What Are the Wine Appellations of Northern California?

In California, 139 geographical grape-growing areas have officially been given appellation status by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The American Viticulture Area, or AVA, designation categorizes vineyards by climate, geology and elevation, which is reflected on each California wine label to denote the geographical area from which it came. 

For a California wine label to display any appellation name, 85% of the fruit in the wine must come from that AVA.

At Ram’s Gate Winery, we see each wine appellation in Northern California as a gateway to product diversity and harness the energy of each area to ensure our wines reflect our meaningful commitment to sustainable quality.   

The Original California AVA: Napa Valley

The geological brilliance of Napa Valley reflects the California wine region’s amazing history of sea tides, earthquakes, fires and volcanoes that have all combined to create a remarkable mix of aspects, elevations and soils that produce enviable wine varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The AVAs within Napa Valley include:

  • Los Carneros
  • Atlas Peak
  • Coombsville
  • Chiles Valley
  • Diamond Mountain
  • Stags Leap
  • Oak Knoll
  • Howell Mountain
  • Spring Mountain
  • Mt. Veeder
  • Rutherford
  • Yountville
  • St. Helena
  • Wild Horse Valley

The Recognizable AVA: Sonoma County

Sonoma County is synonymous with California wine, thanks to its fluctuating warmth and coolness and intense sun, which produces the fruit depth wine lovers crave in its famous varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 

The AVAs within Sonoma County include: 

  • Sonoma Valley
  • Alexander Valley 
  • Sonoma Mountain
  • Dry Creek Valley
  • Sonoma Coast
  • Bennett Valley
  • Chalk Hill
  • Green Valley
  • Los Carneros
  • Rockpile
  • Knights Valley
  • Russian River Valley

The Famously Coastal AVA: Mendocino County

One of the original counties of California, dating back to our statehood, Mendocino County’s cooler climate has long been the ideal conditions for growing apples, fruit and berries, which became a natural fit for the appellation. Its windswept coastline is perfect for the region’s top wine varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

The AVAs within Mendocino County include: 

  • Mendocino Ridge
  • Anderson Valley
  • Yorkville Highlands
  • McDowell Valley 
  • Col Ranch 
  • Potter Valley Redwood Valley 
  • Ukiah Valley 

The Expansive AVA: Sierra Foothills

Wine grapes were first planted in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the late 1840s, during the California Gold Rush. Since its AVA designation in 1987, the Sierra Foothills has solidified its importance in the California wine community as one of the largest viticulture areas in the state. 

Encompassing more than 2.5 million acres — spread over eight different California counties — the Sierra Foothills wine appellation is famous for its Zinfandel. 

The AVAs within the Sierra Foothills include: 

  • Shenandoah Valley 
  • Fiddletown
  • El Dorado
  • Fairplay
  • North Yuba

The Versatile AVA: Lake County

Lake County enjoys a reputation for bright, concentrated red wines made possible by the influence of its namesake, Clear Lake – the largest natural lake in California. The result? Beautiful California wine varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah, Tempranillo, and Sauvignon Blanc.  

The AVAs within Lake County include: 

  • High Valley
  • Big Valley
  • Red Hills
  • Guenoc Valley

At Ram’s Gate Winery, we are excited to inform those who enjoy our California wine varietals about the importance of each of our vineyard’s appellation, so they can discover the depth of our brand through our geography and craftsmanship. If you would like to learn more about the regional influences for each of our wines, contact us today to schedule a virtual wine tasting session.