by Fred McMillin
The system of American Viticultural Areas (AVA) is in every sense of the word rudimentary. Any AVA may grow any grape variety using any training method to produce any crop level.
...Bob Thompson, Wine Atlas of California
In preparing this atlas I have become wiser and sadder about the inconsistencies and sheer irrationalities of the AVA system.
...James Halliday, Wine Atlas of California
The Rest of the Story
Obviously, the federal AVA system is not drawing rave reviews. Yet, the sub-AVAs are on a higher plateau. First, what are they? The federal Bureau of Alcohol,,Tobacco and Firearms (why not the Dept. Of Agriculture?) recognizes these areas as sources of wine grapes:
The principal town of Howell Mountain is Angwin, just north of St. Helena. The 200 or so acres of vineyards are about l,,800 feet high. Bob Thompson notes that while Zin, Cab and Chardonnay do well on the mountain, there are now "substantial plantings of Merlot in the red earth of the district."
One of the very best of those plantings is on the Bancroft Ranch...infertile, volcanic soil...cooler than the valley floor, so harvest time is later (longer growing season = richer flavors) ... Beringer Wynemaker Ed Sbragia feels it yields a near perfect Merlot, as do my tasters. They gave this wine a stratospheric EXCELLENT PLUS.
The Howell Mountain town of Angwin was named about 1874 after a local resort proprietor Edwin Angwin. "Today it is settled almost exclusively by Seventh Day Adventist Teetotallers!" ...Bob Thompson.
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