New winegrowing region established in Lake County: Long Valley

Long Valley is set to become the latest American Viticultural Area in Lake County early next month. In establishing the new 12-square-mile appellation northeast of Clear Lake, federal regulators also expanded the boundaries of the North Coast grape-origin region as well those of the High Valley appellation.|

Lake County now has its 10th appellation, and the North Coast winegrowing area got a little bigger to take in the nearly 12-square-mile new area.

The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau on July 5 published its final rule establishing the 7,605-acre Long Valley–Lake County American Viticultural Area. Because the new appellation’s western boundaries wouldn’t abut the existing 14,000-acre High Valley AVA, the latter’s eastern boundary is expanded by 1,542 to create no gap. And because the edges of the large North Coast AVA had encompassed only three-quarters of High Valley and one-third of Long Valley, the North Coast appellation is expanded by 23,690 acres.

The rule becomes effective Aug. 4.

Two key advocates behind the Long Valley petition were Don Van Pelt of Cache Creek Vineyards and Clay Shannon of Shannon Family of Wines. The area currently has five commercially producing vineyards covering about 149 acres as well as three bonded wineries, according to the agency document.

Shannon Family of Wines has that amount of vineyard acreage in Long Valley, according to Joy Merrilees, director of winemaking.

“It’s a very long, skinny ravine with a gravelly floor bottom,” she said about the new appellation. “We’ve been growing grapes out there quite a while.”

There are less than 300 American Viticultural Areas nationwide and about 150 in California, according to the bureau. They are designated when it can be demonstrated that an area has a unique history and physical characteristics that could distinguish the grapes grown there.

Federal rules say that wines can use an area name on the front label only when at least three-quarters of the fruit used comes from that area. These designations are intended to provide consumers with accurate information on the origin of wines.

The most recent Lake County appellation approved was Upper Lake Valley in June 2022. A proposal is pending to expand the county’s Red Hills appellation.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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