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by Patricia M. Roth | April 12, 2013 | 7:00 AM

Writer/wine consultant and sommelier Christopher Sawyer is writing a special series for Wine Business Monthly called "The California Appellation Series 1983-2013." In these, he follows the birth of California's unique appellations and the accomplishments made in these wine-growing regions over the past 30 years. I wanted to know the story behind the stories, so I asked Chris about the process of writing these pieces and what he has learned along the way. He shares his thoughts below: 

"To me, this is California’s version of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a journey that includes solving mysteries of who were the main players involved in the writing of the original documents submitted to the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms in the early 1980s. It’s about exploring the unique soils, climate conditions and rich history that set these regions apart from other appellations. And in the end, it’s about finding the treasure troves of finished wines that have helped put these appellations on the world wine map to stay.

"The research for the articles include visits to each appellation; hundreds of hours of taped interviews with the influential people who made these appellations become a reality; and solving more mysteries with the help of winery associations from each region, the Wine Institute, and University of California Davis.

"In each case, it’s become clear that the use of innovative technology has gone hand-in-hand with the success of the particular AVA over the last 30 years. Other hot topics of conversation are focused on new varietals planted in the region, clonal research, rootstocks, row direction, canopy management, irrigation, and new techniques used in the
cellar to highlight the unique flavor profiles, regional characteristics, and other delicious attributes that make the appellations granted in 1983 so special."

Wine Business Monthly featured the Paso Robles AVA in March and the North Coast AVA in April. Next month, Christopher focuses on the Russian River Valley appellation. Here's a sneak preview; the story begins:

When TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards named Sonoma County as the nation’s top wine destination in October 2012, it wasn’t a surprise to local residents who have seen the popularity of prized wines from the region spread like wildfire over the past decade.

One of the appellations that helped build this momentum is the Russian River Valley, which is located between Healdsburg and Forestville in the north, Occidental and Sebastopol in the west, Cotati to the south and the Mayacamas Mountain range in the east. This agricultural zone is known for its relatively cool temperature, intrusive coastal fog, unique soils, diverse terrain and long growing season—typically 115 to 120 days from fruit set to harvest.

You can access the digital edition of the May issue on May 1, or the magazine will arrive on your doorstep shortly thereafter.

To read previous articles:

The California Appellation Series 1983-2013: Paso Robles

The California Appellation Series 1983-2013: North Coast

Upcoming schedule:

June: Carneros
July: Arroyo Seco/Carmel Valley
August: Anderson Valley
Sept: El Dorado
Oct: Dry Creek Valley
Nov: Santa Ynez Valley
Dec: Howell Mountain

As always, we love hearing from our readers. Do you have any thoughts or experiences related to the appellation where you grow grapes or make wine? 

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