Known for Frogs, Calaveras Seeks Recognition for Wine

There are about 900 acres of vineyards planted in California’s Calaveras County, a region perhaps best known for frogs.

If you don’t get that reference, you need to catch up on your Mark Twain reading.

But back to the grapevines…

Vineyard elevations range from 200 to 3,300 feet, and that wide range accommodates the growing of numerous winegrapes.

Among the varieties planted, in no particular order: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Barbera, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Graciano, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Pinot Grigio and Albarino.

That’s a diverse group.

And that’s why a group of local vintners and growers has petitioned the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to establish a new American Viticultural Area specifically for Calaveras County.

Presently, most of the grapes grown in the county are made into wine by local vintners, who must use the established “Sierra Foothills” AVA on their labels.

That’s fine, except some have pigeonholed the Sierra Foothills as a one-variety AVA. That variety: Zinfandel. Indeed, some of California’s oldest Zinfandel vineyards are located in the Sierra Foothills, including a handful in Calaveras County.

But given Calaveras’ diverse lineup of grape varieties, it was felt that the county deserved its own AVA and, by extension, its own reputation with the wine public.

Even the convenience of wine tasting in Calaveras County is difficult to match, as grower Jim Dalton told Wines and Vines:

“The main street of Murphys has nearly 20 tasting rooms. A visitor can come into town, rent a room, walk from tasting room to tasting room, have dinner in the evening and go back to his room without ever using a car. I don’t think there are many places in America you can do that.”

No word yet as to when the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau will rule on Calaveras County’s appellation application.

Posted in Wine Region Profiles
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