As California’s wine industry matures, so does the sophistication of its regional appellations. Cathy Huyghe finds a lively quest for identity as she visits three of the most successful newer California AVAs.

‘As wine develops in the USA, we’re seeing more of an interest in being as specific as possible to the vineyard source,’ says Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, home to the new Ballard Canyon American Viticultural Area (AVA).

An AVA is a closely defined region, recognised for its individual history, distinct soil type and the overall geographic pedigree of its wines. With recent additions, it isn’t that the vineyard sources are new, it’s that experience and knowledge about them have steadily increased to the extent required for the evidence of designation.

The recent growth in California AVAs is about the maturation of an industry as much as it is about the maturation of its fruit. Here’s a closer look at three notable Californian AVAs to have emerged: Coombsville in Napa Valley (2012), Moon Mountain in Sonoma (2013) and Ballard Canyon in Santa Barbara (2013).

Moon mountain, Sonoma

Moon Mountain, Sonoma

Of the 607ha (hectares) under vine in the Moon Mountain AVA, Phil Coturri farms one-third of them. Though he is…

Coombsville, Napa Valley

Coombsville, Napa Valley

Cathy Huyghe visits Coombsville, in the south east of Napa Valley, established as an AVA in 13 January 2012, where…

Ballard Canyon AVA

Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara

The defining geographical feature of Santa Barbara County is its transverse mountain range – the most significant along the entire…

New California AVAs in 2014

The second half of 2014 proved especially busy in terms of AVA ratification. 10 November in particular was a banner day, with two regions in Mendocino and 11 in San Luis Obispo being designated as AVAs.

Regions outside San Luis Obispo
• Malibu Coast (Los Angeles) – 18 August
• Malibu Coast (Ventura) – 18 August
• Manton Valley (Shasta) – 2 September
• Manton Valley (Tehama) – 2 September
• Eagle Peak (Mendocino) – 10 November
• El Pomar District (Mendocino) – 10 November

San Luis Obispo
All designated on 10 November, 2014
• Creston District
• San Miguel District
• Santa Margarita Ranch
• Templeton Gap District
• San Juan Creek
• Adelaida District
• El Pomar District
• Paso Robles Estrella District
• Paso Robles Geneseo District
• Paso Robles Highlands District

Cathy Huyghe covers the business and politics of the wine industry for Forbes.com and other publications. Her first book, Hungry for Wine, is published this autumn.