Daily Archives: October 9, 2014

Paso Robles Splits Up

Last year, several dozen wine grape producers and owners of nearly a third of the land, applied to split up the huge 33,000 acre Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA) into 11 smaller viticultural regions. This was done in an effort to describe each sub-appellation as separate and different areas. Now the United States Department of the Treasury has ruled that the new districts can designate using the new sub-appellations.

Better describe uniqueness

The smaller appellations will still remain under the 31 year-old Paso Robles AVA umbrella, but now they can explain and depict their vines more precisely. With over 300 wineries, the 11 sub-districts represent diverse terroir and micro-climates that give Paso Robles such a big advantage creating unique wines.

This concept of dividing the large Paso AVA was tried seven years ago when the Westside proposed a Salinas River split, but the plan was withdrawn a couple years later. Yet at that time, the first proposal to split the area into 11 separate AVAs began.

Winemakers can now designate their wines with the smaller sub-regional description to more aptly show consumers where exactly the grapes came from. The area is complex with some temperatures ranging 20 degrees just within the Paso Robles AVA. Also, winds have variations in them, the soils change dramatically and even diurnals can be very different.

Diverse region

Christian Lazo Wines helped Venture Vineyards quite a bit in the early going.

The region is as diverse as any AVA … maybe in the world.

The region is huge enveloping roughly half of northern San Luis Obispo County. Stretching from San Miguel in the north to Santa Margarita in the south and from Adelaida in the west to Shandon in the east, the Paso Robles AVA is mammoth .

Consider the relatively arid districts in the east with the wineries up in the much cooler Coastal Range to the west, gives just a peak as to the varied conditions weather-wise that the region offers. Compare those with more moderate climes in the south, brings the story home as to why the vintners and grape growers felt compelled to split the region up.

The 11 districts are:

  • Adelaida District
  • Creston District
  • El Pomar District
  • Paso Robles Estrella District
  • Paso Robles Geneseo District
  • Paso Robles Highlands District
  • Paso Robles Willow Creek District
  • San Juan Creek
  • San Miguel District
  • Santa Margarita Ranch
  • Templeton Gap District

These new identities will be official in November. It should be noted that while the wineries can use the latest sub-AVA, they must also have Paso Robles AVA on their label as well. Check out the Paso Man video below for a little, um, well, clarity.


Daryle W. Hier




Drought Slows Wine Production, Not Quality

The 2014 California wine grape production at the start of the growing season had all the markings of a third-in-a-row huge haul for the industry. However, weather and the man above had other plans for this years harvest. And it’s not all bad.

It might not look pretty but the grapes from these vines are scrumptious.

No record third year

So many winemakers and growers told yours truly over and over again this year that they would be holding on to their extra barrels because they could see another big grape growing season. A timely spring rain helped this notion along and the industry was ready for a repeat of 2012 and 2013 – especially considering the warmer than normal spring here in California.

Still, drought, helped along by local, state and federal government over-bearing and over-regulated intervention, created a lack of water. This in-turn didn’t offer up the needed ingredient to push clusters to grow big and plump.

Tonnage appears off this year so far during harvest but the one thing that has improved is quality of fruit. The grapes are smaller, but aided in part by cooler windy weather just when vintners were ready to pick what was ready to be an extremely early harvest – and voila, the grapes had time to ripened longer on the vine, maturing into what is a high quality product. It should be noted that some wineries here on the Central Coast have reported good yields.

2014’s vintage may be one of the better years in recent memory. Several winemakers have told me that although their production is off by as much as a third, the current quality of grapes hearkens back nearly a decade ago.


What happens when the berries don’t have the usual water, they become smaller with a more concentrated flavor that usually offers up a sweeter and more powerful wine. This is good news for vintners who are sitting on quite a bit of wine right now. With this vintage being a higher quality, but lesser volume, it won’t cramp wineries with little room for this years crop; yet, creates a superior wine with better aroma and taste.

Crops are continuing to be picked and with harvest being earlier than normal this year, most of the grapes are in, destemmed and crushed. It remains to be seen how much total tonnage there will be in California – at the very least, farmers can be satisfied that 2014’s vintage will be one to remember.


Daryle W. Hier