever.

Yes, France’s AOC (or whatever it’s called now) is somewhat antiquated, but it’s roots lie in protecting established practices and quality. In America, I believe that AVA’s are built backwards, where “AVA equals quality”, not the other way around.

Am I making any sense?

  • I concede that you (Ken Zinns) didn’t advocate for ambivalent AVA line-redrawing. Your post just made me think about it. My words reflect my personal reaction to your thoughts on AVA definitions.

Drew, I was not arguing for a new AVA by any means. I also think that an AVA designation should be considered only after it is shown that grapes from a region consistently produce quality wine, not just based on the potential for that (or in some cases, not even that much). That’s why I don’t think the new Lamorinda AVA (one word, not La Morinda - it’s a common term around there that’s a contraction of the area’s towns of Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda) should have an AVA yet, and I feel the same is true of some of the new Paso Robles AVAs, among others. But I don’t think that this is a factor in the TTB’s decision-making for new AVA creation.

Thank you, Ken.

Ok, so the vineyard I was thinking of is the Fiddletown vineyard which appears to be in the town of Fiddletown - Amador County, not Lodi. My geography may suck but I recall it was some good juice.

Average GDD (growing degree days) March thru September:

Bakersfield: 4,938
Fresno: 4,795
Modesto: 4,415
Stockton: 3,889
Lodi: 3,762
Sacramento: 3,715
Chico: 3,902
Redding: 4,321

Looks like the Stockton-Lodi-Sacramento area is definitely cooler than the rest of the valley, but still higher than any of the coastal growing regions.

For Comparison:

Sutter Hill (Amador): 3,603
St Helena: 3,349
Healdsburg: 3,412
Santa Rosa: 2,813
Paso Robles: 3,165

Yup, Bruce…some pretty profound Zins have come out of Fiddletown…mostly from the (very) old
ChetEschen vnyd. Just to the East of the ShenandoahVlly and a bit higher in elevation and a bit cooler.
FaD was making Fiddletown Zin because of ScottHarvey’s connection to the area. I suspect that FaD, under
Trinchero/SutterHome ownership, no longer makes Fiddletown Zin…grapes probably too good for them to use.

Which town in Paso?

The Paso Robles weather station is just East of 101 at 13th and Paso Robles St. A station further East at the airport gives 3,388 GDD. These numbers are surprisingly low, but it’s because night time temps drop so low, the average daily temp swing during the summer is around 40°F.

An older and a newer article on the Grape Variety Trials taking place in the Central Valley of California:

From Wines and Vines, 2009:

From Western Farm Press, August, 2016:

Sorry I’m late to respond Ken, but based on his writing, I think not. Anyway he told me to stop reading his blog so I’m just following his wishes and spreading the recommendation to others.


"“Still, some of the reds holding out promise in early studies include Teroldego clones, Triplett, Charbono clones, Sagrantino, Bonarda, Segalin, Morrastel, Marselan, Graciano and Pinotage. Those in bold appear to yield more than 10 tons per acre with less than 10 percent rot.”

…“Wine-quality white varieties include: Fiano, Petit Manseng, Malvasia Bianca, Arinto, Erbaluce, Alvarinho, Biancu Gentile, Moscato Giallo, Falanghina, and Viozinho. Those in bold tend to yield over 10 tons per acre with less than 10 percent rot.”