At a glance…
Using the AVAs Directory
This page provides geographic information for Winegrape growing regions. The 6 main AVAs in California and one well known wine producing region each have links to individual AVA Encyclopedia pages that provide geographical and climate information as well as listings of other, “sub AVAs”.
What is an Appellation vs. an AVA vs. a Region?Appellation
|An Appellation is a specific wine-growing area that shares common soil and climate characteristics. They have their roots in the French wine industry and are used to identify wine from specific regions, with a similar climate and terrain. The term comes from the French Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (Controlled Designation of Origin) that describe the specific area where the wine was produced. The first such Appleation was the well known Côtes du Rhône AOC in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region of Southern France.
Appellations have very tight restrictions on the type of wine grapes that can be grown within the Appellation in order to carry the designation.
The United States does not officially use the term Appellation, but instead uses American Viticultural Areas (AVA) for areas that grow wine grapes. Although technically not identical, the terms are generally used interchangeably. AVAs are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), part of the United States Department of the Treasury. Any one growing wine grapes can petition to have an area declared an AVA. There are no restrictions on the type of wine grapes that can be grown in an AVA but in order for a wine to carry an AVA designation, at least 85% of the grapes used must come from it.
In order to be granted an AVA designation, the petioner must prove that that area has:
AVAs can be nested within other AVAs. The most famous AVA in the US, the Napa Valley is actually part of the larger North Coast AVA. The vast majority of AVAs are located on the West Coast of the US in California, Oregon and Washington.
A region is merely an area that is recognized by a large percentage of the population but carries no official designation from the TTB. California’s Central Valley is a well-known wine region that carries no AVA designation. That doesn’t stop it from producing over 20% of the wine grapes grown in California and having a number of well-known AVAs located within its borders.
Major California Wine AVAs and Regions
There are a number of smaller AVAs contained in each of these larger AVAs or regions. The details for each are provided in the page dedicated to the primary AVA.