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Diamond Mountain AVA

by Staff Writer - K. Ash | January 29, 2012

California's recovery from Prohibition was a difficult and painful undertaking. New vineyard and winery development progressed, but even up into the 1970s California still lacked a reputation for high quality wines. Things began to change when a major winemaking milestone was reached in mid 1970. At the 1976 Judgement of Paris wine tasting event, several California wines scored higher points than their French counterparts. The results of the 1976 Judgement of Paris secured California's place as a world class wine region. Year after year the quality and reputation of Napa wines has continued to grow.

Today the wine market concerning the Napa Valley has grown exponentially. Due to the growth and saturation of countless Napa wineries, it has become difficult to taste a wine and determine with 100 percent accuracy that the wine came from the Napa Valley. The sheer amount of wineries makes identification through tasting somewhat difficult. Even with the vast numbers of wineries found within the Napa Valley, it is possible to determine sub-AVA origins of Napa wines. Subtle characteristics found between the various Napa American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) allow for origin identification. An excellent identification example would be recognizing the wines produced in the Diamond Mountain AVA found within the northern Mayacamas Mountain range.

When viewing the topography of Northern California wine regions, it becomes clear that natural landmarks are used as dividers for regional boundaries. This is especially true for the Mayacamas Mountain range. The southern point of the Mayacamas Mountain range is roughly 8 miles to San Pablo bay. From this southern point, the Mayacamas Mountain range stretches 52 miles north. The location of the Mayacamas Mountain ridge forms a natural boundary between the Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Due to AVA creation laws put into place after the creation of the county-overlapping Napa-Sonoma AVAs, all subsequent AVA designations for the Napa Valley must fall within the borders of the Napa Valley AVA. This means that while the Mayacamas Mountains can be found in both the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, any AVAs designated on the Mayacamas Mountains located within Napa Valley must stop on the county dividing line found on the ridge of the Mayacamas Mountain range. Of the various AVAs found within Napa Valley, three exist on the Napa side of the Mayacamas Mountains. They are known as the Mount Veeder AVA to the south, Spring Mountain AVA in the middle and Diamond Mountain AVA to the north.

When looking at the various Mayacamas Mountain AVAs, the Diamond Mountain AVA looks like a continuation of the Spring Mountain AVA. Land characteristics between the Diamond Mountain AVA and Spring Mountain AVA are similar. Despite similar land characteristics, striking contrasts exist with wines from both the Spring Mountain AVA and the Diamond Mountain AVA. The fact that the characteristics of the produced wines are so different combined with a natural dividing line of Ritchie Creek Valley makes the creation of the Diamond Mountain AVA logical.

Of the three AVAs found within the Mayacamas Mountains, the Diamond Mountain AVA is considerably different than the Spring Mountain AVA and Mount Veeder AVA. Some similarities do exist between the three AVAs, but the conditions found within the Diamond Mountain AVA are different enough to allow the production of wines that show a definite distinction of place. From a temperature standpoint, the Diamond Mountain AVA is the warmest of the three Napa Mayacamas Mountain AVAs. The topography of the Diamond Mountain AVA prevents much of the cool San Pablo bay fogs from reaching Diamond Mountain vineyards. The end result is a greater exposure to sunlight than the rest of the Mayacamas Mountain AVAs.

When visually comparing the Diamond Mountain AVA against the rest of the Napa Mayacamas Mountains, one can see the similarities in climate. Similar characteristics do exist between each of the AVAs found within the Napa Mayacamas Mountains. For the Diamond Mountain AVA, this is mostly confined to annual rainfall. Average winter rainfalls for the Diamond Mountain AVA are around sixty inches. Vineyards on the valley floor AVAs receive roughly thirty inches of rain over the same time period.

Also different is the soil type found within the Diamond Mountain AVA. Unlike the rest of the Napa Mayacamas Mountain AVAs, Diamond Mountain soils are volcanic in nature. Volcanic soil is very porous in its makeup. While this is excellent for water drainage, it does result in a temperature release as well. This can be difficult for grape varieties that perform better with warm ambient temperatures.

In blind testing's of Napa produced wines, Diamond Mountain wines are very easy to identify. This can be seen with the presence of both a scent and taste of dark chocolate. The dark chocolate property of Diamond Mountain AVA is unique and not repeated in wines produced from the Spring Mountain AVA or the Mount Veeder AVA. Another striking difference is the softness of the tannins. Again the quality of soft tannins is unique to the Diamond Mountain AVA. As seen throughout the Napa Mayacamas Mountains, red wines are extremely popular. Cabernet Sauvignon is the grape of choice with almost no white wine varieties grown in the Diamond Mountain AVA today.

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