Wine Appellations


Written by:

Joe Becerra

Last updated:

Russian River Valley
Russian River Valley AVA – American Viticultural Area

Wine Appellations or AVA’s in California Wine Country

California wine country consists of many specific wine-growing regions. These wine-growing regions are AVAs or American Viticultural Areas. What is a wine appellation or what we call in the U.S. AVA’s? 

What is a Wine Appellations or American Viticultural Area?

  • Instead of Appellations, the United States uses the term American Viticultural Areas or AVA for short.
  • AVAs are “official” grape growing regions that have been designated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
  • When an AVA is on the wine bottle’s label, 85% of that wine must come from the AVA.
  • AVAs are geographic locations that have a particular climate, soil, and elevation.  These geographic factors influence a vine’s characteristics.
  • To use an example, the Rockpile AVA in northern Sonoma Country has a unique climate and elevation factor.
  • Just because the wine comes from a specific AVA does not indicate anything about the quality of the wine.
  • Any region in the United States can apply to become an AVA.
  • There can be sub-AVAs which means there can be several AVA’s designated within a larger AVA area. Example: The Napa Valley is an AVA, but there are smaller areas located within the Napa Valley that have an AVA. The Rutherford AVA is a small geographic area located within the Napa AVA. Can you identify all the AVAs of the Napa Valley? Here is a list of the 16 Napa Valley AVAs
  • Since an AVA is based on geographic regions, about all you can tell is what varietals are suited for growing in a particular AVA. Read, study, and taste wine. Don’t rely solely on the fact that wine comes from a certain AVA. Rely on your knowledge and tasting experience.
  • For more information on American Viticultural Areas: The Wine Institute

Explore AVA in California’s 14 Wine Regions


What is a wine appellation
The Carneros AVA – a cool climate that is perfect for Pinot Noir
  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.