AVA Glossary - Mendocino County, California

AVA Glossary - Mendocino County, California

The North Coast

California is segmented into several over-arching AVAs that can be thought of as similar to a very large GI zone. These AVAs encompass sweeping geographical and climactic similarities, while also serving a commercial purpose in permitting appellation designations to appear on a label. The North Coast AVA includes the counties of Mendocino (detailed below), Sonoma, Napa, Marin, San Francisco, Lake, and Solano. It covers over 8,000 square kilometres and over 50 different AVAs including Napa Valley, and North America’s smallest AVA – Cole Ranch – a single-producer AVA that’s home to just 24 hectares of vines.

Mendocino County

Mendocino county sits directly north of Sonoma. It is one of California’s most aesthetically striking areas, with dense forests cloaking low-lying mountains. The Mendocino AVA has stricter boundaries than the county itself, and is located at the confluence of the Navarro and Russian Rivers. Established in 1984, the AVA covers 111,369 hectares of land and holds a number of sub-AVAs within its borders.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive across the region with notable examples of traditional method sparkling wine bottled by the likes of William Selyem and Littorai. Syrah, Zinfandel, and Carignan find success in the warmer AVAs further inland. Cabernet Sauvignon has some commercial appeal here due to easier access to water as compared to Napa or Sonoma.

Mendocino Ridge

Located in the highlands of the Coastal Range, Mendocino Ridge is a non-contiguous AVA where only vineyards that lie at least 150 metres in elevation may use the appellation on their labels.

Anderson Valley

A cool climate region in Mendocino County, this AVA lies on the western slope of the Coastal Mountain range, 90 kilometres north of San Francisco and just 16 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean. The Anderson Valley AVA was established in 1983 and has just under 1000 hectares under vine. It’s 16 kilometres end to end and under two kilometres wide, but elevation ranges between 240 metres and 400 metres. The coastal edge – where most of the vineyards are located – is influenced by cool winds and fog from the coast.

The valley is closely framed by steep hills with only a couple of patches of land that might pass for valley floor; the vast majority of the vineyards are located on the south-facing slopes. Beyond the valley, the area is surrounded by forests of Douglas Fir and California Redwoods.

The AVA is prone to wide temperature ranges, with the average yearly temperature coming in at less than 15 degrees Celsius – cementing it as one of the coolest cool climate wine regions of California. Louis Roederer bases US operations in this AVA, likening the weather conditions to that of its home in north-eastern France. The Anderson Valley is well known for making premium sparkling and still wines using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as some aromatic whites like Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

Other Mendocino AVAs

Potter Valley, McDowell Valley, Redwood Valley, Dos Rios, Covelo, Cole Ranch, and Eagle Peak are all official AVAs, some of which are as old as 1981, and the youngest established in 2014. All are east of Highway 101 on the inland side of Mendocino County. Some of these AVAs can support Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, similar to the more inland AVAs of Sonoma like the Russian River Valley, while others are extremely well suited to produce moderate, savoury styles of Syrah, Carignan and Zinfandel. A smattering of ancient vines exist, going back to 1910.

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