AVA - say what?
So we all know Napa Valley, and when we see that on a bottle we know it means something. We usually look at it in adoration and think, "maybe one day I can spend that much money on a bottle of wine." Napa Valley is special for many reasons, but in part because it is an AVA. Let's dive into what AVAs are, why they are a big deal, and then look at North Carolina's specifically.
What is an AVA? Quite literally AVA is an American Viticultural Area. It is a specific geographical area that has been designated as a superb wine growing area. They analyze the soil, weather, climate, and temperatures to see how this area of land is top notch for producing wine, and most importantly how it differs from the soil and climate of the area right outside the proposed border. The first AVA was established in 1980 and they are continually being established. You can check out the TTB website to see all the pending AVAs out there!
What's the big deal? It really does mean something if your bottle of wine contains an AVA on the label. 85% of the grapes used to make that bottle of wine have to be grown within that plot of land designated. Meaning that these grapes should be of great quality based on the terrior. Also, it is a pain in the butt to get an AVA established as you have to provide quite a bit of information to the TTB. It can take years to get a new AVA established.
North Carolina has 5 AVAs! We are moving on up, and maybe one day we can compare to California's 238 AVAs. One can dream.
Yadkin Valley: The first and most famous AVA of North Carolina! This AVA is characterized by its moderate elevation, and its proximity to the Yadkin River. All things like to be near water: cities, grapes, me... There are a TON of wineries in this region so it is hard to recommend just a few, but I must: Carolina Heritage Vineyard and Winery, Junius Lindsey Vineyard, McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks, and RayLen Vineyards and Winery.
Swan Creek: Swan Creek is a sub-AVA, which means its an AVA inside an AVA (in this case it is inside Yadkin Valley), Inception style. The key to making this a great AVA is the mineral rich soil. This is a small AVA but has some really great places to hit. We love: Raffaldini Winery, Piccione Winery, Dobbins Creek Vineyard, and Laurel Gray Vineyard.
Haw River: This area is near Greensboro and Burlington, the AVA that is the furthest east in North Carolina. A long growing season (meaning a better chance for the grapes to get ripe) is the plus of this AVA that has some warmer temperatures. We suggest: Grove Winery and SilkHope Winery.
Upper Hiwassee HIghlands: This AVA is the bottom western tip of North Carolina and is great at producing slightly sweet or very sweet wines. This is a new AVA and we haven't hit any in this area yet. But I will say, I'm pretty pumped to check out Calaboose Cellars.
Hopefully you will analyze your US wine labels more closely and see if you can pick out the AVA!