Paso Robles was long the largest undivided AVA in California. That changed on October 9, 2014 when the TTB approved a proposal to create 11 nested AVAs.
One can debate the commercial merits of the new AVAs. And, as it stands today, it might be hard to identify wines from one AVA or another in a blind tasting. However, it’s very clear that the greater Paso Robles AVA is too large to provide a singular sense of place.
The Paso Robles AVA offers a substantial range in heat summation (Region II, III and IV), diurnal temperature variation (20 – 50 degrees), annual rainfall (8 inches to 30) and altitude (600 – 2400). The list goes on. Each of the new, nested AVAs offers a substantially narrower range in these categories and more.
Some of the AVAs will be well known to fans of Paso Robles wines. The high-altitude and relatively cool Adelaida District is home to vineyards such as Tablas Creek, Justin and Halter Ranch. Templeton Gap District follows said wind gap from the western edge of the AVA near York Mountain AVA to an eastern edge that is well past Highway 101, a traditional but illogical dividing line. Degree days throughout put it solidly in Region II and the diurnal shift is minimal. In it you’ll find a number of prominent Rhone and Zinfandel specialists.
Another well-known Region II is Santa Margarita Ranch. Its northernmost point is farther south than the southern border of any other sub-AVA and it’s two times closer to the town of San Luis Obispo than to Paso Robles. It has always been a place unto itself.
In the end, vineyard managers and wineries decide what type of wines to make. They may allow AVA-specific characteristics to stand tall. They might prefer products that are less distinctive but more universally pleasing. What’s important is that they and consumers now have the option to choose between those options.
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