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Adelaida District AVA Appearing on Paso Robles' Wine Labels

Posted on June 24, 2015

 Adelaida District, the newly recognized wine appellation, is beginning to appear on Paso Robles wine labels with several new wine releases. Brands adopting the new American Viticulture Area (AVA) designation include: Adelaida Cellars, Alta Colina, Halter Ranch, Tablas Creek and Thacher, to name a few. Last fall, the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the government office that oversees alcohol labeling, approved the use of 11 new AVAs in Paso Robles. Per conjunctive labeling laws, the new AVAs must be used together with the Paso Robles AVA on the label. This marks the start of a movement that will continue as the region evolves and wineries begin to use the respective appellations on their labels.

The Adelaida District, nestled in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range west of Paso Robles, has roughly 25 wineries within its boundary. As the most mountainous AVA within Paso Robles, elevations range from 900 to 2200 feet. The region receives approximately 25 inches of rain annually, (during non-drought years) and is considered a cool climate area with a modest maritime influence. Soils are largely calcareous and include bedrock residual soils, patchy colluvial hillside soils and limestone.

More than 100 years ago Adelaida was a thriving community, when mining and farming were the main industries. Adelaida had commerce, churches, a dance hall, a schoolhouse and nearly 1,000 residents. After the railroad was established in 1886 and industry flourished in Paso Robles in the early 1900s, the community slowly declined. When the Paso Robles AVA committee was putting together the proposed names to be used for the appellations, Adelaida District was the obvious choice due to its historical significance.

Adelaida Cellars shares the Adelaida name with the new appellation. Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, owner of Adelaida Cellars signed off on the original committee’s intent to name the appellation after the once-booming township. Van Steenwyk thought it over and decided it would be best for the appellation to use the Adelaida name. “We knew that historically it was so important to the region, and for people to understand where Adelaida is located,” Van Steenwyk said. “The fact that our winery shares the same name doesn’t hurt either!” The 2013 HMR Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Adelaida Cellars are their first wines to showcase the new Adelaida District AVA.

Most winemakers feel the 11 new appellations help further define the distinct features of the larger Paso Robles appellation, which covers over 600,000 acres and has over 32,000 planted acres of grapes. Before the ruling, Paso Robles was the largest un-subdivided AVA in California. Of all of the new 11 appellations, the wineries in the Adelaida District appear to have quickly embraced the designation by placing the name on their new releases.

“Using the Adelaida District appellation on the label of our new releases is just another way to demonstrate place with wine,” said Kevin Sass, winemaker for Halter Ranch Vineyard. “Wines are about where they’re grown and if we can educate customers about where in Paso Robles they come from, that’s one more step in telling a story.” The newly released 2014 Halter Ranch Grenache Blanc and Rosé are their first wines to showcase the new appellation.

In addition to the new Adelaida District AVA, the Paso Robles appellation must also appear on wine labels. Conjunctive labeling was passed for the Paso Robles AVA in 2007 before the 11 new AVAs were in place. The font size of the sub appellation cannot be larger than the Paso Robles font, giving precedence to the original, and larger AVA. This will keep focus on the Paso Robles wine region, while still delineating the smaller AVAs. The use of the 11 AVAs is not required on new labels, and the majority of Paso Robles wines have not begun using them. Wine professionals from the region note that it will take years for the general wine buying public to become familiar with the individual appellations.

“We will use the Adelaida District name on all of our wines moving forward,” stated Bob Tillman, owner of Alta Colina Vineyard. “Being 100% estate, we want customers to know exactly where our vineyard sits. It’s part of who we are.” Bob and his wife Lynn purchased the 130-acre property in 2003 and planted it exclusively to Rhône varietals. They recently opened a tasting room and winery on Adelaida Road, and have embraced noting their wines are 100% Adelaida District. Alta Colina’s inaugural wine with the new appellation is their 2013 Claudia’s Cuvée Estate Marsanne.

The Paso Robles AVA committee worked together to research the distinct areas of the Paso Robles appellation, which became officially recognized in 1983. The committee hired noted geologists to study the distinct microclimates and factors in the region, including rainfall, elevation and soil types. They wrote the application for all 11 AVAs together in an effort to have them approved as a group. The initial application was submitted in 2007, but stalled after the TTB put a hold on approving new appellations. After reopening the application and taking written public comment, the 11 new AVAs were approved by the TTB in November 2014.

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