A Closer Look at the New AVAs Proposed in Paso Robles
Several new sub-AVAs will soon be proposed within the large Paso Robles wine region. But as AVAs get more and more specific, there is a real risk that all of the new names will be unrecognizable to consumers.
The Paso Robles Wine Alliance has spent a lot of money building a geographical brand around their region. Many members of the Wine Alliance argue that it does not make sense to break up this brand into smaller ones that are not familiar to consumers. The Paso Robles AVA Committee is a separate organization that is advocating the formation of smaller regions.
From a grape growing point of view, Paso Robles should be broken up. It is a very large region with a variety of microclimates and soil types. There is a big difference between the vines that are grown near the cool Templeton Gap in the west and vines planted in the much warmer eastern hills. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the many natural variations within Paso Robles.
In a recent discussion about the issue on Appellation America, Thomas J. Rice Ph.D., argued that creating a detailed topographical map of Paso Robles would be a good first step. There are several distinct watersheds in the region including Paso Robles Creek, the Upper Salinas River, Estrella River, Huerhuero River, Tablas Creek, and San Marco Creek. According to Rice, soil and climate variations should be considered as well before the final borders of the new sub-AVAs are drawn.
In the same discussion, Earl Singer countered that a better way for the diverse wineries of Paso Robles to develop a specific image would be to join smaller organizations based on grape varietals rather than geography. Thus, all Zinfandel producers would market their wines around this specific grape. This is an interesting idea, but it might undermine the whole notion of labeling wines based on specific places in California. The debate will likely continue until later the new sub-AVAs are proposed.