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NorCal Wine Blog

Congratulations, Calistoga Vintners!

Congratulations, Calistoga Vintners! Today, January 7, 2010, the TTB ruling making Calistoga an officially-recognized AVA goes into effect. The ruling comes after years of hard work by the wineries of Calistoga, the Napa Valley Vintners Association and other Napa Valley officials, along with considerable political wrangling and lobbying.

The ruling achieves at least four important things:

  • It allows wines consisting of at least 85% Calistoga fruit to be identified on the label as Calistoga wine. Previously, these wines could only use the Napa Valley designation. Calistoga is a widely-known area and use of its name on wine labels should benefit both wineries and consumers.
  • Being within a named AVA will probably allow Calistoga wine grape growers to get better prices for their fruit. While Napa Valley fruit certainly brings a premium, the more specific AVAs within Napa Valley are even more valued. This will certainly make the growers happy. Consumers may be less thrilled.
  • It further raises the profile of Calistoga. A great place to visit and home to many outstanding wines and wineries, Calistoga can now benefit from being an officially recognized wine place. This should make it even more popular as a destination and removes any stigma that may have existed from it’s lacking the AVA designation long held by such places as Oakville, Yountville and St. Helena.
  • The AVA ruling also protects the name of Calistoga. This may be the most important thing. Previously, there were no rules restricting the use of the name Calistoga in a brand name. Wineries from outside of the area, some not even in Napa County, could use Calistoga in their branding without using appropriate grapes. This created consumer confusion, had the potential to create a link between the Calistoga name and lesser wines and/or prices, and might have had an impact on the perceived value of Calistoga wine grapes. Now, wineries already using the name have three years to change their blends to include the required 85% of Calistoga fruit or to change the name on their labels.

The Napa Valley Vintners' official comments on the TTB’s approval of the Calistoga AVA can be found in their press release here.

U.S. Representative Mike Thompson (D - Napa Valley, CA) was particularly instrumental in getting this ruling done and done properly. You can see his comments on the ruling here.

Calistoga is the 15th AVA to be established within the larger Napa Valley AVA. The most famous of the Calistoga AVA wineries is undoubtedly Chateau Montelena Winery, due to its success in the famous Paris tasting of 1976 and its long history as a producer of world-class Chardonnay (which does not come from the Calistoga AVA) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines were first made on their grounds under the Chateau Montelena name in the 1880's. Chateau Montelena Winery has stated its intention to put Calistoga on the label of their eligible wines, but It's not yet clear which other wineries will choose to do so.


The Calistoga AVA is farther from the San Pablo Bay and its cooling influences than most other Napa Valley AVAs. It is also a valley rather than mountain area. Therefore, the vineyards tend to be among the warmest in Napa Valley. Grapes that thrive there include Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

For those with interest in the exact borders of the new AVA the following paragraphs are the official delineation as provided by the TTB. The entire document in which it appears can be found here. The boundaries are very precise, but won't be entirely helpful to you unless you have the topographical USGS maps listed below.

(b) Approved maps. The appropriate maps used to determine the boundary of the Calistoga viticultural area are four United States Geological Survey 1:24,000 scale topographic quadrangle maps. They are titled:

(1) Mark West Springs, Calif. (1993);

(2) Calistoga, CA (1997);

(3) St. Helena, Calif. (1960, revised 1993); and

(4) Detert Reservoir, CA (1997).

(c) Boundary. The Calistoga viticultural area is located in northwestern Napa County, California. The boundary beginning point is on the Mark West Springs map at the point where the Napa-Sonoma county line intersects Petrified Forest Road in section 3, T8N/R7W. From this point, the boundary:

(1) Continues northeasterly along Petrified Forest Road approximately 1.9 miles to the road's intersection with the 400-foot contour line near the north bank of Cyrus Creek approximately 1,000 feet southwest of the intersection of Petrified Forest Road and State Route 128 on the Calistoga map;

(2) Proceeds generally east-southeast (after crossing Cyrus Creek) along the 400-foot contour line to its intersection with Ritchey Creek in section 16, T8N/R6W;

(3) Follows Ritchey Creek northeast approximately 0.3 miles to its intersection with State Route 29 at the 347-foot benchmark;

(4) Proceeds east-southeast along State Route 29 approximately 0.3 miles to its intersection with a light-duty road labeled Bale Lane;

(5) Follows Bale Lane northeast approximately 0.7 miles to its intersection with the Silverado Trail;

(6) Proceeds northwest along the Silverado Trail approximately 1,500 feet to its intersection with an unmarked driveway on the north side of the Silverado Trail near the 275-foot benchmark;

(7) Continues northeasterly along the driveway for 300 feet to its intersection with another driveway, and then continues north-northeast in a straight line to the 400-foot contour line;

(8) Follows the 400-foot contour line easterly approximately 0.7 miles to its intersection with an unimproved dirt road (an extension of a road known locally as the North Fork of Crystal Springs Road), which lies in the Carne Humana Land Grant approximately 1,400 feet southwest of the northwest corner of section 11, T8N/R6W on the St. Helena map;

(9) Continues northerly along the unimproved dirt road approximately 2,700 feet to its intersection with the 880-foot contour line in section 2, T8N/R6W;

(10) Follows the meandering 880-foot contour line northwesterly, crossing onto the Calistoga map in section 2, T8N/R6W, and continues along the 880-foot contour line through section 3, T8N/R6W, sections 34 and 35, T9N/R6W, (with a brief return to the St. Helena map in section 35, to the 880-contour line's intersection with Biter Creek in the northeast quadrant of section 34, T9N/R6W;

(11) Continues westerly along the meandering 880-foot contour line around Dutch Henry Canyon in section 28, T9N/R6W, and Simmons Canyon in section 29, T9N/R6W, to the contour line's first intersection with the R7W/R6W range line in section 30, T9N/R6W;

(12) Continues northerly along the meandering 880-foot contour line across the two forks of Horns Creek and through Hoisting Works Canyon in section 19, T9N/R6W, crossing between the Calistoga and Detert Reservoir maps, to the contour line's intersection with Garnett Creek in section 13, T9N/R7W, on the Detert Reservoir map;

(13) Continues westerly along the meandering 880-foot contour line, crossing between the Calistoga and Detert Reservoir maps in sections 13 and 14, T9N/R7W, and in the region labeled ``Mallacomes or Moristul y Plan de Agua Caliente,'' to the contour line's intersection with the Napa-Sonoma county line approximately 1.1 miles northeast of State Route 128 in the ``Mallacomes or Moristul y Plan de Agua Caliente'' region, T9N/R7W, of the Mark Springs West map; and

(14) Proceeds southerly along the Napa-Sonoma county line to the beginning point.

This article is original to Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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