Welcome to the first new feature added to Wine Adventure Journal in 2017 – weekly wine questions submitted by followers of this blog and our social media outlets (Twitter, Instagram). Wine questions are answered each Wednesday, so please submit your questions using the form below and watch for answers (tagged #WineQuestions, #WineWednesday or #WW).
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Let’s get on with the first of our Wine Questions Of The Week: “I recently overheard someone say that Sonoma Valley and Sonoma County are the same area, just as Napa Valley and Napa County are basically the same area. Is that true?” R.A., San Francisco
Answer: No, the comparisons are not equivalent. Napa Valley does encompass most of Napa County and the two names are often used interchangeably, but Sonoma Valley is a relatively small area within Sonoma County.
In the world of wine production, the differences are even more specific. Napa Valley is an appellation (wine grape growing region) and Sonoma Valley is a sub-appellation within the Sonoma County growing region and the North Coast and Sonoma Coast AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas). There are many AVA’s and sub-AVA’s throughout Northern California and their boundaries can be confusing, so let’s use the maps below to locate Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley and illustrate the simple differences.
The Napa Valley appellation covers most of Napa County and includes sub-appellations (AVA’s) labeled on the county map below.
Sonoma Valley is one of many sub-appellations and AVA’s shown in the Sonoma County map below (Sonoma Valley is in the southeast).
In casual California wine country conversation, wines produced anywhere in Sonoma County are commonly said to be from Sonoma County and wines produced in Napa County are assumed to be from Napa Valley. However, each AVA has unique characteristics that compel most wine producers to identify the specific sub-appellation where grapes used in their wine were grown. When it comes to Sonoma Valley wines, that means the grapes were grown specifically within the Sonoma Valley AVA*.
*Labeling requirements for “Wine Appellations Of Origin” are determined by volume and regulated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. I’m not kidding. Most of us would probably assume that everything related to wine production would be regulated by the Department of Agriculture, but that’s Washington DC for you. Follow the link for more information.
Submit your Wine Questions!
Questions may be edited for content and clarity if selected for posting.